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Sleep Lab Comfortable With Strategy; Plans IPO

Encino-based Sleepwell Laboratories figures its business of helping people sleep better has plenty of room to grow, considering that 70 million people across the country suffer from some kind of sleep disorder. It recently filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission and will begin trading shares publicly within the next few months. In April, the company furthered a strategy that makes it unique in the sleep testing industry; it began building testing facilities into La Quinta Inn & Suites locations and Baymont Inn & Suites locations across the country. Its first location, at the La Quinta Inn & Suites Phoenix Mesa West opened in March, and has already seen dozens of customers. A few years ago, Sleepwell founder David Kaye was having trouble sleeping, and made an appointment with a sleep-testing laboratory. The facility was in an office building just like any other, thus filled with distractions like electronic noise and even a nearby bathroom. Kaye found that he could barely sleep in a noisy office environment, and imagined that other patients were similarly uncomfortable. He decided to form his own company that monitored patients in a much more comfortable setting. Sleepwell will sign five-year leases with the La Quinta Corporation with two five-year extension options available. Sleepwell will take over 10 rooms in each hotel in which they set up shop, turning three into a doctor’s office, and another into a reception area. The rest of the space is reserved for a control room and six beds for use by patients. Sleepwell opened in its first hotel in 2003, signing a multi-year lease with Country Inn & Suites in Salt Lake City. The company found that operating out of hotels would not only make patients more comfortable, it would make good business sense as well. Sleepwell’s constructions costs are minimal, it’s able to save some of the money it would spend renovating office space, and they operate out of an already well-known location. Patients have access to all of the amenities of a hotel stay, and family members can stay in the hotel during the testing. Celeste Garcia, chief administrative officer for Sleepwell, said that La Quinta is a sensible business partner because it is a growing company, and as it opens new locations Sleepwell will have new expansion opportunities. Currently, the company employs 50 people in over half a dozen locations across the country. For their part, hotels can count on year-round business that won’t fluctuate based on seasons or annual events, and Sleepwell’s advertising will indirectly benefit the hotel out of which it operates. The interruption to normal business operations is negligible as well. Patients check in at Sleepwell’s offices instead of the front desk, and after that they’re no more disruptive than any other guest would be. La Quinta’s agreement with Sleepwell “represents a new and innovative way of thinking about inventory management and revenue generation in local hotel markets,” said Wayne Goldberg, executive vice president of operations for La Quinta. “The excitement generated by the opening of the Phoenix sleep facility indicates that the marriage between hotels and sleep centers is an idea whose time has come.” Despite the fact that millions of people need sleep-testing, most don’t know it’s available, or whether their medical coverage will pay the bills. “Everything is reimbursed by insurance, it’s just like getting a CAT scan or an MRI, you can get a prescription for sleep testing,” said Garcia. Sleep-testing facilities are in demand, she added. Ninety percent of people suffering from sleep disorders are undiagnosed, and by positioning Sleepwell at well-known hotel locations across the country, the company hopes to increase awareness of sleep disorders while pumping up its own market share in anticipation of its coming Initial Public Offering.

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