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Japanese businesses cashing in on insomnia

The Japan Times recently listed a couple of ways businesses over there are cashing in on insomnia.

First up, Panasonic Electric Words is offering a device called the Restino - it controls light and sound to help you fall asleep. You set the clock to when you want to wake up, and then simply lie there as the music and lighting lulls you to sleep. Apparently there is also a sensor that knows when those summer nights are just too muggy for you to sleep and it will switch on the air conditioning for you.

Also from Japan is a 'capsule hotel' - they bill themselves as the ultimate healing place for sleeplessness. Expect bare minimalism here - all white interior, no vending machines and no background music. Again, the structure's light is supposed to encourage drowsiness in the evening and help you wake in the morning. They even custom make the pillows (which are made of four different kinds of material) and the mattresses are made of a 'highly resilient' material which apparently prevents them from interfering with the sleeping process.

These sound just as gimmicky as the Hôtel de Marc's sleep pod - although they sound fun, we fear that as more of these products launch, the public's perception of insomnia will be negatively affected. After all, if all you need to fall asleep is a fancy bed then how serious can insomnia be?

We need to shift our priorities away from marketing gimmicks and instead focus more on researching and understanding insomnia.

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Last updated: May 11, 2010

This Article Was Written By

Martin Reed

Leave a Comment

  • Martin Reed
    May 13, 2010, 11:14 am

    Thanks for your contribution, Mike – I think you raise some interesting and important points. In a way, I guess it comes down to insomnia sufferers being seen as desperate and willing to try anything to cure their insomnia. This makes insomniacs prone to exploitation.

    The main reason why we started this project was to bring more attention to insomnia and to build a place where insomniacs can come for real advice from other insomniacs – no gimmicks and no marketing talk.

  • Mike Hooker
    May 12, 2010, 12:45 pm

    The rampancy of insomnia around the world cannot be denied. It pervades all societies whether or not the “normal” sleepers realize it.

    Insomnia should never be taken lightly. If left unchecked, it will certainly, and with its own form of malice, ruin one’s life.

    There’s a lot of money to be made in the “sleep trade,” if you will. Just look at all of the sleep medication advertisements the pharmaceutical companies pummel us with everyday (at least in the United States)–and the exorbitant prices they charge per pill.

    The gimmickry in Japan doesn’t surprise me. The non-insomnia world will take advantage of those of us who are sleep deprived, since most of us would pay just about any price for a good night’s sleep. I believe, however, that chronically sleep-starved people will try these gimmicks at least once just to see if they work.

    I agree that we should focus on researching and understanding insomnia. The problem is, that’s not happening with any gusto.

    According to Gayle Greene in her book, Insomniac, there’s little real research on insomnia being done. The shallow interest in insomnia by the pharmaceutical companies, obviously, resides in the money they can make off of us. A cure for insomnia isn’t something they want to see.

    Greene says that those who run sleep clinics are interested in apnea and other breathing problems that occur during sleep because they can sell CPAP (continuous positive airways pressure) machines; they have virtually no interest in insomnia because they have nothing to sell to insomniacs. If sleep clinic professionals aren’t interested in curing insomnia, then who is?