What Marketing Theory Can Teach About Sleep

There are more than a few mysteries when it comes to behavior and sleep.

When it comes to staying awake, why would a reasonably prudent person get hooked on meth when there are so many bad examples of what can happen? It would seem that almost anyone could see the first dose of methamphetamine would be too extreme of a response to feeling sleepy and needing to stay awake. Especially when there’s things like coffee, caffeine, energy drinks and the like.

Sure, there’s some euphoria associated with meth use, but all of the other drawbacks should serve as a caution.

Conversely, why would another reasonably prudent person take a sleeping pill like Ambien when the side effects can be both so terrible and so well-known?

Why would another responsible person spend thousands of dollars on a mattress with great models available for less than half that?

A lot of the decisions people make depend on how they see the value. Decisions around sleep are no exception.

You can find the answers in a field you might not expect: marketing and the psychological theory supporting it.

Four drivers of value

According to $100 Million Offers: How To Make Offers So Good People Feel Stupid Saying No by Alex Hormozi, there are four primary drivers of how a consumer sees the value of a product. This is important because the value they see when they make a purchase decision determines what they’re willing to pay.

First, there’s the person’s “dream outcome.” The desired outcome will usually be in one of a few domains: health, wealth, or relationships. These domains are broad. Buying something to eat would be in the health domain. Wealth could be in the area of demonstrating wealth in some way or preserving it. Some purchases would be in two or three domains at once. Clothing is a great example of this. It can shield you from the elements helping you preserve your health. It can also be attractive, helping you have a good romantic relationship.

Sleeping better often lies solidly in the health domain though an argument can be made that it also belongs in the other domains, too. If you can’t sleep and are tired all of the time, you’re not going to be able to make money. If you can’t sleep, too, your relationships are going to suffer. You’ll be cranky. It also is one of those that straddle several domains at once.

Second comes the estimated “likelihood of achievement.” When it comes to sleep, Ambien will be more highly valued than learning to calm yourself down and going to bed on a regular schedule. People believed that because Ambien is researched and reputably produced, it will absolutely work.

Third, comes to the perceived time delay between start and achievement. Free is great, Hormozi writes. The only thing that beats free is quick. This is why people are willing to pay thousands of dollars for liposuction when they could diet and lose the same amount of weight in 12 to 18 months.

Free is great, Hormozi writes. The only thing that beats free is quick.

Finally comes the perceived effort and sacrifice. People want less of both of those things. They want achieving the goal to be easy.

This is a description of the decision-making process people go through when looking for a solution to their dilemma. They want their problem to be solved now. They don’t want to make any major changes. They’d prefer not to have to learn anything new.

Learning something comes with potential problems in their eyes. What if they can’t learn it? What if what they learn turns out not to work? What if there’s a roadblock that they can’t foresee that stands between them and learning what they need to do?

This is why behavioral changes relating to getting enough sleep can be such a hard sell to many people. Yet exercises and plain old knowledge that you use are the surest way to achieve what you want when it comes to health, wealth, and relationships.

As the old saying goes, “Knowledge is power.” The power, in this case, is that with the knowledge, you avoid negative side effects. Knowledge is the only solution where all of the side effects are positive.

Finding and sticking to a program to get enough sleep may seem harder than taking a pill to go to sleep, but, if it is, it’s not that much harder.

Long term, getting a program together for yourself will prove to be the best value.

For many insomnia sufferers, it really is that simple.


Also on the blog:

James Cobb, RN, MSN, is an emergency department nurse and the founder of the Dream Recovery System. His goal is to provide his readers with simple, actionable ways to improve their health and maximize their quality of life. 


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Updated: Feb. 9, 2022

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