Market for sleep aids awakens
China Daily

Workers process latex pillows at a factory in Haian, Jiangsu province, in March. [Photo by GU HUAXIA/FOR CHINA DAILY]

New products, companies aim to put insomnia to bed

The market for products to aid the sleep-deprived is growing in China, especially among young people looking to increase the quantity and quality of their slumber.

That means more demand for smart mattresses, respirators such as machines that treat obstructive sleep apnea and melatonin, a hormone that can induce sleep.

The daily average sleeping time of Chinese people has been in decline, now amounting to 7.06 hours. That's 1.5 hours less than a decade ago, according to the latest annual sleep report, released in March by the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences and the research institute of Xilinmen, a Chinese sleep products manufacturer.

More than 300 million Chinese have experienced problems with sleep, according to researchers. Such woes are particularly prominent among young people. Nearly half of those aged between 19 and 25 don't sleep until after midnight, according to a national report on healthy sleep patterns released in March by the Chinese Sleep Research Society.

"China's sleep sector has not created a mature business model. In fact, different sleep-related products belong to different industries. For instance, mattresses belong to the household sector, sheets belong to the textile industry, and there are also health products and electronic devices," said Zuo Heming, secretary general of the Chinese Sleep Research Society.

"Many types of sleep-related products and startups have emerged in recent years. Companies that have put more efforts into scientific research and development are expected to show greater vitality in the market," Zuo said.

Since the COVID-19 pandemic, people are paying more attention to health, and sleep is among the top priorities, leading to a boom in the sector's growth, he said.

Xilinmen, a long-established mattress manufacturer based in Shaoxing, Zhejiang province, has invested significantly in R&D and considers itself a sleep technology company.

In 2021, Xilinmen's sales revenue hit 7.77 billion yuan ($1.2 billion), up 38.21 percent year-on-year.

During the period, its net profit reached 559 million yuan, surging 78.29 percent year-on-year, according to its annual earnings report.

Between 2015 and 2021, Xilinmen invested more than 700 million yuan in R&D. The company said it has 812 patents, including 20 international patents.

"With rising demand for better products and improving health awareness on the part of consumers, we are constantly innovating ways to improve their sleep health using more scientific methods," said Shen Jie, secretary of the board of directors of Xilinmen.

"We were the first company to launch the innovative mattress series, such as a formaldehyde-free mattress, an antibacterial mattress and a mattress that kills dust mites. We have been taking the lead in ownership of multiple, independent intellectual property rights," Shen said.

From 2016 to 2020, China's sleep-related market grew from 261.6 billion to 377.9 billion yuan, up 44.5 percent over the period. By 2030, sales are forecast to exceed 1 trillion yuan, according to data analysis agency iiMedia Research.

Surveys showed some 40 percent of respondents with sleep problems said they are willing to buy sleep-aid products, and 70 percent of them prefer to make those purchases on e-commerce platforms. Online sales have become the main method to sell such products, iiMedia Research said.

Yet, more than half of surveyed respondents said that they have found the effectiveness of sleep-aid products to be weak, and that solving sleep problems with complex causes is difficult, the agency said.