NUNDA: High costs of sleep aids take advantage of issue

Opinion Column: Capitalist Culture

We have all heard the same tips for falling asleep from our doctors — decrease technology use before bed, do not consume sugary drinks at night and try to exercise during the day so you tire yourself out. For those of us that suffer from a little more extreme cases of insomnia, we know it takes a few further steps than a couple of nighttime hacks to fall asleep and stay asleep throughout the night. 

Sleep aids, the use of supplements to accomplish these goals, have been accredited over the last few years for helping individuals around the globe get to sleep, while others like myself may not be too keen on putting strange pills into their bodies. This is where modern sleep aids come in. Startups nationwide are releasing products tested to help those struggling from sleep deprivation, but just how affordable are these items? Well, let us just say you probably will not see any college students on ramen diets owning any of these products anytime soon. 

Take for instance the six-month old startup, Bearaby, that manufactures a 20-pound weighted blanket that sells for $249. Now, I cannot speak for every single person on the planet, but personally, nearly $300 for a heavy duvet is not exactly where I plan on spending my money. Other products that have been on the market include heated blankets, which you have probably spotted at a local Target and contemplated purchasing at one point or another. While this product tends to sell slightly cheaper than Bearaby’s creation, both are still more expensive than the cozy cover I could ask my mom to knit for me.

Not surprising at all, the sleep aid industry has been racking up quite the profit. Fast Company stated that just two years ago, “they generated $69.5 billion in revenue worldwide and analysts say the industry is on track to hit $101.9 billion by 2023.” It is not a difficult fact to understand that more and more people lose out on sleep due to stress, anxiety and other factors such as parenthood. 

Co-founder of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg, is one of the many entrepreneurs who has come to this realization and went as far as creating his own product to help his wife stay asleep throughout the night. Zuckerberg took the initiative to create what he calls a “sleep box.” 

Often times his wife, Priscilla Chan, will wake up far too early in the morning and struggle to fall back asleep. The sleep box aids in this problem as it gives off a faint light between the hours of 6 and 7 in the morning, waking Chan up at a reasonable time. If she does not see the light, then she knows it is not a reasonable time to get out of bed and will not risk seeing the bright light on her phone, or time that can contribute to the struggle of falling asleep again. 

Although we have taken the gradual shift from pills, many individuals, including parents, continue to use them. One of the more popular supplements is melatonin. Naturally, the hormone regulates our sleep-wake cycles, but for most of us, at times it may feel like the hormone just simply is not doing its job. While some melatonin products help individuals fall asleep within a half hour or so, Parents Magazine has stated that “researchers still don’t know the long-term side effects of taking any amount of melatonin — even on an 'as-needed' basis.” 

While we strive for the healthy 8 to 9 hours of sleep, for many of us this can be a glamorized dream, sometimes seeming unattainable.

Although there are several sleep aids out there, whether they be simple apps with waterfall and nature sounds, heated blankets or even pills, the method one takes simply depends on that specific individual and their needs. But, the cost of these products also plays a major role in making these decisions. So, what will it be? That textbook you need for a semester’s worth of work, or the comfort and coziness of a 20-pound blanket throughout the night? 

Stacey Nunda is a School of Environmental and Biological Sciences sophomore majoring in environmental planning and design. Her column, “Capitalist Culture,” runs on alternate Thursdays.


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