Stories from Healthy Sleeping Habits

Meet the temperature-changing mattress that finally put my night sweats to bed

Kells McPhillips

Kells McPhillipsApril 1, 2020

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My reoccurring waking nightmare goes a little something like this: I go to sleep bundled to my heart’s content, wearing a college sweatshirt and cooking comfortably under the REM-inducing weight of my gravity blanket. I count my sheep and drift off happily, only to wake up hours later in—gah!sweat-drenched sheets. For years and years, this reality has been my somnolent status quo. But lately, dear reader, something has changed: Reps from high-tech sleep-accessory company Eight Sleep asked if I’d be interested in trying its Eight Sleep Pod ($2,395 to $2,995), a temperature-regulating mattress. I enthusiastically answered yes, hoping the Pod would rescue me from the sweatiness of those snoozes.

Here’s how it works: Using cooling and warming technology that pipes water between the external hub (which looks a lot like a heavy-duty computer hard drive and goes beside your bed) and the mattress itself, the Eight Sleep Pod’s temperature can move freely between 55°F and 110°F because “80 percent of Americans suffer from temperature issues during sleep,” reads the company’s website. (So I guess my inability to regulate my temperature doesn’t make me that special after all.)

eight sleep pod
Photo: Courtesy Eight Sleep

For those who share a bed, the Eight Sleep Pod even creates “microclimates” on its right and left sides, so you can sleep in the tundra while your S.O. drifts off in the balmy bed equivalent of the Mojave Desert. And, best of all, these temps aren’t stagnant: Eight Sleep learns your body through “Smart Temp”: a proprietary technology in the mattress that allows you to adjust the thermostat via an app, based on how much you need to recover, whether or not you’re sick, and what season it is. As you sleep on the mattress longer and longer, its sensors—which measure things like your respiratory and heart rates—also learn how to cater adjust to your body’s natural ebbs and flows. But again, you can always override the bed’s recommendations with your own preferences.

While these temperature controls are inarguably, I’d say, the crown jewel of this technologically advanced sleep experience, there are so many other features available (think: sleep tracking, meditations, thermal alarm clocks, and more). So below, learn what makes up the Pod system, what its capabilities are, and finally, what it’s actually like to hop in bed with a mattress that knows your needs down to the last degree.

The 4 components of the Eight Sleep Pod mattress system

The Eight Sleep Pod comes in four important pieces.

  1. The mattress: A firm but comfortable foam mattress that Eight Sleep informs me will “contour” to my shape over time. After two months of shacking up with the bed, I can happily report that promise pans out.
  2. The active grid tech mattress cover: “Warm or cool water flows from the hub to this thin cover to keep you at your ideal temperature. It also includes the sensors that track your biometrics,” the website reports. (More on the “biometrics” to come.)
  3.  The hub: The hub acts as the center of operations for everything the mattress does. “Water flows from the hub to the active grid to keep the bed as warm or cool as you desire,” says the website. Eight Sleep recommends swapping out the water every two months.
  4. The app: The app allows you to set your bed’s temperature (on a scale of -10-level cold to +10-level hot), review your sleep data, and set alarms. You can also queue up free guided meditations, noise machines, and yoga or strength-training classes right in the app.

All the biometrics the Eight Sleep Pod analyzes

The data the Eight Sleep Pod lends to your sleep experience is fairly standard in the sleep-tracking market. From the metrics tab of the app, you can analyze the following data points over a day, week, month, or year:

  1. Time slept
  2. Wake up consistency
  3. Time to sleep (so, how long it took you to actually drift off from the time you put your head on the pillow)
  4. How often you got out of bed
  5. Time to leave bed (how long it took you to convince yourself to leave the covers)
  6. Your bedtime
  7. Your wakeup time
  8. How long you spent in each sleep stage: light, deep, or REM
  9. How many times you tossed and turned
  10. Your sleeping heart rate
  11. Your respiratory rate
eight sleep pod
Photo: Courtesy Eight Sleep

Eight Sleep tallies all of these statistics into your overall “Sleep Fitness Score,” which is determined by the time you slept, how often you woke up, how long it took you to fall asleep, and the time it took you to get out of bed. “Each factor has a different weight in the calculation, depending on its level of impact,” the app tells me. “As we learn more about your individual sleep behavior, we leverage additional metrics, such as toss and turn variation to continuously fine-tune your score.” This is scored out of 100.

Did the Eight Sleep Pod improve my sleep?

Wow, this is involved. That’s what I think when the mattress and pod combo first arrive at my doorstep. After carrying the set—which comes in two boxes—up the three flights of stairs at my walk-up apartment, I’m out of breath but very ready to begin the process of unpacking the mattress and setting up what I assume will be a central control center for this techy bed.

Setting up the hub, mattress and active grid is all pretty straightforward, but I reach a point of confusion when I opened the tube that stores the water used to warm or cool your bed. The top, which is meant to twist open, won’t budge, and I spend the next few days trying to pry it open with no avail. Eventually, I reach out to Eight Sleep and they send me a new one, which blessedly unscrews easily. Crisis averted.

Next I get down to the business of actually sleeping on the fully functioning mattress. I download the app, and when I start playing around with the settings, I learn that I can actually warm up my bed before slipping inside of it (goodbye forever, cold sheets). So while I’m reading at night to unwind before bed, I’m basically sitting in a squishy, at-home sauna.

But because I do run hot once I’m actually sleeping, I ask the bed to dial down the temperature more and more as I fall asleep. It does, and I ultimately make it through the night without waking up to tear off my sweatshirt or to throw up my room’s window for some sweet relief. It’s delightful to know that this very fancy mattress won’t let my body metronome too far in one direction or the other, and as more and more nights go by, I realize that I’m really only waking up when nature calls.

Pre-programmed temperature settings let you adjust the bed depending on whether you want to recover from a tough workout, get immune support, or change your sleep climate according to the season.

Pre-programmed temperature settings on the app also let you adjust the bed’s nightly fluctuations depending on whether you want to recover from a tough workout, get immune support, or change your sleep climate according to the season. And because they’re adjustable, you get to decide how much of the warm-or-cold decision process you want to belong to you.

As I wade deeper and deeper into the app, I find my favorite Eight Sleep Pod feature: a thermal alarm clock that slowly wakes you up by turning up the mattress’s temperature up and torching you from the outside in (with vibrations and sounds as backup). It makes me feel like I’m waking up in a cocoon or something equally as nurturing, but those who prefer being chilly can opt to be woken up by a burst of cold.

I also quickly become a fan of Eight Sleep’s in-app “Sleep Tools,” which offer guided meditations for waking up and falling asleep, short workouts and stretches you can do right before jumping into bed or right after you’ve awakened, and a section called “Listen” that’s acts as a sound machine equipped with rain and thunder soundtracks, “nocturnal” beach waves, and the crackle of a nighttime campfire. I also relish in the quick morning yoga flows I can queue up right from the app.

After a month or so, I start to realize that I’ve created entirely new routines around bedtime and waking up that I’ve never had before—and I feel better for it. But on the sleep quality front, I get not great news. Though I get the occasional Sleep Fitness Score of about 100 or 95, I mostly land in the 70s and 80s range, which, no pun intended, is a bit of a wake-up call to how badly I’d been sleeping.

And while it’s useful to know that my overall score isn’t great, I find that I don’t know what to do about it, just as I’m not sure what to do with most of the other data the app serves me. Besides practicing my 4-7-8 breathing technique, I’m at a loss for controlling how long it takes me each night to coax my mind into silence. And I don’t exactly know how to lucid dream my way into more REM sleep.

Ultimately, the very smart device seems to be collecting my data without telling me exactly what to do with it. So even though I spend a lot of time on the app perfecting my mattress’ temperature, setting all sorts of fun alarms, and using the white-noise machine, I don’t look at my metrics on a regular basis. And—to be fair—I don’t really feel like I’m missing out. Because even though I’m not snagging perfect sleep scores, to my mind I’m sleeping way better since having left the night sweats behind. And for that, I can thank the Pod.

Speaking of getting that good sleep, here’s why orgasming might help you do that and why your muscles *need* those eight hours

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