Review: The Sleep Number ‘it bed’ Watches You Sleep

Products Reviews
This bed is smarter than some people I know. Source: it bed.
This bed is smarter than some people I know.
Source: it bed.

It feels like everything is about metrics these days. We measure how much we walk, our heart rates, our social footprint, and now they’re coming for your sleep. Many fitness trackers have sleep tracking functions, but what if you could put that tech in your bed itself? You wouldn’t have to deal with having something on your wrist 24-7, for one thing. I love my tracker, but sometimes when I take it off I chortle “Free!”.

The Sleep Number company wants to take their established name brand and get you to track with them. For this, they have created the “it bed” (note: yes, all lower case). Don’t get confused—while this may come deflated in a box, it is not a “bed in a box.” It also has an air pump, but it’s no air mattress. The pump at the foot of the bed is to help adjust the firmness of the bed, the same as their high-end traditional mattresses. Once you unbox the “it bed” you can expect to spend some time setting it up and calibrating the bed via the very detailed (and sometimes intimidating) app.

NOT your typical bed-in-a-box. Source: itBed.
Not your typical bed-in-a-box.
Source: itBed.

One thing that fascinates me is that it’s not just that the it bed measures your sleep, but that it connects to several other devices to map your overall health. You can connect your FitBit, MapMyRun, MicrosoftHealth, Apple Health, Withings, and Nest accounts. Note that it does not connect to Google Fit, which feels like an odd exclusion. The more services you add, the more data they have to measure. My own smart thermostat is not a Nest, and now I kind of want one.

Pretty please? Source: The internet at large.
Pretty please?
Source: The internet at large.

I was already tracking my sleep, loosely, with the FitBit Charge 2 (keep your eyes peeled for that review). But that just gives me basics. The it bed actually scores my sleep. One night, I got an 11. That… can’t be great. Oh, wait—that’s because it only registered a nap that day, so it thought I only got one hour of sleep. Over the course of a month, patterns began to set. I’m averaging a 66%.

It was really interesting seeing that I wasn’t getting as much sleep as I thought I was. Because yes, I may have spent 8 hours in bed one night, but I only spent a little under 4 of those in a restful state. I could see every time I was restless, and it logged when I was awake – sometimes as many as four times a night. Is it a perfect measure? Clearly not (one time I was lying in bed reading for an hour, which threw it off). But it was a strong enough indicator of something (coupled with a history of sleep issues) that I showed my doctor and now I’ll be getting a sleep study.

Apparently I am a very busy sleeper. Who knew? Source: it bed.
Apparently I am a very busy sleeper. Who knew?
Source: it bed.

That’s a whole lot about the it bed’s function—how about the form? Because I would say that this is targeted to a very specific client. If the first half of this review didn’t grab you, then you probably should stop. This is for someone who wants sleep metrics.

As just a bed, there are a few issues I have to note with the it bed. For one thing, I like to sit on the edge of my bed. After three times of getting an air pump to my bottom, I have changed that habit. I found the sleep number setting aspect hard to set up and a bit too difficult to adjust. When you consider that the sleep number aspect is the parent company’s entire hook, manipulating it should really be a core app function. I did like the dual zone aspect, though. I sleep alone, but it’s a good option.

This should be cakewalk. Source: it bed.
This should be cakewalk.
Source: it bed.

The mattress itself isn’t really inviting when bare. Personally, I think I’ll be trying it with a pillow top mattress pad. There’s also a heat retention issue to think of. The foam retains a bit of heat. Now, I keep my house pretty cool in winter, so that’s not a deal breaker… for now. I think come summer, I’ll be singing another tune. If heat retention is an issue, but you still want the adjustable sleep zone function, I strongly suggest you try Sleep Number’s more traditional beds.

One market segment that may want to hold off on the it bed is Sabbath Observant Jews like myself. I’m not going to get into all the issues here, but it’s worth a discussion with your local ordained Rabbi. My own Rabbi was fascinated by the concept and suggested unplugging it before the Sabbath just to be certain one is not breaking any Sabbath prohibitions (which include making detailed measurements). Other Rabbis may not have an issue, as it is a passive thing, not active. Hence fascinating.

Source: it bed.
Source: it bed.

This is where I usually talk about who the item I am reviewing is meant for. So far we’ve really done a better job establishing who it is not for. It’s not for people on a budget, not for people who like cool mattresses, not really for Google Fit users, nor for an Ultra-Orthodox Jew for sure. It is, however, for someone who needs some of the most accurate sleep metrics outside of a sleep lab.  If you’re not sure if that’s you, then you can take advantage of a 30-day trial (note: there is a $99 return fee, something many beds in a box have, but few disclose up front).

Indeed, while this review may seem negative, it’s not. I’m just making sure to cover a major purchase in depth. I personally strongly recommend the it bed for anyone with a sleep-related health issue, or someone who suspects they may have one.  I’m thrilled with mine for that reason. It’s entirely possible that the it bed has not just given me a place to rest my head, but may have helped my overall health. Let’s see your mattress do that.

Note: Sleep Number provided me with both a Queen Size it bed (a $1,099 value) as well as a set of sheets. They even went so far as to send me a frame and platform when they found out mine was not perfectly flat. And now you know more about my bedroom than you ever wanted to.

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