In conversation with Hyoumankind CEO Steph Wyborn on the importance of sleep

Hyoumankind understands that in our ‘always on’ modern world, we grab sleep where and when we can. Under the watchful eye of passionate founder and CEO Steph Wyborn, the company has become a name synonymous with a great sleep via a cleverly curated offering of products created with making the best of your forty winks in mind. 

Helene Ravlich talks to Steph to find out a little more about what the innovative company tick.

When were you first inspired to create your own line of pillows, and what inspired it?

I guess my lightbulb moment came when I was holidaying with friends. I’d been struggling to get a good, restorative night’s sleep for around a year, waking up feeling uncomfortable and not so confident about how I looked. I noticed how my friends looked in the morning and saw some patterns. A friend with facial lines slept on her stomach, another with cleavage wrinkles slept on her side. The ‘line’ between wrinkles and sleep position was clear (excuse the pun!).

It’s clear that a lot of careful research has gone into your pillows, how long did you work on the concepts before they were finally unveiled to the public?

After my lightbulb moment, I did tonnes of research on the science of sleep: how wrinkles form, postural alignment, snoring, and how sleep influences wellbeing and beauty. Despite the science, there were few solutions related to pillows. So I set out to create my own. I took some sketches to an inventor I knew, who cut foam into the shape I’d drawn (which eventually evolved into the Back Sleep Pillow). I found a graphic designer to help with visualising my ideas, then spent two years searching for a factory to help with foam, with plenty of false starts and setbacks. They had to be made here, but there was only one New Zealand maker of memory foam at the time, and they hadn’t quite cracked it. Altogether we trialled 16 prototypes for a range of four pillows. 

Who did you consult, sleep specialists, physios, engineers? It seems like getting a pillow just right would involve a village!

Yes, it was a village! I engaged with sleep specialists, physios, chiropractors, plastic surgeons, beauty therapists, yoga teachers, researchers, foam manufacturers, design engineers for aesthetics and comfort, legal experts for design protection… This has been my labour of love for almost 10 years, and not always a straight road. 

I heard you had an interesting experience involving pillows and the cold in the alps, what can you tell me about that?

Yes! I was in the US skiing, and about to have a meeting with a luxury hotel regarding pillows for their spa. But my memory foam prototypes had gone rock hard in the cold! I was warming and kneading them by the lobby fire to soften them seconds before I met the Spa Manager. After that, it was back to the drawing board to get a foam with a consistent feel in all temperatures. 

I love the idea of your Go pillow, which sounds like something we could all use! How did you first come up with the concept for that? 

The Go Pillow evolved through trialling it with both elite athletes and everyday people who travel a lot. We realised it wasn’t just being used in bed or on the plane. These people were using their Go Pillows absolutely everywhere – working at a desk, in the car, at the gym and yoga… You name it! I love that the Go Pillow can be rolled for lumbar support, to sit on, sleep on, hug while you’re watching TV. It’s like a reusable water bottle – by your side when you need it. 

How often should you replace your pillow?

It’s a good idea to do this every two years.

You also offer silk pillowcases and travel bags for your pillows, have you any other new accessories in the pipeline?

Having the options of different covers and bags means people can get more use out of each pillow and take it with them. We’re constantly thinking about what else we can offer, and currently working with hotels, airlines and superyachts – so that will definitely be opening the door to new products. Watch this space.

A good pillow is so essential to facilitating a good night’s sleep, what are your tips for picking the right pillow?

Don’t just feel it with your hands. I suggest lying on it if you can, to see whether it’s comfy, supportive and moulds to the contours of your head, neck and shoulders. Consider how you sleep. Do you need side support, or do you want to sleep on your back? Look for quality. You spend a lot of time on your pillow, it’s worth looking for lasting, quality filling like premium foam, and beautiful natural textiles for your covers. Versatility and multi-use are also important because sleep and rest don’t just happen in bed at night. Look for a pillow that offers comfort in different situations.