Falling Asleep Mission
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Falling Asleep Mission
  • Lee Park Jeongeun
  • 승인 2024.06.03 09:59
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Noonsong has had trouble falling asleep recently. Whenever she attends a lecture during the day, she feels tired and has a hard time concentrating on her studies. Eventually, she felt that getting a good night's sleep was what she needed most, so she ordered a new bed mattress specifically designed for deep sleep. Although it was somewhat expensive, Noonsong decided to buy a new one, which has many reviews saying it helps to get a good night's sleep.

 

People suffering in bed

An adequate amount of sleep is considered to be good for health, especially in that it has positive effects on the brain. The act of sleeping causes cerebrospinal fluid to clean out waste products trapped between brain cells. In particular, amyloid beta, one of the waste products, is the cause of Alzheimer's disease, so adequate sleep has a positive effect on preventing dementia. In this respect, not getting enough sleep is harmful to health in that it changes the structure of brain areas like the hippocampus, which reduces cognitive and memory abilities. Furthermore, mental health problems such as depression and attention deficit disorder are typical symptoms of short sleeping time. Beyond the mental problems, there is also a connection with metabolic diseases. Lack of sleep increases the risk of developing diabetes by causing resistance to insulin, a hormone secreted from the pancreas that lowers blood sugar levels. Amidst these risks, the number of people suffering from sleep disorders, which makes it difficult to sleep both quantitatively and qualitatively, is increasing. According to the "Status of Health Insurance Treatment for Patients with Sleep Disorders from 2018 to 2022" report released by the National Health Insurance Service (NHIS), the number of patients visiting hospitals with sleep disorders in 2022 was 1,098,819, which had increased by 28.5 percent compared to 855,025 in 2018. This means that people do not just recognize that having difficulty sleeping is caused by stress or the surrounding environment but are also regarding it as a disease that requires treatment and are making an effort to solve it. Therefore, people are suffering mentally and physically due to sleep disorders and are looking for solutions.

As the number of people having trouble with sleep disorders increases, an industry to meet these sleep-related needs has begun to develop. Sleeponomics, a compound word of 'sleep' and 'economics,' is a term that refers to the growing industry around sleep as people pay a lot of money for a good night's sleep. Kim Eun-yong, director of the KPR Digital Communication Lab, a company that provides PR consulting services, said, "The sleeponomics market, which continuously invests in sleep, is growing rapidly. New products and services such as bedding with artificial intelligence (AI) and personalized sleep care solutions will become popular."1) This indicates that for the current generation, falling asleep is being commercialized as an area that requires expertise, causing interest in products and services dedicated to sleep to increase. In addition, according to the "2022 Awareness Survey on Sleep Quality and Sleep Products" released by Macromill Embrain in March 2022, 59.3 percent of respondents indicated that they were willing to pay a certain amount for products that help them sleep well. This figure works as an indicator of the recognition that there is a need for related science in order to solve the sleep problem. Thus, this personal phenomenon of people suffering from sleep disorders is gathering and generating an industrial shift: the growth of sleep-related industries.
 

PHOTO FROM THE SEOUL ECONOMIC DAILY
A graph showing the number of sleep disorder patients in Korea

 

What keeps people awake

With the continued development of electronic devices such as smartphones, the number of people suffering from lack of sleep is increasing. According to the results of the Ministry of Science and ICT (MSIT)'s "2023 Smartphone Overdependence Survey" released on April 3, one in four of smartphone users between the ages of 3 and 69 are at risk for smartphone overdependence. Those who are excessively addicted to smartphones have an increased possibility of being affected by the blue light emitted from smartphone screens. This light suppresses the secretion of melatonin, a sleep hormone that regulates biological rhythms. This means that smartphones awaken the brain and prevent falling asleep easily. In addition, content that sparks people's interest and videos that have recently become popular on platforms such as YouTube and Instagram are also factors that disturb sleep. Kim Jun-woo, a 14-year-old boy, said, "When I watch reels, an hour or two disappears in an instant. I was only supposed to watch 10 reels, but I ended up watching 20 or 30 and I couldn't control myself. There were times I stayed up all night watching OTT content until the morning, too."2) This shows that electronic device use not only stimulates the brain, but also that its addictive nature delays bedtime and induces insomnia. In the case of reels, they allow people to conveniently binge-watch multiple videos, which can cause addiction. This reduces people's self-control and causes them to put off going to bed. Therefore, the characteristics of the electronic devices themselves and the features of the content viewed through applications have a negative impact on sleep.
Korea's current workplace culture is also related to the expansion of sleep deprivation problems. According to the results of Statistics Korea's employment trend analysis of April 19, the number of those who worked more than 53 hours a week in 2023 was 3,067,000. This is an increase of 117,000 compared to the previous year, and the number of people working over the legal maximum working hours of 52 hours per week has increased compared to the previous year for the first time since 2014. Therefore, society requires people to work long hours to the extent that the number of those working over the maximum is increasing again. This ultimately means that even if people want to sleep well, it is difficult to get the quality sleep they want in social situations where a long work time is required. Kim Seok-ju, Professor of Psychiatry at Samsung Medical Center and Chairman of the Board of the Korean Academy of Sleep Medicine, said, "The most important thing in steps for healthy sleep in Korea is the social atmosphere. In an atmosphere where working overtime is more important than sleep, other measures are of no use. The challenge is to create a social climate that recognizes getting enough sleep is an important individual right."3) This means that it is difficult to solve sleep disorders just by individuals being interested in quality sleep, and that fundamentally established working hours and social structures are other factors that prevent people from sleeping sufficiently. Unless social conditions change, citizens who struggle with work also suffer from sleep-related problems, forcing them to make a personal effort to solve them, which places another burden on them. Therefore, sleep disorders are not only caused by personal problems, but are also influenced by the social environment.

 

PHOTO FROM KORMEDI
Professor Kim Seok-ju of Psychiatry

 

Strategies for peaceful slumber

For people who cannot fall asleep due to personal and social reasons, medical approaches are being devised to improve sleep quality. Recently, sleep functional drinks have been released in the form of medicines, expanding the range of products for inducing sleep. One drink called Sleeping Bottle, made with only natural ingredients such as Ecklonia cava extract, tart cherry, and red ginseng, is a drink that supports sleep and has been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). In September 2023, Shinsegae Department Store included sleep management products, including the aforementioned Sleeping Bottle, in its holiday catalog for the first time. This shows that in response to consumer demand, even companies in fields not directly related to sleep products are also being linked with the advancement of sleeponomics. In addition, the number of companies targeting consumers with SleepTech, a technology that uses AI and the Internet of Things to help people sleep, is increasing. The Smart Motion Pillow from 10Minds, a healthcare device specialist company, has an AI function that detects snoring sounds and inflates the pillow. Snoring disrupts one's own sleep as well as the sleep of others. Scientifically, one of the causes of snoring is a narrowing of the airway diameter. The inflated pillow helps alleviate snoring by adjusting the angle of the head to secure the airway. For the price of the Smart Motion Pillow, which is about 800,000 won, one office worker said, "It's not a waste to spend this much money because my daily condition is completely determined by how well I sleep."4) It indicates that the value of getting quality sleep is increasing, and accordingly, there is a demand for expensive SleepTech products using specialized technology. As such, the range of sleep-specific products is expanding in accordance with social needs that want high quality sleep.

The demand for a good night's sleep is not only manifesting itself in tangible products, but also in intangible services. In particular, many sleep-inducing Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response (ASMR) and music videos can be found on YouTube. A 10-hour sleep-inducing music video uploaded by the Healing Tree Music & Sounds YouTube channel contains a slow tempo piano performance and the sounds of natural insects. It had recorded 92.94 million views as of May 18. This high number shows that many people seek out videos like this to help them sleep. The method of providing music as a sleep aid has expanded from YouTube videos to performances. The Best Dream Concert, held at Some Sevit on May 2, lasted for a total of 12 hours, with the audience lying down on bedding and listening to live music and a lecture on the secrets of a good night's sleep. Seo Jin-won, a sleep specialist of Seoul National University Hospital Sleep Medicine Center said, "Music was not included in sleep medicine even five to six years ago, but recently, as patients seek out this kind of music as well as ASMR, related research is being actively conducted."5) This shows that the influence of music on sound sleep is increasing and the characteristics of music's familiarity and accessibility reduce people's resistance to sleep disorder treatment and encourage them to seek out and listen to it voluntarily. Thus, sleep-related strategies continue to be researched and presented to customers in the form of products and services.
 

SCREENSHOT OF TICKETLINK
Reservation information of the Best Dream Concert

 

To say "good night"

Not getting enough sleep can cause mental and physical problems. This problematic lack of sleep is caused by electronic device use before bedtime and increased working hours. Accordingly, the number of people visiting hospitals with sleep disorders is increasing and industries such as sleeponomics have grown. Based on them, both tangible and intangible products strategically created for sleep are expanding. Sleep deprivation seems to not only affect individuals but is also developing into an industry with high demand, gradually taking up a larger share of society.

 

1) Bae Min-sik, ""Sleep Is Good" People Open Their Wallets Due to a Good Sleep… 'Storm Growth' Into a 3 Trillion Won Market", NEWSIS, November 28, 2023

2) Jang Na-rae, Ko Na-rin, Jeong Bong-bi, "Sleep Disorder, Turtle Neck, ADHD... Overdependence on Smartphones Causes Illness", The Hankyoreh, January 15, 2024

3) Jo Woon, "Korea, a Country Where People Cannot Sleep, Ranks Last in OECD Countries in Terms of Sleep Time... Seven Academic Societies Gathered in One Place to Say, "There Is a Need to Improve Awareness of Sleep Health"", Medigate News, November 30, 2023

4) Kwak Chang-ryul, "If People Could Sleep Peacefully ... Willing to Wake up Their Wallets", Chosun Ilbo, February 24, 2023

5) Jeong Joo-won, ""What's Wrong With the Concert, Everyone Just Sleeps"… but They Say It's a Hit, so What's Going On?", Maeil Business Newspaper, April 25, 2024


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