From the July 2005 issue of Entrepreneur

Sleep awareness is everywhere these days. From studies documenting how we don't get enough sleep, to new luxury amenities designed to help us sleep better, to the multitude of books and other products dealing with the dynamics of sleep, it's clear sleep is on a lot of people's minds--entrepreneurs included. What's going on? "We are seeing a lot of movement in sleep products and services," says Reinier Evers, founder of Trendwatching.com, an industry-trend forecaster. It all fits into the trend of "massclusivity," says Evers--that is, more people wanting more luxury products and more exclusive products in general. "Category by category . . . room by room, it's all succumbing to consumers' insatiable appetite for the best of the best. Next: the bedroom," he says.

Evers also cites the growing number of aging boomers who have cash in their wallets and a desire for a good night's sleep. They're looking for comfortable, health-conscious and professional-grade beds, and are often willing to pay the hefty price tag. According to the International Sleep Products Association, U.S. mattress and foundation wholesale shipments grew from $4.76 billion in 2002 to $5.04 billion in 2003, a 5.8 percent increase.

Rest assured, entrepreneurs are finding success in a variety of sleep-related avenues. Case in point: husband-and-wife team Adam Boyce, 44, and Trina Greenbury, 35. In 2002, they launched DreamEssentials.com, an online retailer for sleep and relaxation products, as a way to make extra money so Greenbury could be a stay-at-home mom. After a successful holiday season selling products made by local Rainier and Yelm, Washington, artisans, they decided to grow their idea by branding their own line of sleep masks and selling other sleep products, such as body pillows, alarm clocks and soothing sound machines. Sales have more than doubled every year since, with 2005 sales expected to exceed $1 million. "The biggest challenge we face is the inability of our customers to try things on," says Boyce. However, he adds that while many people initially shop the site for a single item, once they see all the other products available, they return again and again to purchase.

From throwing grown-up pajama parties to purchasing high-end pj's, consumers are embracing their comfort zones. Just ask Brandon Evans, 27, the founder of Threadcountzzz Corp., a New York City manufacturer, wholesaler and retailer of high-thread-count pajamas. His luxury sleepwear, designed to feel like sleeping in high-thread-count sheets, garnered an immediate following--after his 2003 startup holiday season, he had more than 1,500 people on his waiting list. "The reception has been unbelievable," says Evans, who adds that 2005 sales will push $2 million.

Though it's hard to predict where the trend might go next, Evers notes that some large hotel chains are adding high-end beds to their rooms to entice guests. "Once most consumers have updated their sleep products," he says, "the hotels will have to offer quality bedding just to keep demanding guests happy." So if you're dreaming of a sleep-related business, think beds, comforters, duvets, pillows, alarm clocks, pj's, sleep masks--the list is endless. Just think sleep.