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By: AAST Associate Editor on May 6th, 2020

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Being Smart With Smart Beds

Sleep technology | Smart Beds

If you’re keeping up with sleep technology trends, you’ve probably heard of smart beds. From temperature controlled mattresses to adjustable firmness, it seems the traditional box spring mattress has been replaced with a technological equivalent.

But is making the leap to a smart mattress really a good idea? AAST recently spoke with JD Velilla, head of Sleep Experience and Powered Innovation at Serta Simmons Bedding, LLC, to learn more about smart beds, the value of their technology and what consumers should be aware of when purchasing one.

How would you define a smart bed? Does it need to have all these features that we see and hear about or can it focus on one thing like sleep tracking?

JD Velilla: What typically comes [to] mind is that a smart bed is a bed that actively does something, whether it monitors, gives you the ability to adjust settings, whether that's comfort or temperature to a certain degree, or even connects to a smart home ecosystem.

The other side of it is there is a smart bed that doesn't have any technology inside of it at all. The bed is actually all the tech and all the data and all the science that is used to build the bed. At the end of the day, you as a consumer just lay on the bed and go to sleep just like any other mattress. You don't have to interact, you don't have to open an app, you don't have to set a setting, it just [works] because it was designed that way. 

So I think there are two ways to look at [a smart bed] and I would say the bulk of what people consider [a smart bed] is the first example which is the typical “ibed” mindset.

Would you say that this “ibed” mindset of consumers is why people are purchasing smart beds?

Velilla: It's kind of interesting. I don't know if that is the draw. I would say a lot of the smart beds that are being purchased right now are being purchased because of a very, very good marketing and sales strategy. But, at the end of the day, I personally believe there is a high, high attrition rate with the features in those products. You may be convinced to buy a smart bed for sleep tracking or for adjusting settings, but I believe that after the novelty wears off, you don't interact with that bed anymore the way you [first] did. 

When people go to purchase these smart beds, do they think about the future when the novelty wears off or do they get concerned that the bed isn’t doing everything they were expecting?

Velilla: No I think they keep it. I think they keep it and just don't use the features. Because that’s the beauty of the smart bed. Even when you don't use the features, it's still technically a bed. 

Do you think people are afraid of all the features?

Velilla: No, I think it's a couple [of] things. I would say one is there are too many features being put into the beds. So that could be one [reason]. The other could be that the features can be overwhelming, and I'll give you the perfect example.

So you want to [have] a sleep tracker built into your bed. That makes it smart and it's a wonderful idea. The idea is that I sleep on the bed, it collects my data, tells me if I’m in light sleep or deep sleep, if I’m dreaming, how much sleep [I got and] maybe it gives me some tips. And at first, it’s amazing to see this stuff because you’re like wow this is fascinating, but here’s the problem with this. You get all of this insight into how you’re sleeping but then so what? So what if I got two hours of deep sleep or an hour and 50 minutes of REM. What does that even mean? Why should I even care. And I think at that point, you start to disconnect.

And then I think [of] some of the other features like adjusting the comfort setting. We all have different comfort settings. While having the ability to adjust [for] comfort means you can adjust [your mattress] to whatever you want, once you have the setting set and you like it, why do you need to change it again? So again, it’s a feature you paid for but you may never touch it again and I think that’s the problem. 

How beneficial are the analytics that come out of sleep tracking beds compared to what you will learn from visiting a sleep lab?

Velilla: I would say first and foremost I love data. But as a human none of us are designed to consume data. We’re storytellers so giving you a bunch of data without a story, you’re not going to be able to do anything with it…None of the devices that are created for you as a consumer will ever be accurate or ever be that good but what they do is give you a baseline. If you think you have some sort of sleep issue, you can start with a free app, maybe move to a wearable or to a dedicated sleep tracking device and that at least gives you a baseline insight as to what is going on. Maybe you can even tweak certain things. But if you truly have an issue, a sleep disorder, you need intervention. For the average person, tracking gives you one of the most vital components and that is awareness. The next thing you need is some sort of intervention that leads to a behavioral change so you change your sleep habits. Tracking by itself is normally not enough. 

What should sleep technologists tell patients when asked about smart beds?

Velilla: Here's what I've learned thus far. For one, just technologists in general, what are they? They're technology nerds, they love technology, they think tech is going to be the [solution] for everything. And that is the biggest mistake out there. I caution everybody don't do technology just for technology's sake. If you’re going to do technology you've got to be very, very specific about the problem and the use case that you are targeting. And that is not what is happening. They (marketers) are trying to build you this really cool smart bed that can read you and adjust you and talk to your thermostat and do all of these things but none of it has any real scientific, evidence based power behind it.

This is Part Two of AAST’s blog series Touching the Future of Sleep Technology. Check out Part One.

 


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