Sleep: The grossly neglected performance enhancer | Fin24
 
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Sleep: The grossly neglected performance enhancer

Mar 04 2019 12:49
Glenneis Kriel

Serial entrepreneur Tobie Louw, along with various partners, started MySleep in 2010. 

It came about after they became aware of the huge demand for improved technology to specifically test and cater for sleep breathing disorders such as sleep apnoea (when a person’s breathing repeatedly stops and starts during sleep). 

“People at the time still had to spend a night in hospital or at a sleep laboratory to be tested for sleep apnoea. We, however, studied the technologies and protocols available in the US that allowed home testing, and then introduced these to the South African market via MySleep,” Louw explains.

In response to the growing awareness of the impact of poor-quality sleep on people’s mental and physical well-being – as well as the economic toll it takes on workplaces due to lost productivity and accidents – MySleep became affiliated with 7HourSleep in 2012. 

Where MySleep specialises in solutions that identify and address sleep apnea, 7HourSleep specialises in sleep and fatigue management solutions, often associated with poor quantity and quality of sleep.

The main objectives of 7HourSleep, which is run by a team of psychologists who specialise in sleep and fatigue management solutions, are to inform and educate individuals and companies on the importance of sleep and provide practical advice to address common problems associated with a lack of good sleep. 

“One of our big drives at the moment is to create awareness concerning the impact of poor sleeping habits on overall safety in the workplace. 

This is especially important in mines and the transport industry, where accidents can be lethal,” Louw says. 

While 7HoursSleep is still relatively small, MySleep has opened another 11 offices across the country since it was started. 

A tough market

Breaking into the market was tough, as South Africans were still relatively blasé about the importance of a good night’s rest in 2010. 

“With MySleep we had to call on specialists and general practitioners to create awareness of the importance of sleep apnoea and the associated advantages of home testing, since these healthcare practitioners have to refer patients to get tested,” he says.

The same approach has been adopted with 7HourSleep, with the main target being health and safety and human resource divisions at large companies. 

MySleep and 7HourSleep also build awareness of problems associated with poor quantity and quality of sleep through media articles and social media.  

Demand for “sleep services and solutions” has picked up greatly over the past two years, with even insurance and medical companies now starting to look for ways to promote its importance as part of their lifestyle programmes.  

“South Africa is about 20 years behind the United States and Europe when it comes to this trend. 

People here are still boasting about getting by with only four hours of sleep a night. 

In other countries, however, sleep deprivation, insomnia and poor sleeping have become a taboo, like smoking cigarettes, because of the associated health risks,” says Louw.

He points out that the market for bedding, white noise machines, sleep trackers and monitors, sleep coaches and other products and services to help Americans get a better night’s sleep, is estimated to be worth around $40bn – and growing by 8% per year, with no signs of slowing down. 

The US military is taking it so seriously that some of their high-risk soldiers now carry wearables to monitor these soldiers’ fatigue levels. 

This technology, according to Louw, is much more sophisticated than the ordinary smartwatches available in South Africa, and 7HourSleep uses similar devices to monitor high-risk individuals identified during company screenings to prevent unnecessary injuries and accidents. 

The dream

Currently, the biggest goal of the two companies is to create greater awareness of the negative impact of poor sleeping patterns on people’s lives. 

“People who sleep less than six hours a day have been found to have a 13% higher mortality rate than people who slept for at least seven to eight hours. This is because poor sleep, over time, is associated with a range of metabolic conditions, such as diabetes, depression, cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure and even obesity.”

He adds that many people think they can catch up on a poor night’s sleep within a day or two, but it usually takes a lot longer for the body to recover. 

Business owners and high-flying executives should start taking their sleep as seriously for their functioning as top athletes, who often sleep more than ten hours a day to recover from training, says Louw. 

“Sleep deprivation is not only bad for your health but has a negative impact on decision-making. Business owners should therefore plan for a good night’s sleep with the same diligence as in planning their diaries.” 

This article originally appeared in the 7 March edition of finweek. Buy and download the magazine here or subscribe to our newsletter here.

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