I Tried Eight Sleep's Temperature-Regulating Mattress — Here's How It's Going So Far
Eight Sleep's high-tech mattress promises to improve your 'sleep fitness,' but does it work?
For at least the last three years — well before the pandemic — I’ve been a terrible sleeper. I’ve moved around a lot and have traveled frequently for work across time zones in between, and that’s made it hard to set and keep a sleep schedule. Even during periods when I’ve felt more settled, I’ve struggled to get comfortable, fall asleep, stay asleep and wake up feeling rested.
I am not alone. Scores of Americans struggle with getting enough rest, to the point where the “sleep market” represents a profitable, $30 billion industry focused on sleep aids. There is no shortage of promises out there to help you fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer, and, reader, I have been willing to try nearly anything. From aromatherapy to psychotherapy, a pulsating ankle bracelet to inspire a feeling of calm, CBD bath bombs, scaring myself with heavy statistics about how important it is to get enough sleep, and supplements to make me drowsy — the list goes on.
In April, I got in touch with the mattress company Eight Sleep, which makes thermoregulating mattresses and mattress covers controlled by a smartphone app. It’s super high-tech and has a high price tag to match, starting at about $1,650 for a full-size Pod Pro Cover and maxing out around $4,000 for a California King Pod Pro Max mattress. I was intrigued by the idea — if a high-tech, luxurious mattress couldn’t help me asleep, what could? — but I also had a healthy degree of skepticism. One reliable yet embarrassingly difficult thing I’ve noticed that helps me sleep better is simply keeping my phone in a separate room on airplane mode until after I’ve had my morning tea the next day. So, how might a scenario in which my bed needed to be plugged in, connected to Wi-Fi, and controlled by an app impact my sleep?
First Impressions of Eight Sleep's Pod Pro Mattress
I received an Eight Sleep Pod Pro Mattress and Pod Cover to test and set them up in early May. I’ve logged 28 nights of sleep data since then, and I can say definitively that I immediately noticed an improvement in my ability to fall asleep and wake up feeling well-rested.
This mattress is extremely comfortable — supportive but not too firm, soft but not unstructured — and even when its tech features are turned off, it’s a good sleep experience. I set up the Pod Cover on my housemate’s mattress, an old mattress that came with the house, and it instantly upgraded the bed. While you can definitely notice that her mattress is firmer underneath the topper, the setup is quite plush, and we’ve ultimately had very similar experiences with the two products.
It feels important to note that I've also been working harder to practice better sleep and bedtime habits since getting this mattress. So, while it's far more comfortable than what I was previously sleeping on, I've also made lifestyle changes that can positively impact sleep. The mattress was novel for the first week, and the intrigue in the system encouraged me to go to bed earlier more consistently. I've tried to keep a habit of reading and/or journaling for a few minutes before bed each night, and these things help.
But crawling into a bed where the temperature is perfectly optimized for my preferences has also made a huge positive difference. I don't have to struggle to get comfortable, I don't wake up as frequently during the night, and when I do, I fall back asleep much faster.
Differences Between Pod Mattress and Pod Cover
The key part of the Eight Sleep system is the Pod Cover, which is a soft mattress topper embedded with sensors and tubing to pipe hot and cool water through the bed to regulate your temperature while you sleep. Both systems involve three pieces: the Pod Cover, the hub and either a foam mattress (Pod Mattress version) or an encasement for your existing mattress (Pod Cover only version). In both cases, the Pod Cover zips over the top of the mattress so it’s completely secure and doesn’t get dislodged while you’re sleeping.
Both systems use the same app, which has a paid subscription option for $15/month to access temperature autopilot features and companion content such as sleep-focused guided meditations and stretching exercises.
The Setup Process
Setting up the mattress was pretty simple. Both the mattress and cover systems came in three separate boxes. For the mattress, I just slit the shrinkwrapping, unrolled it and let it expand. Then, I zipped the Pod Cover on top of it, which was easier than I expected it would be.
Setting up the Pod Cover on my housemate’s mattress took a bit more time. First, we had to put straps underneath the mattress length-wise and width-wise, then we had to stretch a cover over it kind of like a fitted sheet, slide in the clips for the straps and tighten them all so the base for the cover would be taut. Then, we zipped the Pod Cover over the top of it, which required a bit of readjusting to make sure the zipper wasn’t stressed.
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Setting up the hub was simple but a bit time-consuming, as you have to run two cycles of water through the system to prime it. The instructions call for distilled water— which was frustratingly unavailable in each of the half-dozen stores I tried that afternoon (you can order it on Amazon). I contacted Eight Sleep through the app to ask and was told it’s OK to use regular tap water for the first cycle, but it's best to switch over later — that way, if you have hard water, you won’t leave mineral deposits in the system.
Once the bed was primed, it took about a week and a half of manually tweaking the temperature settings until the bed collected enough data to go into autopilot mode.
The first week I slept on this mattress, the weather was still rather chilly — cold enough to want to turn the heat on but warm enough to do without — and I had been struggling to stay warm at night. The Eight Sleep mattress prepares for bedtime by warming or cooling itself to your desired settings, and it was nothing short of incredible to climb into a pre-heated bed on a cold night. I felt so cozy and fell asleep immediately several nights in a row. According to the app, it took me an average of just 10 minutes to fall asleep those evenings. Since then, the novelty of the bed has worn off a bit and it’s also gotten quite a bit warmer outside, meaning the coziness of a toasty bed has lost a bit of its appeal. My average time to fall asleep is now closer to 35 minutes — still far better than the hour or two or even three I was previously more accustomed to.
Though I haven't yet needed to push the mattress to its limits, Eight Sleep says the temperature capabilities for the bed range between 55 and 110 degrees Fahrenheit, so you can sleep super-cold or super-hot, depending on your preferences. The mattresses and toppers are internally split into two zones so if you sleep with a partner, you can both control the temperature on your side of the bed to your own liking. You'll also get separate sleep data, including details about how long it took you to fall asleep, when you hit your REM cycles, what your heart rate was throughout the night, how frequently you tossed and turned, and so on.
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As I mentioned above, I have no doubt that I’ve slept better on this mattress than on any other I’ve had in the last several years. (I’ve moved between a lot of furnished apartments with mattresses of all kinds, none of which I chose for myself.) This bed has a lot of features, and I haven’t yet fully explored them. For example, you can set an “alarm” to wake you with a significantly warmer or colder temperature than you slept in, and/or gentle vibrations pulsing across the bed, which I do not like — some people may. (I find it a bit jarring and prefer to use this sort of feature on a smart watch.)
I’m also still exploring exactly how to use the data the mattress collects. You can select tags every morning to indicate habits, behaviors or external factors that may have influenced your sleep, such as being on your period, drinking alcohol, scrolling on your phone late at night, feeling stressed, stretching or exercising before bed and so on. You’ll also get a score in the morning to tell you your sleep “fitness” on a scale up to 100. I’m still figuring out exactly how to use that number, too — there have been some mornings I’ve gotten a 100% sleep fitness score but not felt like I was sufficiently well-rested.
There are some obvious disadvantages to having a bed that requires an internet connection. Mainly, when your Wi-Fi goes out, or if you accidentally kick the plug, you have to reconnect the system, which can take some time and prevents you from enjoying the thermos features until it’s fixed. Plus, I personally find phones to be distracting when I'm trying to sleep — it's far too easy for me to check emails or texts or Instagram "one last time." So, if I want to manually tweak the temperature of the bed, I don't like that I have to use my phone to do that. Keeping my phone on airplane mode or the iPhone's sleep focus mode, which hides notifications until morning, helps with this drawback.
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Similarly, needing to plug in your bed can present a challenge if you don’t have a socket in a good spot. You also need to consider where you’ll put the hub. The water cables stick out from the head of the bed, and you’ll need to make sure your bedframe is compatible — they have to be able to go through the frame and out to connect to the pod and can’t go underneath the mattress. The hub takes up space and needs room to breathe so the fan will work, so consider that, too.
One major thing I’m looking forward to now that summer is here is the bed’s ability to cool itself down. My house doesn’t have air conditioning, and I’m curious to see how it feels to sleep on a cool surface on hot nights. I’ll report back once I have more feedback to share on this front.
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If you can afford this mattress and you have trouble sleeping or staying at a comfortable temperature throughout the night, it might be worth a shot. A more budget-friendly option is to go for the Pod Cover and put it over your existing mattress or an inexpensive mattress if you need a new one either way. When comparing notes about our beds and experiences with the Eight Sleep app, my housemate and I both seem to have had nearly identical experiences. Either way, Eight Sleep has a 100-day return policy if you get it home and it doesn’t work out.