65% of UAE residents suffer from compromised sleep. How a start-up is improving sleep health


December 23, 2022 | By Rupkatha B

Mansi Khandelwal, Founder, The Sleep Chapter

Launched in 2022 D2C start-up The Sleep Chapter offers 100% natural and high-quality weighted blankets for adults and children. The purpose is to improve sleep health in a country where 65% of UAE residents are said to suffer from compromised sleep, which can have ramifications on physical and mental health also causing an economic toll due to lost productivity. With rough investment worth AED1.5 million in its UAE business, excluding investment in India, the start-up has – interestingly – broken even within three months of being operational. Perhaps an indication of the growing size of the global sleep economy which was estimated to be worth $432 billion in 2019 (as per Statista).

In an exclusive interview with RetailME founder Mansi Khandelwal, whose family has been in the bedding industry in India for three generations, spoke about the regional sleep market and the start-up’s expansion plans.

Is the regional market receptive to new-generation sleep care products?  

Post pandemic, we’re more focused than ever on our health and wellbeing. Sleep is one of the most crucial components of our lives, and the multibillion-dollar sleep industry caters to a wide range of end-user preferences. The Middle East and Africa region has a huge market for sleep care products (including mattress/linen/bed/wellness products). People are constantly looking out for a new generation of sleep care products. And weighted blankets are one of the most non-invasive ways to help poor sleepers get a good night’s rest. They were first introduced by occupational therapists as treatment for behavioral disorders but are now more mainstream for anyone who wants to relax. Experts refer to it as deep-pressure therapy as the pressure from the blanket can increase serotonin, a chemical in your body that makes you feel happy and calm. It’s not intended to cure any medical conditions, but it has become a popular way for anxiety-sufferers, insomniacs and self-proclaimed bad sleepers to get some shut eye.

While the sleep economy is big it requires education to drive awareness. How have you educated/still educating consumers addressing market hesitance and building an audience?

We know the average adult should get between seven and nine hours of sleep per night. Not doing so decreases our short-term memory and concentration, increases our likelihood of cardiovascular disease, dementia, diabetes, cancer and weight gain. Yet, people are sleeping just as poorly if not worse than they did 20 years ago.

In its survey’s the National Sleep Foundation has found that the reasons for our poor sleep are changing, along with our daily habits and routines. This has been especially true during the pandemic while our personal and professional lives have merged, schedules have been upended and screen time and other detrimental factors have increased.

Today we are dealing with consumers who are willing to spend on the finer aspects of comforts, this is fueled with an increase in the purchasing power, a growth in the luxury customer segment and lack of leisure time owing to hectic routines. Peaceful sleep has indeed become a rare privilege and people are exploring better options that can improve the quality of life in the long term.

The key to trying new products is dispelling myths and pre-conceived notions. For new products such as weighted blankets, we face questions such as “does it trap heat” and will it “make me feel hot at night.” Whether a blanket traps heat or not is a function of the fabric not the weight. We try and educate our customers on products and basic sleep hygiene including easy-to-change better habits to be incorporated into their routine such as:

  • Avoid screen time (even for reading) at least one hour before bed
  • Aim for at least 20 minutes of exercise a day
  • Avoid or limit caffeine late afternoon and evening
  • Try to keep a schedule by going to bed and getting up at the same time each day, and choose a bedtime that allows for seven full hours of sleep
  • Eat meals at consistent times during the day and avoid heavy meals 2-3 hours before bed to help regulate the sleep/wake routine
  • Don’t drink alcohol at the end of the night

What are some big challenges that you’ve had to navigate since launch?

Getting the first order always feels like the biggest hurdle, but then the journey starts. Today our challenges include expanding our online footprint. Continuously working to enhance our offering, which we are doing by working with product and brand designers in India, San Francisco and Seattle in the US. Another good challenge is establishing our brand positioning as one of the leaders in the sleep care industry having the latest range of products which are ethically sourced, using the highest quality raw materials, meticulously designed and manufactured to precision.

What are your future expansion plans?

We started out as a D2C brand with a showcase store in Dubai’s Business Bay and are already in the process of adding our product range to online marketplaces. We will look to expand to additional locations based on our growth. As we grow, we may explore partnerships with some of the leading retailers who have an omnichannel sales offering to have our products on their shelves/digital stores. Key for us will be to find the right fit where large retailers, home or department stores, have similar brand ethos and are looking to partner with homegrown start-up. A key advantage for us is that with our manufacturing capability we can scale up on quantities quite easily.

 

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