This Hideously Expensive Smart Bed Cured My Back Pain

Illustration for article titled This Hideously Expensive Smart Bed Cured My Back Pain
Photo: Caitlin McGarry/Gizmodo

In the last few years, tech companies have sunk an incredible amount of time, money, and hype into solving sleep. Some companies offer to help you track your sleep with wearables, some aim to help you sleep more soundly with meditation services or devices, and others have developed products that will cure your insomnia with white noise or headsets that monitor brain waves or something. I regularly receive pitches from these companies, and while I’m sure some of these products and services are helpful, a lot of it sounds like pseudoscientific bullshit.

If you’ve followed all the usual guidance—banish screens before you begin to wind down for the day, keep your bedroom temperature in an optimal range, eliminate all light from the room, sip sleepytime tea, you name it—and still struggle to fall asleep, you might turn to one of these tech solutions. But reader, I am beginning to think most of our sleep problems—nay, our life problems—can be solved by simply investing in a better bed.

Now, whether you need a technology-packed smart bed is another matter entirely. I have been testing one such bed, Tempur-Pedic’s new Tempur-Ergo Smart Base, for three months now. While the Smart Base—which replaces a box spring and frame—provides the brains of my new smart sleep set-up, the Tempur-Pedic mattress I’ve been using on top of it is dumb. Its comfort is undeniable—life-changing, in fact. But comfort and technology cost a lot of money. If I had to sacrifice one, it would be the smart part.

Advertisement

Tempur-Pedic’s Smart Base is the focus of this review, and it is indeed very smart. It’s jam-packed with sensors. The underside of the bed looks like it belongs in a mission control room. Every night it tracks my heart rate and my breath. It can tell if I snore. It can automatically adjust my bed’s tilt if it senses I’m snoring intensely (apparently, I do not). It scores my sleep and sends me a summary each morning with lots of numbers and graphs. It’s insightful.

It’s also expensive as hell.

The base is $1,600 on its own, for the queen-sized version sans mattress (I tested the $2,300 split king version, which enables a specific feature I’ll get into later). The Tempur-Pedic ProAdapt split king mattress I tested is a cool $5,000 on top of that. The queen-sized mattress is a more tolerable $3,000, and the one I would actually buy. Combined, this whole setup is $7,300. It makes me a little uncomfortable to think about, to be honest.

Advertisement

We spend so much of our life in bed, and yet we spend as little as we can possibly get away with on a mattress and frame (if you even get a frame, which some choose to forego). I know, because I was one of those people. I purchased a pillow-top mattress seven years ago with a Groupon deal when I had just moved to New York in my 20s without any furniture. I have toted this mattress to three different apartments and even moved it across the country, where it is now in my house. When my back began to hurt this year, despite the fact that I have upgraded literally everything in my life except for this mattress since I was in my mid-20s, I attributed the pain to any other possible culprit: my aversion to stretching before or after workouts, my work-from-couch lifestyle, my age (early 30s, which seems to the point at which many people develop back issues). The mattress seemed fine! It was a little lumpy, sure, and aging out of usefulness, definitely, but overall fine. I decided to buy a desk and chair once I realized the couch was an unsustainable office. That was the solution, I was sure of it.

My new work setup didn’t cure my pain. Every day, my lower back ached. Scrubbing my bathroom tub damn near incapacitated me. But when I learned about the Tempur-Pedic base and mattress, I was more curious about the health-tracking features in the base than the comfort of the bed itself, so I picked a Tempur-Pedic mattress seemingly at random (I don’t prefer a soft or firm bed, so medium seemed fine).

Advertisement

I am currently sitting in bed writing this review, reclining comfortably at an approximately 120-degree angle, and reader, the difference this expensive mattress has made in my life is....well, it’s worth the thousands of dollars. From the morning I woke up after my first night’s sleep on this mattress to the moment I type this sentence, I have not experienced a moment of back pain. It has vanished.

Advertisement

And the thing is, I can’t even attribute this miracle to the technology-packed, wifi-connected Smart Base, which is measuring all kinds of vitals and comes with a remote control that can put me in zero gravity mode. The Smart Base doesn’t technically require a Tempur-Pedic mattress at all, though the company doesn’t make any claims as to how other brands’ mattresses will work with its base. The Tempur-Pedic mattress is worth every cent, so I would not ignore it if splurging on a base. The analysis you get from the Smart Base is icing on the cake.

But it is advanced. I’ve tracked my sleep for years with wearables, and compared the data to what I see on a Fitbit, for instance, or a $300 Oura Ring. Fitbit’s devices, the Oura, and the Smart Base all accurately peg my wake and sleep times, and are generally in line with analyzing my sleep stages (the breakdowns of REM, deep, and light sleep weren’t identical between wearables and the bed, but they were within a few minutes of each other).

Advertisement

You do, however, get details about your snoring patterns that you don’t get from most wearables. The Smart Base doesn’t have any microphones, so it deduces snoring from its sensors and algorithms. You can toggle on a setting in the bed’s corresponding Sleeptracker app for iOS and Android that allows the head of the bed to automatically adjust upward by 12-15 degrees when it senses “intense snoring.” (The Sleeptracker algorithm was trained using data from polysomnography equipment used in clinical sleep studies.) Another setting will allow the base to vibrate if it senses intense snoring.

I never experienced either; though the Sleeptracker app tells me I snore sometimes, it must be so lightly that it doesn’t trigger the settings.

Advertisement

The anti-snore adjustment and vibration require the split-king base and mattress, which allows one person’s bed to adjust upward while the other stays in place. The split is a little strange to get used to—rolling over to cuddle will result, invariably, in someone falling slightly into the crack between the two mattresses. My husband hates it; I think it’s kind of hilarious. I had him try out the anti-snore settings, too, to see how the bed would respond to his snoring (which I maintain is louder and more intense than mine—he would likely disagree but he does not have a platform on gizmodo dot com, so it doesn’t matter!). He tried the settings for exactly one night, during which the bed automatically adjusted a handful of times in response to no snoring at all whatsoever, giving him quite a fright in the process. (I was awake for one of these moments, and while I still cackle to myself thinking about it, I’m sure it was traumatic.)

Advertisement

Perhaps the algorithm requires more time to learn your sleep rhythms to nail the anti-snore adjustments; I didn’t toggle on the setting immediately upon setting up the app, whereas my husband did.

If you aren’t interested in snoring data and don’t want to be terrified in the night by a tilting, vibrating bed—well, that’s fair. A wearable would give you similarly accurate heart rate and respiratory data and is far less expensive than this bed.

Advertisement

A wearable won’t help you fall asleep, and this bed might. The remote control lets you tilt your head or feet upward (or both simultaneously; you can even sleep in zero gravity mode if you like to feel cocooned by your bed). There’s underbed lighting so you don’t trip over your own furniture if you need to use the bathroom during the night. You even get a couple USB ports on each side, if you lack well-placed wall plugs.

I personally would not spend $2,300 (or even $1,600) on a wifi-connected bed base, but there are a few people who might find this a worthy investment. If either my partner or I snored so intensely that we woke the other on a regular basis, well, an automatically adjusting bed is cheaper than a divorce. (If it works properly, which my experience found lacking.) If you want a high-tech bed with bells and whistles but don’t need all the sleep analysis, Tempur-Pedic also makes two dumb versions of its Smart Base: the $1,300 (starting for queen size) Power Base gives you everything but the app integration, and the $850 (queen) Tempur-Ease base is adjustable with a remote control. I would probably go with one of those options over the smart one.

Advertisement

I am an incredibly picky person who hates to spend money. When I do buy something, I will pay the highest price for the absolute best quality. Why I have never taken this approach with my bed, the place where I spend so much time and that has caused me so much pain, is a mistake I can only blame on being young. I would buy the Smart Base if I needed it—I just don’t. But I will be preaching the gospel of paying top-dollar for a premium mattress from now until forever.

README

  • In-depth sleep analysis, including heart and respiratory rates, without wearing a smartwatch to bed.
  • Tons of bells and whistles: a remote control for adjusting head and foot height, massage zones, underbed lighting, USB ports—the works.
  • It’s incredibly expensive.
  • The anti-snore response was ineffective.
  • Invest in a high-quality mattress. You won’t regret it.
Advertisement

Consumer tech editor, Gizmodo.

Share This Story

Get our newsletter

DISCUSSION

larsvargas
Lars Vargas is still suspicious of 2021's motives

I’ve got an 11-year-old Sleep Number bed, also a split king with an adjustable foundation. About 8 years ago, we got the “Dual Temp” heating and A/C system for it. We’re in for around $7,500 and don’t have “smart bed” features like anti-snore, sleep rating, etc. What I do have is an incredible night’s sleep pretty much every night. It was transformative. So comfortable.

And weekend naps are a delight in “zero gravity” position and the A/C cranked to full. I climb in, adjust my head and feet, get my favorite stuffed animals for cuddling, put on my eye pillow and ear plugs ... and die (in the best way possible) for 90 minutes.

$7,500 is a LOT of money for a bed when you can spend 10% of that on something that has the same function, but I don’t regret a penny of it, and that $700 bed won’t have the functionality (or quality) of the nicer one. At 11 years old, our bed looks new and I anticipate easily getting another 10 or 15 years of use out of it. By comparison, the conventional mattress we had before that was $1,200 and lasted 2 1/2 years before it was worn out.