Photo: Sam Rutherford (Gizmodo)

Temperature is one of the most critical things when it comes to getting a good night’s sleep. Too hot and you’re sweating under the covers constantly searching for the cool side of the pillow (and failing). Too cold and you spend hours shivering and waiting for the icy specter of sleep to consume your body.

Unfortunately, up until recently, pretty much every product created to help control your sleeping temp—from things like heated blankets, fans, water bottles, and even newer gadgets like the BedJet 3—all felt like Band-aids made to address specific issues without really improving the most important piece of the equation: your bed. Or to be more specific, your mattress.

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But now, alongside the rise of countless direct-to-consumer foam mattressed from makers like Leesa, Casper, and others, there’s a new breed of smart beds like Eight Sleep’s Pod that feature active temperature control tech and have been designed from the start to be complete systems instead of merely clunky add-on.

Starting at $2,300 for a full (and going up to $2,800 for a king/California king), the Pod is the more expensive of Eight Sleep’s two smart mattresses. For some, that figure might be quite a shock, because $2,300 is double the price (or more) of a traditional foam mattress from many of Eight Sleep’s competitors, and more than $1,000 more than even Eight Sleep’s own standard Smart Bed. Both the Smart Bed and the Pod come with built-in sleep tracking sensors and smart home integration. However, the Pod also comes with Eight Sleep’s water-filled Active Grid, which is supposed to completely transform your sleeping experience.

By putting water-filled tubes in its Active Grid layer (which zips onto the top of the Pod’s 11-inch foam mattress) and then connecting the Active Grid to a smallish thermoelectric pump that sits near your bed, you can control the temperature of your bed so that it feels just right, every night. Regardless of whether you like things hot or cool.

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Here is the Pod before installing the Active Grid layer.
Photo: Sam Rutherford (Gizmodo)

Now at this point, some of you may be wondering how the Active Grid’s water-filled tubes affects the Pod’s comfort. There has to be an impact, right? Well yes, if you run your hands over the Active Grid after attaching it to the rest of the Pod’s mattress, you can actually feel an arrangement of flexible pipes buried beneath a layer of fabric, which altogether, adds a tiny bit of stiffness to the whole bed. Sometimes you can even feel the tubes just when you’re laying on the mattress, which isn’t an outright bad thing, but it may take some getting used to.

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However, because Eight Sleep starts out with a very soft five-layer foam mattress, the whole system still ends up being quite comfortable. It’s slightly firmer than the Leesa mattress I was using before this, and about the same or maybe a touch stiffer than what you’d get from a Casper foam bed. And in return for a tiny downgrade in comfort, you get a bed that actually lives up to its smart designation.

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Thanks to a number of sensors built-into the Pod, Eight Sleep’s mobile app (available on both Android and iOS) lets you keep track of a ton of different sleep statistics including time slept, your heart rate, sleep stages (including the all-important REM sleep), the number of tosses and turns you make, temperature, and more.

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The app also puts all these stats in one convenient place so you can go back a review them at any time, and then combines all those numbers to create your Sleep Score, so you can track how well you slept on a daily, weekly, or even monthly basis. And if you regularly share your bed with someone, you can invite them on the app so that Eight Sleep can track each person’s sleeping habits, share sleep stats with each other, or control the bed’s two heating zones individually. The Pod even includes smart home integration, so if you want to ask Alexa or the Google Assistant to warm up your bed, you can.

But the real magic comes when you combine this high-level sleep tracking with the ability to adjust the mattress’ temperature. To start, Eight Sleep presents you with a quick setup guide that asks you general questions about how you sleep. What side of the bed you sleep on? What kind of blankets and sheets do you use? And most importantly, are you generally too cold or too warm at night? From there, the Pod will determine a sleep temperature for you, which you can adjust at any time.

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Temperature changes are split up into a few different stages such as bedtime, initial sleep, and final sleep, which can all be adjusted to suit your preferences, and the next morning, the app will even ask for feedback, so you can help tune the Pod to give you a temp routine suited just for you. When the Pod’s temp is set up perfectly for you, it feels like the bed just radiates relaxation.

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And about a month ago, Eight Sleep rolled out a new Smart Temp feature that uses the bed’s sensors to automatically adjust the Pod’s temp based on your sleep metrics that night, so you can fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer. That said, Smart Temp isn’t totally foolproof. One night it adjusted the temp on my wife’s side of the bed so low she actually woke up cold. Thankfully, that seemed to be a one-time mistake, because, after a little tweaking, we haven’t run into any issues since.

That said, my one gripe about Eight Sleep’s Sleep Score is that it penalizes you for laying in bed before or after sleeping, so if you like reading in bed before going to sleep, you’ll never get a perfect Sleep Score. It’s kind of annoying, but in the end, it doesn’t really detract from the Pod’s overall package.

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The Pod’s pump has a relatively long hose, which let me stash the pump out of the way on the other side of my nightstand.
Photo: Sam Rutherford (Gizmodo)

After using the Eight Sleep Pod, it feels like we’ve entered into a new generation of beds. For some, seeing that many stats about your sleep may be overwhelming, but for me, the app provides feedback on how to get more out of my nightly naps, so I don’t spend the rest of the day tired and grumpy. Or at least when I don’t feel extra perky, at least I might know why.

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Then, when you factor in the Active Grid’s water-filled tubes that can both heat and cool your bed, it’s like turning your bed into a little custom sleep cocoon. That extra level of temp control feels like precisely the thing I’ve wanted from regular beds all these years, and after spending a couple months with the Eight Sleep Pod, it’s incredibly hard to go back to standard dumb mattress. Honestly, depending on how attached you get to the Pod, falling asleep normally could actually become an issue if you travel frequently and spend a lot of time away from home.

So is the Pod a bit more expensive than a standard foam mattress? Sure, but it’s way way smarter too. When compared to more expensive temperature control beds from legacy mattress makers like Sleep Number and Tempur-Pedic which have competing smart beds that cost around $4,000 or more, the Pod quickly begins to feel like a bargain.

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In fact, I’m sort of mad, because I bought my Leesa mattress less than three years ago before smart beds really became a thing, and if I were going to do things over, I would have gladly paid more for something like the Pod. For me, the extra expense is totally worth it. Just set my mattress to -2 (with some automatic adjustments) and I’m a happy sleeper.

Photo: Sam Rutherford (Gizmodo)
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README

  • After sleeping on the Eight Sleep Pod, going back to a dumb bed feels barbaric.
  • The Pod works with a normal box spring or bed frame with slats, but you can go with Eight Sleep own Foundation frame if you want.
  • Eight Sleep’s companion app is super easy to set up and use, while also letting you view all your sleep metrics and control the temperature of your bed.
  • The Pod’s mattress is connected to a pump that heats and cools the water pumped into the bed, which has a small reservoir that needs to be refilled every three months or so.
  • The water pump does make some noise (and even a gurgle or two when it starts up every night), but that sounds almost never rises above a faint hum or whirr.
  • The Pod even has a smart alarm that lets the bed wake up with a combination of sound and temperature, and a tab that turns your phone into a white noise generator.
  • The Pod’s water pump has a long power cable and a hose, so it’s relatively easy to stash in a corner or somewhere else out of the way.
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Senior reporter at Gizmodo, formerly Tom's Guide and Laptop Mag. Was an archery instructor and a penguin trainer before that.

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