Cool products for hot women
Having trouble in bed?
To ease temperature-related complaints, mattress sellers and manufacturers have launched several new products after noticing that couples and hot flash-suffering women were having restless nights. These high-tech products, which include mattresses and mattress toppers, help sleepers control the temperature of their beds—a crucial component of a good night's rest.
"The main complaint is that usually one of the two is fine and one isn't, and that makes it very difficult for a couple to get a balance in the bedroom," said Pete Bils, vice president of sleep innovation and clinical research for Sleep Number, a unit of Select Comfort. "Usually one is too hot, and the other could be too cold."
While the baby boomer set is not the only market for these products, they are a sizable portion of buyers as women seek ways to reduce the effects of hot flashes linked to the withdrawal of estrogen.
The average age for this change is 51, according to the Department of Health and Human Services, a timeline that places boomers squarely in the throes of this phase.
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For Brookstone, said Steve Schwartz, the company's vice president of merchandising and product development, temperature is one aspect of solving the good sleep puzzle. The company also carries products that address the senses of sight and touch to get people to fall asleep and stay there.
Several reviews for its ChiliPad product, a cooling and heating mattress pad that is manufactured by Chili Technology, allude to the problems that menopausal women can experience while trying to nod off.
One user, who describes herself as a cured insomniac from Boise, Idaho, writes, "I am newly menopausal but any woman going through the years approaching menopause and early years into menopause and perhaps even later, understands [what] it is like to throw the covers on and off all night due to the insomnia brought about from sleeping too hot and hot flashes."
Another mentions no longer having to kick the covers on and off all night and adds that while it is expensive it's "worth every penny."
At Brookstone, ChiliPads range from $399 to $999 each. Sleep Number's DualTemp pad will set people back even more with prices starting at $999. Mattress Firm's YuMe beds range from $3,499 from $6,301.
Although these products have found a market in menopausal women, overtly advertising toward this group can be tricky. Laura Ries, president of Ries & Ries, a consulting firm, said she can't think of many products that have gone out to advertise toward this set, but thinks "that's likely to change as we've seen with other conditions, like erectile dysfunction or PMS. All of these things that we thought of as somewhat taboo are becoming more acceptable."
In Ries' opinion, marketing these products more openly as ones that would help women could generate attention and good press.
Graying means growth
With the baby boomer population graying, mattress executives and analysts see a growing market for temperature-regulation items.
Chris Marsh, Mattress Firm's vice president of merchandising, compared the mattress industry's adoption of temperature-related products to when the automotive industry began to understand the importance of heating and cooling seats.
"We feel that with the baby boomer population getting older and the general population appreciating better sleep, this will be one of the fastest-growing segments of the mattress industry over the next decade," Marsh said.
Already, he's seen interest grow.
"If you go back probably seven or eight years ago in surveys, if you asked things that are top of mind features, coolness came up, but it was less than 10 percent," he said. "If you asked two years ago, coolness is actually on 30 percent of minds now."
Peter Keith, a senior research analyst at Piper Jaffray, said there are two important areas of customization available for mattresses: firmness and temperature control. The latter, he believes, is emerging as the next leg of customization.
Although this area is still relatively new, Keith cited Sleep Number's surge in Google searches around the time of the DualTemp debut as evidence of the strong consumer interest level for these products.
"It's such a new emerging area that no one's really sure on how big it could," he said. "I think a number of people in the industry do see big potential, but industry participants are having a hard time gauging how big the market for temperature controlled products could be, given the relative newness of it."
—By CNBC's Katie Little. Follow her @KatieLittle.
Updated: This article has been updated to say that Chili Technology is the manufacturer of the ChiliPad.