High-tech or smart mattresses can regulate temperature and firmness, not to mention track how you sleep. Here’s how to choose one that’s best for you.
As the coronavirus pandemic continues to keep most people at home, there may be one beneficial side effect – Americans are overturning the nation’s reputation for chronic sleep deprivation and sleeping almost 20 percent longer. Whether or not you fall in that category, you may be considering how you can improve your sleep environment. After all, good sleep is essential to keeping healthy and reduce stress, especially during high-anxiety periods that can disrupt many routines. Can a smart bed or high-tech mattress help you on the journey to the land of nod? We consulted sleep experts, including a sleep physician, researcher and coach on how to choose a smart bed that works for your needs.
Smart mattresses are embedded with technology that tracks how you sleep to fine-tune two factors that contribute to the quality of your slumber: mattress firmness and the temperature you find most comfortable for sleep. They can be controlled via apps that show statistics, often including an overall “sleep score.” For Seema Khosla, MD, medical director of the North Dakota Center for Sleep and chair of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine Technology Committee, variable temperature control is a particularly interesting feature. “The quicker your temperature drops, the faster you fall asleep,” she says. “That’s why the recommendation is a warm bath and a cool bedroom. If your bed can do that for you, that would be very helpful.”
Sleep tracking can be useful for people to become more conscious of how they’re sleeping, but they should resist getting mired in specific data as it may not be clinically validated. “If you can take action to improve sleep based on the data — like recognizing you need to sleep longer — then that’s helpful,” Khosla says.
Like with any mattress, the most essential criterion for a smart bed is whether it delivers the support you need for spinal alignment, says Bert Jacobson, head of the School of Kinesiology, Applied Health and Recreation at Oklahoma State University, who researches the impact of sleep surfaces on slumber quality.
Your body type can determine what level of fitness is necessary for a good night’s sleep. Heavier people tend to require firmer mattresses to support their body’s pressure zones, for example. “One size does not fit all. For the best support, a bed should conform to your weight and form, with different amounts of density where the body is heavier or lighter,” says Jacobson. A Consumer Reports survey found people with neck and back pain reported better sleep on adjustable air beds such as Sleep Number mattresses, where firmness could be precisely tweaked.
That’s where a smart bed can tip the scales from a decent rest to the perfect slumber. Many smart beds whose firmness can be customized rely on adjustable air chambers that inflate or deflate automatically based on sensors that detect a sleeper’s shifting pressure distribution. The technology is helpful if you tend to switch positions in the night — the mattress can reshape itself to maintain support. “Side sleepers need a mattress to conform more to shoulders and hips, whereas a stomach or back sleeper has their body weight more evenly distributed,” explains Bill Fish, sleep science coach and managing editor of SleepFoundation.org.
Some queen-size and other, larger smart beds sport dual zones that customize for two sleepers. “This is great for couples with different sleep preferences,” says Fish. A pregnant woman, for example, may find customization useful for adjusting mattress support as their body changes. Fish adds that athletes may find this feature beneficial because they may want different firmness levels throughout a training cycle.
It’s worth thinking about whether you really want smart features like app control and automatic support changes. An adjustable air mattress like the Saatva Solaire, with fifty firmness settings per side operated by remote control, could be a good option for a couple with differing mattress needs, says Fish. With smart beds, there’s also the possibility of malfunction. “It’s important to note that when dealing with technology, you have to worry about one more thing to service,” he says. Many of these mattresses come with a three-month free trial, however, giving you ample nights for testing new sleep habits.
Now that you have a better understanding of the capabilities smart beds have to offer, here are five options to consider investing in for a comfortable night’s sleep.