The recognition that good sleep habits are crucial to good health has been growing over the years, evidenced by the proliferation of sleep clinics and sleep counseling. What many busy young professionals may not be aware of is just how much your ability to get a good night’s sleep can affect your overall health and your performance. We sat down with seasoned veteran Philip Shen, a sleep expert and founder of the innovative Snuz mattress company, to get his insights into the value of sleep, how lack of proper sleep affects our health, and how to obtain the rest we all seek.
Tell me about how your career as an industry executive and how it primed you for your current role.
I spent more than twenty years at Leggett & Platt, a Fortune 500 company and the biggest supplier to the bedding industry, where I led the expansion into the Asian market as the President of the Asia Pacific region. During my time there, I learned the inner workings of the bedding industry and retired after a long and fruitful career. But my retirement lasted only a few days because I saw a need in the market for a new type of mattress that took advantage of the latest technology and wealth of accumulated sleep science to provide deeper, more restorative sleep.
I saw that the traditional mattress brands were struggling to innovate products and adopt new retail channels, creating a new wave of direct-to-consumer mattress brands. These upstart mattress brands were focusing more on branding and marketing than product engineering. So I decided to start a new project, a new mattress brand that revolves around proven sleep science rather than marketing tactics.
What does sleep mean to you?
To me, sleep is probably one of the most important lifestyle investments you can make in yourself, just as important as regular exercise and a healthy diet. My personal recognition of the importance of sleep was a key reason for creating Snuz. Over my lifetime, sleep quality has become more and more important to not only my well being but also my performance. Sleep became a very personal matter and a top priority, something I wish I discovered sooner in life. But, I’m not done yet. I still want to help others become a healthier, more productive version of themselves by improving their quality of sleep.
At what point in your life did you needed to make sleep a priority?
My long career as an executive meant having to take numerous and frequent business trips overseas. With more than five million miles logged and countless nights spent sleeping in hotels, I became adept at coping with all types of mattresses and sleep environments while constantly adjusting to different time zones. Often this meant going to bed at 9 pm and waking up at 4 am, and modifying hotel beds to compensate for their shortcomings.
During my travels, I quickly learned the importance of getting a good night’s sleep and how it could affect my mood, stamina, memory, performance, and overall well-being. At first, my focus on sleep was limited to my business travels but it soon became a bigger priority, extending beyond my career and into my personal life. I began to view sleep as a pursuit worthy of obsession, because good sleep is the foundation of greatness.
Philip Shen, third from the right, during the 1980’s
Why do you believe quality sleep is so important?
I’ve learned that in order to hit the ground running each morning, you need proper sleep planning, even when you’re sleeping on the run. But besides my personal experience, there is an abundance of research showing the importance of quality sleep and the large number of people suffering from sleep disorders that are affecting their health. Most healthy adults need seven to nine hours of sleep a night, yet 40 percent get less than the recommended amount.
Quality sleep can improve your quality of life and performance in so many ways. Lack of sleep hurts the cognitive processes, impairing attention, alertness, concentration, reasoning, and problem-solving, making it more difficult to learn efficiently. People who don’t get sufficient sleep have a 63 percent higher risk for cardiovascular disease than people who do.
What’s one thing about sleep you wish you knew when you were younger?
That a good night’s sleep is important, more so than another after-dinner drink! Some hotels have the bars strategically located across the elevators, so it can be difficult to go to your room without being hailed down by colleagues for another nightcap (followed by another). Another thing I wish I had known is how much mattresses can differ, and how the quality of a mattress can affect your sleep, and by extension, your health.
Do you have anything else to add about your personal philosophy or experience as it relates to sleep?
Some sleep wisdom I have acquired in my years of traveling is to take a hot shower before bedtime, stay in familiar hotels with familiar beds, eat light suppers, and request rooms on higher floors. What sleep science has discovered is that people toss and turn because of the pressure they exert on particular areas of the body. Relieve the stress on these areas and you improve your sleep and overall health. This is the secret to getting a great night’s sleep.