The science of sleep: Are WiFi, Bluetooth, massage, adjustable positions, and built-in speakers essential?

science of sleep

Are WiFi, Bluetooth, massage, adjustable positions, and built-in speakers essential for a good night’s sleep? According to the science of sleep .. maybe.

I’ve been testing a bed for the past month or so with the most tech I’ve ever seen in a bed. The goal: to see if the science of sleep can help me sleep better and feel better.

Welcome to TechFirst with John Koetsier. Sleeping is a $70 billion industry: there are sleep trackers, auditory aids, mattresses of all kinds, sleep positions, heavy blankets, different kinds of pillows, and much more … just so we can get a good night’s sleep.

One thing’s for sure … company are adding more and more technology to beds. But, as I learn by interviewing Colin House, the CEO of Intellibed, it’s not all about the tech. It’s actually a lot about the things you can’t see.

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John Koetsier: Are WiFi, Bluetooth, massagers, adjustable positions, and built-in speakers essential for a good night’s sleep?

Welcome to TechFirst with John Koetsier.

Sleeping is a $70 billion industry. There’s sleep trackers, sleep aids, auditory aids, mattresses of all kinds, different sleep positions, heavy blankets that you can buy, different kinds of pillows including ones you can stick between your legs, and much more … just so that we can get a good night’s sleep.

One thing’s for sure there’s tech and more tech being involved in the process. To talk a little bit about the science of sleep with us, we have Colin House who is the CEO of Intellibed. Welcome! 

Colin House: Thanks John. Appreciate you having me. 

John Koetsier: It’s a real pleasure to have you here and I’m starting all my calls with this, I have to start with this … where are you in the world? Are you sheltering in place? Are you safe? Are your loved ones safe? 

Colin House: Everyone’s good here. We’re actually in Salt Lake City, Utah so we’re all stay home, stay safe. 

John Koetsier: Wonderful, wonderful. Well, good to hear. I think Utah has been pretty good actually in terms of coronavirus, so hopefully you’re staying that way and the infection rate is not rising too much. 

Colin House: Yep, so far so good. They seem to have a good plan in place here and everyone seems to be abiding by it pretty nicely. So all good. 

John Koetsier: Wonderful, wonderful. Okay. So I had a chance to experience Intellibed. I’ve been sleeping on it for a little while. I have never seen so much technology in a bed. Can you talk about a little bit of what you put into Intellibed and why? 

Colin House: Sure, the secret to Intellibed is really the Gel Matrix, that’s the hero of the story. One of the most important things in the mattress industry to be aware of is that it’s actually a very sleepy industry when it comes to technology. The last great invention or disruptive technology was actually in the 1990s and that was when Tempur-Pedic came out with memory foam. So memory foam was the last great innovation until now. The Gel Matrix is that kind of disruptive technology. 

John Koetsier: Talk to me about what the Gel Matrix is. 

Colin House: So the Gel Matrix is really a grid. It’s like a honeycomb grid and what makes it so unique, it’s an engineering phenomenon, the design of the grid, the honeycomb basically gives you two behaviors. If you think about what you need for a good night’s sleep, you need two things. You need a bed that’s really firm. The firmer, the better. If you could sleep on the floor, the chiropractors would love you because… 

John Koetsier: I’m not sure I would love the chiropractors.

Colin House: So the firmer the better, right, to keep your back in alignment. However, you also need a bed that’s really soft to take away and cradle the pressure points on your hips and your shoulders. So today, any mattress you choose today, you have to choose … here’s your firm bed, here’s your soft bed, pick whichever one you want. The Gel Matrix actually gives you both behaviors at the same time. It’s firm and soft at the same time, that’s what makes it so unique. 

John Koetsier: Well, it’s interesting because I’m a tech guy. 

Colin House: Sure.

John Koetsier: I have a lot of technology in my house. I had to change my WiFi, probably, I guess it’s three months ago now, and for two months afterwards I was finding things in my house that needed to be connected to the new WiFi. So that’s kinda where I come from, and so when I look at the bed and I look at the technology, I’m not looking so much at the Gel Matrix. Obviously that’s important and you know more about the science of sleep than I do, but I see a bed and it’s got WiFi, it’s got Bluetooth, it’s got speakers, it’s got massagers, it’s got an adjustable base, it has USB plug-ins to charge things. Talk about that kind of technology that you put in there as well. 

Colin House: So in the actual mattress itself, the mattress we use to align your body, your physical muscular skeletal system, we use the mattress and the Gel Matrix aligns your body into the perfect sleep position. So let’s go one step further, to your brain is a critical part of your sleep system as well, right? So if your brain’s alert and on a high functioning frequency you will not get to sleep. So in order to address that, we’ve developed an adjustable base that goes along with the mattress with some of that tech that you’re talking about in it.

The tech is called Sleep Genius and we’ve integrated and are about to launch this brand new base called Intellibed Sleep Genius. So what makes Sleep Genius unique is that it was actually developed on a hypothesis around astronauts, and NASA actually funded research to help astronauts try and get to sleep in space because they’re orbiting the earth every 92 minutes. So the circadian rhythm goes light, dark, light, dark, and that messes up their circadian rhythm so they could never really get into a regular sleep schedule.

So NASA funded some research and hired some brain scientists to try and solve this problem. So they had a hypothesis, and the hypothesis was ‘What makes babies go to sleep when you rock them?’ 

What they found was your inner ear, your vestibular system, is actually highly interconnected into your brain sleep centers. So that rocking sensation or a low amplitude vibration like driving in a car, or an airplane, or a train, that actually triggers your sleep centers and activates your vestibular system and it triggers your sleep centers. So it makes you feel drowsy and you go to sleep. That’s why rocking a baby makes them go to sleep. So that’s how it all started was with this NASA research. So one of the brain scientists started testing on hamsters because hamsters have identical vestibular systems to humans. And they started trying to figure out how to get these hamsters to sleep using low amplitude vibration or sound. So what they did was it’s impractical to rock people to sleep, so they created sound, a specific, highly scientifically composed and created algorithm in sound, to create an imbalance between your ear. That imbalance actually simulates the same sensation as being rocked to sleep using sound.

John Koetsier: Wow.

Colin House: So it’s 100% natural, and all this sounds like regular soft music when you listen to it, but in fact it’s actually triggering your brain sleep centers and activating your vestibular system to induce drowsiness and sleep. 

John Koetsier: Interesting. And here I thought the speaker under the bed was just so you could play some good music.

Colin House: So that’s really what makes this base so brilliant. So now we’ve got the Gel Matrix in the mattress to align your body with firm and soft. Now we’ve got the Sleep Genius in the adjustable base to actually help your brain regulate its sleep rhythm and get into a deeper stage of sleep. So it helps you fall asleep faster and helps you stay asleep longer. So, that’s the secret science behind it. 

John Koetsier: Interesting. Now, you were the CEO and founder of an app company, a mobile-based company called the Sleep Genius, it was also called Sleep Genius, correct? The Sleep Genius app?

Colin House: Yes. 

John Koetsier: What caused you to start that, create that? Have you had issues with sleep? Was that your story or did you know somebody with that, or what caused you to begin that? 

Colin House: So … I actually had a problem. So there’s really two main problems that people have. Typically women, for the most part, have a harder time getting to sleep. Their minds are very active and they just have a hard time sort of calming down, getting to sleep. Me, on the other hand, my head hits the pillow, I am gone. The problem, as you get older, men tend to get up in the middle of the night and go to the restroom, for example, then you get back in bed and your mind starts racing for that upcoming day. So I would get up at three and I’d have a really hard time getting back to sleep.

John Koetsier: Yes.

Colin House: So that was the problem, so those were the two problems that Sleep Genius actually solved. So I started using it about five years ago when we first developed the app and took it to market, and it helped me. I would literally get back in bed and fall right back asleep. My spouse on the other hand, she had a hard time going to sleep, and she would stay awake, her mind racing for one to two hours, and she started using the app and within about five minutes after using the app for a couple of weeks, she’d be right asleep. So it’s literally changed our lives and how we sleep. 

John Koetsier: Wow.

Colin House: The better testimonial is really there was over 2 million people that are using this technology. So it’s not just some sort of fad, it’s all literally word of mouth that has helped spread and the usage of the app get to such high numbers. 

John Koetsier: Interesting, interesting. So I wanted to ask you about a particular position in the bed, there’s even a button on the remote control for it called the ‘ZERO G’ position. What is that? How did that get developed? Is that NASA related as well? And what’s the science behind that? 

Colin House: So it actually is not NASA related. ZERO G is really just a position where it raises your back and it raises your feet so you almost feel like you’re in a neutral ZERO G position. So your physical body is in that optimal position where your blood flow is maximized throughout your muscle tissue, as well as your spinal column. So it kind of takes all the pressure off of those critical parts of your body and it allows the blood to circulate better. So ZERO G is a very common feature in most of the bases. In fact, it’s probably in all bases on the market today. So it’s a very important and good feature to have, but obviously we’re trying to take it the next step further.

So everyone today, a lot of the adjustable bases today are now having, you mentioned it earlier, a lot of tracking technology, right? They track and they tell you how many times you move at night. Some of them will actually even give you a sleep score, right? 

John Koetsier: Yes.

Colin House: So you’ll wake up in the morning and you’ll say, ‘huh, let me look at my score’ and my score is a 43 today, well, tomorrow it’s a 42, [next day] 45, so what does it really help you? You have a high drop-off rate from using these apps because it doesn’t really, it just tracks. It doesn’t treat. 

John Koetsier: Yes. 

Colin House: That’s what we’re about. We’re about treating, not tracking. 

John Koetsier: It’s really interesting because Apple has added some sleep technology, sleep tracking technology to the Apple watch. Of course the last thing I want to wear at night when I might move around and hit my spouse or something like that is a hard plastic and glass on my wrist. I do have a smart ring, the Motiv smart ring, which does do sleep tracking as well. Like you suggested perhaps, I don’t really need scoring on my sleep. I don’t really need ‘you got an A grade sleep’ or a ‘B.’

I know.

Am I tired? Am I rested? Am I not? Do I feel good, do I not feel good? What I do like about this one is it tells me what my average heart rate was at night and that’s kind of the one thing that for that reason I use that.

But it is interesting, I was wondering about the ZERO G position, do people actually sleep in that position? I’ve tried it a couple times. I tend to sleep more mostly flat, maybe head a little raised, but do people actually sleep in the ZERO G position? 

Colin House: Some do. I mean, it’s more of a relaxation type of position. Some people sleep in it, but most people are actually side sleepers, so that would be very problematic in a ZERO G type position to kind of mess up your spinal alignment and wreak all kinds of havoc. So it’s really about, that’s where the Gel Matrix comes in. We need you to lie flat because that keeps your spine in alignment and takes the pressure off your hip and shoulders, so that improves your blood flow. 

John Koetsier: Yes, yes.

Colin House: So that’s really how it works. And then obviously the Sleep Genius helps regulate your brain sleep rhythm. 

John Koetsier: So let’s take it a little broader right now. I said off the top, I did a little research, found a research firm that said that sleep’s a $70 billion industry, it was a $70 billion industry in 2019. Why is it such a massive problem that we are spending $70 billion a year trying to find solutions to sleep? 

Colin House: The problem is it’s a very complex problem. The brain is a very complex creature, and it’s been very, there’s not been a lot of technology that has actually connected the brain with a lot of these apps, and that’s really what makes Sleep Genius different, right? A lot of people have resorted to sleep medication. I mean, that in and of itself is a massive problem in the industry. People take sleeping pills to help them get to sleep, and there’s all kinds of side effects and problems with that.

So yes, it is a massive industry, a massive problem, but there’s just not been a lot of innovation. That’s what makes Intellibed so unique is we’ve got the mattress with Gel Matrix, new disruptive technology, first in 30 years. Sleep Genius is the first of its kind, there’s nothing else like it on the market and that’s what makes this so unique. 

John Koetsier: Cool, cool. Very interesting. Excellent. Well, I want to thank you for taking some time. I really appreciate you taking some time out of your day in all this craziness that’s going around with coronavirus and COVID-19 and shelter in place to talk a little bit about what you’ve done and how you built and appreciate it very much. 

Colin House: Yeah, thanks for the time, John. I really appreciate it.

John Koetsier: Excellent, for everybody else, thank you for joining us on TechFirst. My name of course is John Koetsier. I appreciate you being along for the ride.

Whatever platform you’re watching on, please like, subscribe, share, comment, or all the above, and if you’re on the podcast later on, would like to rate it and review it, that’d be wonderful it would be a massive help.

Thanks so much. Until next time, this is John Koetsier with TechFirst.