The business of sleep

On October 2nd, 2017, Jeffrey C. Hall, Michael Rosbash and Michael W. Young were awarded the 2017 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for their discoveries of molecular mechanisms controlling the circadian rhythm, i.e. our “internal clock”. Inspired by their study on clock gene and self-regulating clockwork mechanism, we were curious to find out what is currently going on in the area of sleep.

Using Mergeflow, we simply searched for “sleep”. We then explored results in venture fundings, patents, and technology licensing opportunities. Here is what we found:

Venture Fundings

We were a bit surprised to see two mattress makers, Leesa and Casper, among the VC funded companies. Leesa is an online luxury retailer that raised $23 million in a Series B funding in July 2017. Leesa will use this investment to further expand its product line to cover the entire sleep spectrum. In June 2017, Casper raised $179 million in a Series C round. They will use the investment to accelerate the online and offline distribution at scale and to increase the company’s ecosystem.

Aside from mattress makers, other investments include $11 million for Dreem, which invented a solution that monitors, analyzes, and acts on people’s brain to enhance their sleep. Also aiming to enhance sleep is DreamJay, a San Francisco and Warsaw-based maker of a medical app that aims to remedy sleep issues. They raised $2.3 million in a Series A funding. The company will use the investment to further expand the possibilities of its app Nightly.


In patents, one focus area is apnea. In the chart below, you can see some of the companies that hold patents related to apnea.

Some companies, e.g. Auspex Pharmaceuticals (now part of Teva), hold patents in the area of medical substances. Other companies make medical devices. For example, Cyberonics makes implantable neurostimulators. Other devices, e.g. by Fresca Medical, are airflow-based.

Technology Licensing Opportunities

From hundreds of universities and R&D organizations worldwide, Mergeflow continuously collects new technology licensing opportunities. In the current context, we looked for opportunities related to “insomnia”. Here are the most recent three licensing opportunities:

Ebb Insomnia Therapy

The idea here is to “calm racing thoughts and encourage sleep by cooling the head”. This opportunity is provided by Ebb Therapeutics, a company that has its roots at the University of Pittsburgh.

Sana Sleep Mask

The Sana sleep mask uses audio-visual stimulation to encourage sleep. Solar Impulse pilot Bertrand Piccard used the technology to get some sleep during his flight, as reported by TechCrunch.

IntelliCare Mobile Apps Suite

IntelliCare comes out of Northwestern University. According to IntelliCare, the apps “target common causes of depression and anxiety like sleep problems, social isolation, lack of activity, and obsessive thinking”. Currently, the apps are available for Android.