10/10/10 was the day I forgot how to sleep. On that day, our family went into a tailspin. It would take eight years, and a lot of restless nights, until I gave myself permission — and a way — to sleep soundly again.
On 10/10/10, my wife Cara was taken to the hospital for the second time in a week. This time by ambulance. What had been initially diagnosed as a run-of-the-mill flu, had snowballed into a serious case of encephalitis, a viral infection that causes swelling of the brain. After days in the ICU, she started to come around, but her memory had been severely impaired. She didn’t know me. She didn’t know our two young children. The road ahead was going to be long. Sleep seemed a luxury I couldn’t afford.
Good news, bad news.
After 7 weeks away, Cara finally came home. However, she needed help relearning the most basic of things — the names of household items, simple math, daily routines. Her brain was rebooting itself.
As she recovered and we began to balance out the household routine again, we finally had ample time to sleep. Unfortunately, I had lost the ability to quiet my mind and sleep remained elusive. I went on like this for years and accepted this state of sleeplessness as my new normal.
Then, in the winter of 2017, I got the flu. Bad. I was terrified that we were all going to spin out of control again. I needed to get better, fast. I didn’t want my kids to relive the trauma of seeing a parent so ill. The only way to do that was to rest… a lot.
It was during these fevered days that I began to formulate what would become my invention and my company: the Dēp sleep hoodie and Dēp Slēpwear, Inc.
The search for better sleepwear
Sick and in bed for the better (worse?) part of 3 weeks, I slept horribly, partly due to my cotton sleepwear. My internal thermostat was on the blink, and I sweated through t-shirts, froze in tank tops, overheated in hoodies, and had to change soaked sheets regularly. Plus, trying to sleep during daylight hours with sunlight pouring in, added to the challenge. I tried several sleep masks to block the light, but they were ill-fitting, ineffective, or uncomfortable. I was stuck in this vicious cycle of sleep deprivation. There had to be a better solution.
When I recovered, I began searching for functional, hooded sleepwear, and I was repeatedly disappointed. Traditional sleepwear made of cotton and flannel is too hot and retains moisture. Loose fitting garments bind, pull and generally disrupt sleep. Hooded pajamas looked like they were designed as halloween costumes. And I wondered why there should ever be pockets, buttons, pull strings, zippers, or my favorite, lapels on sleepwear! All of these things hinder sleep. Especially when you’ve got the energy of a sloth with a fever.
A new journey
The garment I wanted simply wasn’t out there.
So, I sketched out my own designs and started to look for the right functional materials. I went to a friend who supplies apparel to Olympic and professional athletes. He gave me a rash guard — a form-fitting, polyester/spandex shirt that acts like a second skin for athletes in training. It was perfect for my purposes. With that, a needle, thread, and some fabric, I sewed my first working prototype. I quickly learned that I’m no seamstress. It was rough, but I got it to the point where we could take it to a factory and get a real prototype made. From there, I wore it practically non-stop. I took notes, tweaked it, shared it with family and friends, got feedback, re-tweaked it, and improved it enough where it could go into production.
The end result is the Dēp sleep hoodie. It is purpose-built for deep sleep — it’s form-fitting, yet moves freely with your body and across your sleeping surface to minimize disturbances during sleep. It wicks sweat and breathes easily to help regulate body temperature. It blocks light and muffles sounds to keep distractions at bay. And it provides a personal cocoon-like environment that is helping a wide-array of sleepers get to sleep faster, sleep better and sleep longer. I’m happy and proud to say, it works.
From journey to mission to movement
During this journey, I’ve learned that sleep deprivation is a major health issue for hundreds of millions of people throughout the world. Countless studies show that lack of sleep leads to everything from diminished mental performance to debilitating physical disease.
I just wanted a better sleep shirt, but the prospect of helping millions of people lead healthier, happier, more productive lives has turned this journey into a mission, with the hopes of creating a movement. A limited supply of hoodies are available on our depslepwear.com site, and we’ve embarked on a Kickstarter campaign to bring the hoodies to the wider world.
As for Cara, I’m thrilled to report that she is thriving once again, and is pictured above in her Dēp sleep hoodie. You can learn more about her personal journey here.
You never know what life is going to throw at you — we certainly didn’t — but by giving yourself permission, and a way, to get a good night’s sleep, you will always be better prepared to handle it. You may not think you can afford it, but the reality is, to live your best waking life, you need to make sleep a top priority.