CNBC – Daniel Erichsen spent about a decade as a sleep doctor, primarily seeing patients who were struggling with sleep apnea and insomnia.
His career took a dramatic turn early last year, when he was fired from his hospital job in Oregon. Erichsen, 42, had stopped prescribing sleeping pills to patients and for the most part refused to refer them for expensive and time-consuming tests that he deemed pointless.
Erichsen didn’t suddenly turn anti-medicine. Growing up in Sweden, the son of a doctor and a nurse, he knew what he wanted to do from a very early age. He studied at the Karolinska Institute, a medical school in Stockholm, moved to New York for his residency in 2007 and then did a fellowship in sleep medicine at the University of Chicago.
But after years spent listening to patients describe their struggles with sleeplessness and their desperate efforts to find the supplement, essential oil, herbal tea, yoga practice or prescription pill that would fix their issue, Erichsen concluded that the patients weren’t the problem. Rather, the problem was the ways they were being treated.
“This wasn’t working for people,” Erichsen said in an interview from his home in Eugene, Oregon. “I was not a fit anymore. The system was not a fit for me.”
Insomnia is a big business. According to market research firm Imarc, the global insomnia market will hit $5.1 billion this year and climb to $6.1 billion by 2028. That includes spending on prescription drugs, over-the-counter sleep aids, medical devices and various types of therapy.
Imarc said in its report that the Covid-19 pandemic, which hit the U.S. in early 2020, “generated unprecedented changes in lives, including social isolation and innumerable work challenges and family obligations” and acted “as a major stressful event that impacted the sleep patterns of millions and strengthened the market growth.”
Even before the pandemic, the tech industry had found plenty of ways to capitalize on sleep and humans’ desire to optimize it …