Video: The business of sleep

By Anne Thompson Chief environmental correspondent
NBC News
updated 5/17/2006 10:04:40 PM ET 2006-05-18T02:04:40

As Americans search for the perfect way to stack Z's, companies are stacking dollars. In 2006, sleep is big business — and sleeping pills may be the biggest.

Last year, 43.1 million prescriptions were written, totaling $2.8 billion in sales.  That’s a 30 percent increase in dollars spent compared to the year before.

Marketed directly to consumers through television, Ambien and Lunesta dominate the market. Rozerem hopes to win space on your nightstand by promising it's non-addictive.

“Looking at the number of patients who suffer from the condition,” says Takeda Pharmaceuticals’ director of neuroscience marketing, Tim Rudolphi, “there's room for many, many players.”

At Marriott Hotels, the centerpiece of a $190 million renovation is the bed, with a feather-top mattress, 300 thread-count sheets, and plenty of pillows to plump up business.

“Our sales and revenues have increased up to 23 percent,” says Dave Scott, the corporate manager of the Marina Del Rey Marriott in California.

That’s also turning sometime visitors like Michelle Bauman of Vancouver into loyal customers. “You find a bed that's really nice,, and then you continue to go back to that hotel,” she says.

And hotels continue to go back to suppliers like the Pillow Factory in suburban Chicago.

“As long as this upgrading of products continues,” says Pillow Factory President Michael Green, “we're happy about that.”

Even in the smallest amounts of sleep — such as naps — businesses dream of profit potential.

$14 buys you a 20-minute power nap at MetroNaps, complete with a blanket and headphones. You provide the shuteye. With two locations in New York and plans to expand to 30 U.S. cities, it’s a budding success that first sounded like a crazy idea to some.

“'You want to sell beds by the hour? We have a name for that kind of thing,'” MetroNaps CEO Arshad Chowdhury remembers people joking. “It took a little while before we could show people that what we are doing is not just legitimate, but actually fulfilling a need.”

Now MetroNaps is joining a number of companies profiting from America's ongoing quest to rest easy.

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