Tired Canadians are fueling a boom in new and alternative sleep aids.

By Anthony Moran


Weighted blankets, smartphone apps, diffusers, white noise machines, “smart” beds that moderate the temperature of your mattress — the market for products designed to help you get a good night’s sleep is increasingly innovative and growing rapidly.

One market research firm estimates that the value of the so-called “sleep industry”— which excludes pharmaceuticals—is worth some US$30 billion worldwide.

Some of these sleep aids are notably quirky; others have drawn the commercial involvement of major celebrities.

Actor Matthew McConaughey was recently hired by Calm, the sleep and meditation app, to read one of its bedtime stories for grown-ups, while electronic music star Moby has launched a new sleep album called Long Ambients 2.

In Toronto, entrepreneurs Fahd Javed and Omar Shahban launched something called a weighted blanket under the brand name Gravid in 2017. The blankets are filled with pellets, balls, or chains. Fans of the product say the pressure feels like a firm hug, and manufacturers claim they reduce anxiety and promote deep sleep.

But do the blankets—or any of these new products—actually work?

Dr. Jean-Philippe Chaput, a research scientist at the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario, told CBC: “We lack good evidence [to show] these quick fixes are effective. There are very few studies out there.”

Specialists like Chaput believe the best way to improve your quality of sleep is to exercise frequently and follow a consistent bedtime routine.

“It’s easier to buy a mattress or some gadgets (than to form good habits),” he said. “I think there’s money to be made, and companies are aware of that. They want to sell products.”

What’s been proven beyond a doubt, however, is that the sleep business is thriving.

In a recent study, US-based firm Persistence Market Research separated sleeping medications from what it calls “the others” segment, which includes mattresses and sleep apnea devices.

“In the product category, the others segment is estimated to be the largest with respect to market value,” it reported.

With a growing body of research that shows the importance of sleep, including its possible role in improving memory, boosting life expectancy, and preventing dementia—not to mention making us feel better—there’s little doubt that with or without scientific evidence to support it, the sleep aid business is here to stay.