The importance of sleep and how we can reach it, sustainably
Guests for Change with Andreas Lenzhofer
“If we think back five or ten years ago,” shares Andreas Lenzhofer, “Sleep was for losers – and now you really see how this is changing. Sleep is taking center stage as people realize and recognize its importance. We found that this is an interesting trend for us, for the long term. The second reckoning for us was looking at how much time we spend wearing our clothing. We do a lot of sports, so we invest a lot of money in sportswear, which is functionally optimized. And we literally only use it for a couple of hours a year. I learned, on the other hand, that we sleep in traditional cotton pyjamas – or not even that – yet we don't expect functionality in our sleepwear. And this is quite odd, because it's one-third of our life that we spend sleeping! It really matters for our personality, for our wellbeing, for our recovery. So we should actually expect the function that we have in our sportswear in our sleepwear as well.”
"If we think back five or ten years ago,” shares Andreas Lenzhofer, "Sleep was for losers – and now you really see how this is changing. Sleep is taking center stage as people realize and recognize its importance."
As the cofounder of Dagsmejan, Andreas started out in finance and then made the transition into fibres and fashion. Drawing on his multiple decades of experience as a strategy consultant, he took a strategic and scientific approach when starting this business. The initial stage involved identifying a need in the market – which he discussed with THE GUESTLIST. The next step was to outline how Dagsmejan aims to satisfy that need.
Image via Dagsmejan
“It’s important to establish what good quality sleep is,” he says. “You can be very pragmatic and say that good sleep quality means time. And you need to calculate how much time you spend in a deep sleep phase, and how much time you spend in the REM phase – because these are the two phases that really matter.”
"One-third of our life that we spend sleeping! It really matters for our personality, for our wellbeing, for our recovery. So we should actually expect the function that we have in our sportswear in our sleepwear as well."
According to the Rechtschaffen & Kales (R & K) Standard of 1968, deep sleep can be described as stage three of non-rapid eye movement sleep and is often referred to as “slow-wave sleep”. Deep sleep is important for consolidation of new memories, and is often referred to as “sleep-dependent memory processing.” As such, individuals with primary insomnia will have impaired memory consolidation and won’t perform as efficiently as normal patients when completing memory tasks following a period of sleep. REM sleep is a stage of sleep that is characterized by low muscle tone, rapid eye movements and dreams. It is present in all mammals and has unique physiologic properties that distinguish it from non-REM sleep. It is the phase of sleeping that is associated with dreams and rapid eye movements. During this stage of sleep the skeletal muscles act as if they are paralyzed. In fact all voluntary muscles, except for eye muscles are atonic, or without movement.
“So everything that is supporting the length of the sleep or what is really helping the body to drop down into these deep sleep phases is preferred. This is where deep relaxation happens, where muscle recovery happens, where your growth hormones are extracted and flow through your body. So you need to have as much time as possible in these deep sleep stages,” says Andreas.
"So everything that is supporting the length of the sleep or what is really helping the body to drop down into these deep sleep phases is preferred. You need to have as much time as possible in these deep sleep stages."
“Once you have established that, you have to look at what inhibits the body from being in these deep sleep phases, and this formed part of a research project that we did. Two things that determine sleep quality are melatonin levels and body temperature. We need to have the right melatonin levels – they go up during the day, and then at the end drop during the night. And the other one is the body temperature – which needs to drop before we go to bed. You cannot fall asleep if your body temperature does not drop. And then, in the early morning – about four o'clock or so – it starts to revert. So your temperature starts to go up, and this is the body regaining energy. It’s preparing to wake up. There are many more such microcycles that take place during sleep – but it really plays a key role in the quality of sleep.”
Image via Dagsmejan
“This drives the functional requirements for a sleeper,” he says. “You need to have a garment that really helps the body to stay in this optimal climatic comfort zone, as this is called. Whenever the body begins to warm up, it helps you to cool down. When you're too cold, it helps you to warm up. When you're sweaty, and you have disturbing moisture, the moisture is wicked away – but it also is free of any friction. It stays as smooth as possible, with as little rubbing as possible. This defines the requirements for good sleep quality.”
"You need to have a garment that really helps the body to stay in this optimal climatic comfort zone, as this is called. Whenever the body begins to warm up, it helps you to cool down. When you're too cold, it helps you to warm up."
With these benefits and features in mind, fabrics became the focus. “From these, we developed fabrics and common styles that really meet those functional requirements. It took us about 150 different fabrics, different knitting structures and so on. Very early on, we decided that we want to do this with natural fibres for multiple reasons. One is that it is more sustainable, and we wanted to stay away from synthetic fibres and oil-based fibres. On the other hand, it was also a customer requirement from a comfort perspective. When it comes to sleep, it’s more of a cozy relationship that you have with your clothes. It’s very intimate. If you wear something for eight to nine hours a day, people have a clear preference for natural fibres. Along with that, natural fibres actually have quite interesting, basic thermal regulation properties. Most natural fibres are hydrophilic, so they suck moisture away. But there are also disadvantages that come with that, and this is where we found some innovative technical solutions. Hydrophilic and hydrophobic fibres is something that we really developed in our project.”
Image via Dagsmejan
In terms of sustainability, the botanic fibres they chose take up to 20 times less water than cotton to produce. And for Dagsmejan, this was their initial step into sustainability. Regarding this topic, Andreas outlines: “Sustainability is more of a journey than a static topic. Sustainability is an important topic for us. We want to be as sustainable as possible, recognizing that there are still some compromises you need to make because things are just not available in the way that they should be. We only use natural fibres. We only use natural fibres that can be predominantly produced in Europe. We also decided that we produce the garments in Europe because we don’t want to ship fabrics to Asia to manufacture garments, just to ship them back to Europe. It just doesn’t make sense in our view. There are some limitations, as there are just no technical solutions available for the fine quality of garments that we are producing yet – but this is something that we are working on. There’s more to come, and over time, we really want to be CO₂ neutral, so at this point, that is something that we are working towards.”
"Sustainability is more of a journey than a static topic. Sustainability is an important topic for us. There’s more to come, and over time, we really want to be CO₂ neutral, so at this point, that is something that we are working towards."
As a brand, this can be difficult to outline clearly. As Andreas shares, “Our core is to be an honest brand. There’s so much pretention in textiles. Suddenly every brand has become sustainable, it’s just not possible. A fundamental problem is that there’s so little standardization of what sustainability really means, with so little understanding from the customer side of what is a sustainable brand, and what is not. So it’s also our mission to educate consumers as to what you should look for – what a good product really is, what a sustainable product is. So all of that ties together into the whole ecosystem of sustainability that we’re working together towards as a world. We need high-quality fibres, good quality garments sustainably produced, we need good quality sleep as humans to be able to function better in the world. This is where science can guide us.” From a scientific and strategic approach to sustainably fostering sleep – Dagsmajen is embarking on a healthier journey. Indeed, Dagsmejan is a prime example of how producers can be guided by science towards sustainability. Andreas, his team, and their philosophy are a welcome reminder that true sustainability is only achievable through collaboration – between the different facets of a business and between all the players in the market. Read more about how Andreas made the transition from finance to fibres here.