TECH

Sleep Number's 'It Bed' Transforms Itself To Improve Your Shut-Eye

An innovative new mattress tracks your movements and conforms to your body to help you sleep better.

Note: Sleep Number -- an advertiser that partners with The Huffington Post in its Sleep+Wellness coverage -- had no input or influence on the content of this article.

Could a new "smart bed" improve your sleep by physically transforming itself when necessary? Sleep Number thinks so.

The company's new It Bed, unveiled last week at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, promises to measure your movements, mold itself to your body and offer helpful suggestions to improve your slumber. Each half of the bed is adjustable, so you and your partner can theoretically tweak the mattress without disrupting each other.

A recent poll shows that 40 percent of American adults are sleep-deprived. That can have serious health consequences. Sleep-boosting gadgets have grappled with this problem for years, but they frequently take the form of wearables and other doohickeys you don't necessarily want around your bed.

Apps like MotionX 24/7 deliver information about your sleep if you keep your smartphone in or directly next to your bed -- but that's actually the last place you want a screen. The Fitbit can keep track of your body's movements when you're in bed, but you need to have that plastic wristband strapped on all night. 

Researchers also disagree on whether motion-tracking devices actually provide accurate enough information to improve your quality of sleep. While some celebrate any information that makes you more mindful about your sleep, others caution that additional factors, like heart rate and brain waves, need to be considered. 

While Sleep Number's It Bed isn't overly scientific -- no brain waves here -- it does keep track of more than just motion. The company says the bed contains biometric sensors that track your "heart and breathing rates, presence and restfulness" hundreds of times per second. All of that information is supposedly rolled into a series of algorithms that learn your habits and make suggestions via a connected smartphone app.

That app also connects to other fitness and wellness programs you might use to offer more precise information. If you do an intense workout, for example, Sleep Number says the app will change how the bed feels to optimize your comfort. It'll also keep track of real-time weather and traffic updates and make suggestions to make sure you can get a full eight hours of sleep.

Of course, it's worth pointing out that anything using software will need to be updated. That's annoying when you're talking about a smartphone that costs a few hundred bucks, but when it comes to a mattress that goes for around $1,000, as Sleep Number says the It Bed will, software updates become a major concern.

Consider smart fridges. Traditionally, a fridge would last more than a decade: If you buy a smart fridge, though, it's likely that your apps will become crusty after a much shorter period of time, and that might be enough to push you toward an expensive appliance upgrade much sooner than is actually necessary.

It's not just a matter of one proprietary app staying relevant. Because devices like the It Bed connect to apps from other companies, it's really impossible to say whether the It Bed you get this year will be the same It Bed three years from now. What if the connected weather app goes under? Or your fitness app stops being supported? 

While we can't predict the It Bed's future, Engadget points out that app updates will be coming.

Still, the potential benefits might be worth it for some. A reviewer on Tech Hive tried a previous Sleep Number model and a Kingsdown smart bed and found they improved his sleep, though he notes that they're probably not necessary for anyone who's happy with their conventional mattress.

The it bed will be available later this year for "around" $1,000, Sleep Number says. It'll come in six sizes, and workers will deliver it to your door and assemble it for you. If you use another Sleep Number bed with SleepIQ technology, the company also promises that more advanced tracking features are coming later this year.

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