When she was Prime Minister of England, Margaret Thatcher only slept about four hours a night. The indefatigable “Iron Lady” once reportedly said, “Sleep is for wimps.”
Admitting to needing sleep was once considered a sign of weakness, says Colin Lawlor, CEO of SleepScore Labs. “Thankfully, those days are over.”
“Today 50% of adults have problems with their sleep,” Lawlor said. “Four billion around the planet wake up tired every week.”
SleepScore Labs, headquartered in Carlsbad, helps people gain insight into their sleeping habits – and learn what it takes to fall asleep faster and sleep deeper and more soundly.
The technology, health and wellness startup utilizes smartphones to collect data which scientists at the company monitor and share with SleepScore users to address their individual sleep needs.
“Every human and animal needs sleep,” Lawlor said. “It’s a critical function in life. If we don’t sleep well, we don’t feel well, we don’t look well, we can’t perform at work, we lose creativity, we’re at a greater risk of accidents and chronic disease.”
He called sleep “the missing ingredient” in many people’s lives, with billions looking to solve sleeping problems through nasal strips, different types of pillows, dietary supplements and medications, and more.
“It’s a journey of frustration for many,” he said. “There’s been very little data on which solutions work. Our goal is to put the right tools in people’s hands and with data and science, connect people to the right solutions for them.”
Lawlor said people have finally woken up – literally and figuratively – to the relationship sleep has with everything from their physical health and emotional well-being to their ability to work productively.
Inc. Magazine definitely got the wakeup call, as SleepScore Labs just made the Inc. 5000 2022 list of fastest-growing, privately owned companies in America, ranking as the 65th fastest-growing private companies in California.
SleepScore’s 1,471% growth rate over the past three years helped land the company on the Inc. 5000 list.
Science-Based, Data-Driven Work
SleepScore Labs was founded in 2016, spun out of ResMed, the industry leading, San Diego-based medical equipment company that provides cloud-connectable medical devices to help treat sleep apnea, COPD and other respiratory conditions.
SleepScore Lab also has an office in Dublin, Ireland – where Lawlor is from.
The company employs a team of scientists to track information about people’s sleeping habits and has published more than 50 studies about sleep. Lawlor said SleepScore Labs has completed 25 studies just this year — and has studied more than 100 million hours of sleep as it looks to advance the science of sleep health globally.
“We have a wealth of data to make a difference,” Lawlor said. “Our data drives the science, and while we have 100 million hours now, we are looking for multi millions of hours of data. Our goal is to help 1 billion people sleep better, and we’re very committed to our mission.”
The company uses sonar sensor technology through an app available on most cell phones that tracks breathing and body movement as people travel through different stages of sleep.
Every morning, it provides users a normalized 100-point sleep quality metric, based on proprietary algorithms; its SleepScore is composed of six sleep parameters that combine to reflect the overall quality of sleep.
The company takes the data and combines it with individual profile and lifestyle information to help provide personal insight into its users’ unique sleep patterns and overall sleep health.
MindScore and BodyScore
In addition to a SleepScore, customers get a MindScore, reflecting the amount of REM sleep, and a BodyScore, reflecting the amount of deep, restorative sleep.
“Sleep is really the most important part of our health and for the most part, people don’t know what to do about it,” Lawlor said. “It literally all starts in the dark. I know what I ate yesterday and I know what I did yesterday but we can’t remember how our sleep was. We know if we slept well but we don’t have details.”
In the past three years, SleepScore Labs has pivoted from a Business-to-Consumer (B2C) to a Business-to-Business (B2B) focus.
The company is in the final stages of launching a series of sleep scent experiences with partner International Flavors & Fragrances – IFF (NYSE) that have been scientifically tested and validated to improve objective sleep quality.
Last year, Mattress Firm and SleepScore announced a partnership to leverage several SleepScore services focusing on science, data, content and technology. Mattress Firm launched the Sleep.com app last December for its customers.
SleepScore Labs has also partnered with cosmetics and personal care giant L’Oreal around the need of “beauty sleep.”
In 2011 the Dublin-based company Lawlor had been with since 2009, BiancaMed, was acquired by ResMed, and became ResMed Sensor Technologies. BiancaMed initially created SleepMinder, a non-contact device that monitored sleep and breathing by using a motion sensor that detected respiration and movement without touching the body.
In 2014 he was asked by ResMed leaders to move to San Diego, and for three years was a vice president of ResMed.
Lawlor, 53, said the decision eight years ago to move with his wife, two children and dog to Southern California came with no hesitation.
He had fallen in love with America when he was 14 during a visit to Texas to play the bagpipes as part of a youth band. He said even then he noted that America’s entrepreneurial culture was “wonderful.”
His first job working for Guinness, the beer company based in Ireland, is a complete change from where he finds himself today. “There’s nothing like being in the health and wellness space,” he said, “being able to change people’s lives and help them live happier and longer.”
CEO: Colin Lawlor
BUSINESS: Health and wellness technology
REVENUE: Up 1,471% since 2020
SOCIAL IMPACT: SleepScore Labs supports Sleeping Children Around the World, a nonprofit that helps millions of children get a bed kit “for a restful night and a happier tomorrow.”
NOTABLE: SleepScore Labs was spun out of ResMed.