Steven Van Allen: Providing Students with the Amenity of Better Sleep

It all started in a college dorm with restless nights of tossing and turning, resulting in missed classes. For college students, sleep is an essential activity that tends to be sacrificed for in favor of late nights studying or spending time with friends. While this seems normal on college campuses, not getting a full night’s rest affects your brain, and you emotional and physical state. Having just one poor night’s sleep can disrupt cognitive functioning and reduce your immune system’s response, meaning you’ll experience a lack of concentration and are more susceptible to getting sick. Did you know that staying awake for twenty-four hours is just like having a blood alcohol content of .1 percent? While students might think pulling an all-nighter will get them an A, those lost hours of sleep could ultimately cost them their 4.0.

Being a college student at the time, I knew there had to be a way to help students get a good night’s rest, and it all started with comfort. Not only was the college housing mattress unbearable to lay on, but I was also repelled by the fact that hundreds of people had slept on it before me. Plus, I knew a good night’s sleep was a game-changer in productivity and focus. With dreams of restful nights, Sleepyhead was born. After winning a college business competition, I created my gel-infused memory foam mattress topper — Sleepyhead’s flagship product. I then expanded to sell copper-infused memory foam mattress toppers that are antimicrobial, hypoallergenic, anti-inflammatory and protect against bed bugs and mites.

Since leaving the dorm room, my primary focus has been on college students. Sleepyhead has partnered with over 1,100 universities across the United States, and we produce college-specific sizes like Twin XL and Full XL. Also, every mattress topper comes with a good-till graduation warranty, which gives students and families the ease of knowing this can last them through graduation and beyond. Moving away from home is an exciting but challenging time, and being able to turn a room into their home can help students adjust to college life.

We support college students in making the most of their experience by encouraging them to dream big and rest easy. Channeling our entrepreneurial spirit, Sleepyhead never stops pushing for more — out of our ideas, materials and our company. We know there are many options for better sleep, so we constantly innovate to make sure we’re creating only the best. And if the best doesn’t exist yet, then we find a way to make it happen. That means inventing new materials, expanding partnerships, and collaborating with college students to create what they precisely want and need.

However, Sleepyhead is more than just mattress toppers. It’s a company that invests in students’ dreams through a good night’s sleep and partnering with them in their goals. When you give students great opportunities, I believe they can do great things. Sleepyhead wouldn’t be where it is today if I hadn’t brought my dreams to life as an entrepreneurial college student, so I want to help today’s students do the same. Our toppers help energize them to achieve their dreams. Better sleep leads to better focus, better focus leads to better ideas, and better ideas lead to a better future. 

One way I do this is by hiring college students. Working directly with college students has provided a place for their voices to be heard while also partnering in creativity. Gen Z’s primary outlet for expressing themselves is social media. Social media, like TikTok, have become an outlet for their opinion on products, politics, and just about anything. Gen Z seeks cures to loneliness by banding closely together and increasingly pursuing self-care methods. Some students I work with focus on content creation, and working effectively with them has helped me form my personal creative team to target this. 

I hope that my team can help me develop connections with this generation and, with that, also form connections with their families. Over 70 percent of Gen Z’ers said they influence their families’ decisions on buying furniture, household goods, etc. It also means making more eco-friendly products that reduce our carbon footprint and constantly striving to improve the way we do business. Some say that students are our future, but I say they’re the now. And it all starts with a Sleepyhead.  

—Steven Van Allen, founder and CEO of Sleepyhead.