When it comes to getting a good night’s sleep, you’ve likely heard that it’s best to keep your device out of it. With that in mind, turning to technology for a restful night’s sleep may seem a little contradictory.
However, by tracking your sleep and learning from the data, you may be able to sleep more soundly.
Smart beds are one of the latest ways to do just that.
Like smartphones, smart beds differ from model to model. Typically, they’re fitted with sensors that measure things like sleep duration and quality.
This information is then available to view on an app and can be used to make adjustments to your routine.
Certain models offer features like temperature control, position control, and the ability to adjust firmness. Some may even prevent snoring by gently raising your head.
“Although expensive, smart beds are becoming ever more popular,” says Rosey Davidson, infant sleep consultant and CEO of Just Chill Baby Sleep. “They use embedded technology in the mattress to measure how we sleep, and they adjust according to our sleeping position.”
Davidson says some models will use your sleep data to offer sleep-related tips, while others will make the adjustments for you.
For example, some models automatically change the firmness and temperature of your mattress to better suit your needs.
Smart bed pros:
- can help you identify sleep patterns
- may help you detect health problems
- may help boost your productivity
- may help improve hormone balance
Smart bed cons:
- tracking can become unhealthy
- technology can be distracting and overstimulating
- self-regulation may be a better option
- smart beds aren’t affordable for everyone
As well as making for a better night’s sleep, these adjustments may positively impact your health.
Peter Polos, PhD, a sleep medicine specialist for Sleep Number, says smart beds can be critical for connecting the dots with potential health problems.
Polos says smart beds can measure biometrics like:
- heart rate variability
- breath rate
- circadian rhythm
These metrics are combined with an algorithm to estimate when your sleep stages take place. This can help you gain an understanding of what’s preventing you from sleeping soundly.
Then, you can create an optimal sleep environment that’s tailored to your needs.
What might that mean for your long and short-term health? Let’s look at some of the pros of smart beds.
Smart beds can help you identify sleep patterns
For most of us, the level of tiredness we feel in the mornings is the only indication we get of how well we’ve slept the night before. A smart bed can help you identify sleep issues you weren’t previously aware of.
Some examples include:
- waking during the night
- experiencing fitful or restless sleep
- sleep apnea
Smart beds may help you detect health problems
Having metrics about your sleep stats can be helpful in identifying certain health issues.
“Research from Sleep Number has shown that smart beds could potentially detect and track the development of symptoms for COVID-19 and influenza,” says Polos.
Another example is restless legs syndrome.
“This diagnosis is typically made by patient history. However, the metrics available can be used to reinforce the diagnosis, and also to monitor the response to treatment,” he says.
Smart beds may help boost your productivity
Few of us function well when we’re tired.
“Disruption [to our sleeping habits] can often impact how we feel the next day—and might leave us feeling sluggish and struggling to stay awake or even pay attention throughout the day,” says Polos.
Where short-term health is concerned, not sleeping soundly can impact our cognitive abilities. In addition, Polos says the metabolic activity of the brain is at its greatest during the REM stage of sleep.
“In order to learn and retain what we need to, the proper amount of sleep and sleep stages are important,” he says.
Smart beds can help you identify how much time you spend in each sleep phase and some can make suggestions to make sure you’re getting enough sleep in each.
Smart beds may help improve hormone balance
How well you sleep affects many aspects of your health, including your hormones.
“The circadian rhythm has an influence on hormone release,” says Polos. “For example, growth hormone (HGH), which is pivotal in muscle recovery and growth, is released in slow-wave sleep.”
Polos notes that disruption or reduction of this stage has a direct effect on the release of HGH.
Another important hormone regulated by sleep is insulin, pointing to a link between diabetes and sleep.
Smart bed data “can help health care practitioners acquire an accurate, real-world, longitudinal view of your sleep health over time.”
—Peter Polos, PhD
While they offer plenty of benefits, smart beds have a few downsides.
Tracking can become unhealthy
However, Davidson warns that there is a risk of becoming obsessed with the numbers.
“We can get so obsessed with the idea of a good night’s sleep that it becomes unhealthy, and the more we worry about sleep, the worse it can become,” she points out. “You may wake up feeling rested, and then when you look at your data and see the numbers, it might leave you feeling disappointed.”
Technology can be distracting and overstimulating
“A smart mattress can remind you of the importance of healthy sleep habits, and encourage you to prioritize rest. However, no technology will ever replace the intricate architecture of our sleep biology,” says Davidson.
She says the best conditions for sleep are:
- a fairly cool temperature
- an environment that’s tech-free
“If we have lots of technology in our sleep space we can become distracted and stimulated,” she points out.
Some smart beds also have a TV that emerges from the end of the bed, emitting varying levels of light that could disrupt your sleep, she adds.
Self-regulation may be a better option
“We want our bodies to be able to regulate themselves without external input,” says Davidson. “Personally, I prefer the old-fashioned way, where you can just kick off your blankets or duvet if you are hot.”
Davidson believes smart beds can improve comfort and may be beneficial to those with injuries or long-term chronic pain.
However, she says you can emulate most of what a smart bed does with a few simple tweaks.
“Use cotton, breathable bedding and bedclothes so that your body can regulate its own temperature,” she advises. “If it’s hot, open a window or use a fan. If it’s cold, add a layer or use a [thicker] duvet.”
Other daily habits that may help include:
- getting fresh air
- exposure to natural light, ideally in the morning
- engaging in physical activity
- dimming the lights before bedtime
- sleeping near plants
Smart beds aren’t affordable for everyone
With their high price point, smart beds aren’t easily accessible to everyone.
Implementing healthy habits like those mentioned above can go a long way toward getting you deep, restful sleep. Plus, they’re mostly free!
“No technology will ever replace the intricate architecture of our sleep biology.”
If you’ve decided to purchase a smart bed, you might be wondering what to do with all that sleep data. While you may be able to spot some patterns yourself, your best bet may be to consult a specialist.
“If an individual notices they aren’t sleeping well and are trying different methods, I typically recommend consulting a sleep specialist who can evaluate your sleep and help you work through whatever challenges you’re facing,” says Polos.
In this case, sharing your smart bed sleep data can be a major asset.
“It can help health care practitioners acquire an accurate, real-world, longitudinal view of your sleep health over time,” says Polos.
While this data won’t replace a formal study, Polos says it can support diagnosis and clarify the need for additional tests.
If a smart bed is out of your budget or—like Davidson—you prefer the old-fashioned way, there are plenty of adjustments you can try for a better night’s rest.
Polos recommends the following:
- Evaluate your bed, pillows, and bedding to ensure they’re cool and comfortable.
- Establish a regular sleep routine with set wake-up and fall-asleep times.
- Allow enough time to get 7-8 hours of sleep each night.
- Shut down electronics 60 minutes before bed to avoid blue light exposure.
- Avoid stimulants (such as caffeine) and alcohol within four hours of bedtime.
- Make sure your room is dark, quiet, and cool (the sweet spot for temperature is between 67-69 degrees Fahrenheit or 19-20 degrees celsius).
- Complete any exercise at least one hour before bedtime to allow your body to wind down.
- Relax and unwind with music, reading, herbal tea, or meditation before bed.
- Reserve the bed for sleep and sex. Don’t use it to eat, work, or watch TV.
Restful sleep is essential to long-term and short-term health. It can affect everything from your energy levels and concentration to your hormones.
A smart bed can help you understand sleep-related data such as sleep quality, movements, heart rate, and more.
However, smart beds are not a cure-all. Some users may find tech in their sleep space distracting, and implementing sound sleep habits, like those listed above, may work best.
Victoria Stokes is a writer from the United Kingdom. When she’s not writing about her favorite topics, personal development, and well-being, she usually has her nose stuck in a good book. Victoria lists coffee, cocktails, and the color pink among some of her favorite things. Find her on Instagram.