The Smart Bed with Memory Foam
The New Smart Beds
Early in 2017, Sleep Number introduced its 360 Smart Beds series. Part of the smart bed trend, the beds in this series will automatically adjust the Sleep Number (air pressure) and the position (if on an adjustable base) in response to sensors’ monitoring of the user’s movements. For two-user beds, this includes separate adjustments for each side.
The models in this series include the new p6 Bed from the Performance Series and two from the Innovation Series – the new i7 Bed and the revised i10 Bed. The Memory Foam Series has been discontinued. By January 2018, they no longer listed their beds by the existing series, but as Sleep Number Beds and 360 Smart Beds.
2018 Revisions – Down to One
In 2016, three to four Sleep Number beds had memory foam. These included the regularly listed m7, m9, and i10, and the occasionally listed limited edition models mLE and iLE. This does not take into account beds made especially for the shopping channel QVC. Now the new i7 Bed is the only Sleep Number model with memory foam. The i10 and the iLE have been revised in height and content, no longer including memory foam in their constructions.
The i7 Bed was the latest addition to the Innovation Series of Sleep Number beds. Because of the name, it could be considered a replacement for the discontinued m7, but it is really more like the m9. Though on the top it is a Memory Foam Series type bed, technological features put it in the Innovation Series. Since beds in a series were numbered in order of their height, “i7” put it down from the older 13” i8 Bed.
The 12” high m7 had 3” of gel-infused memory foam, but the 13” m9 had 5” of memory foam (with the LuxFit trademarked name), and the 11” i7 has 5” of memory foam.
While the memory foam in the m7 was infused with gel, there is no mention of gel in the m9 or i7. With gel so common in the memory foam used by many brands of mattresses, there seem to be reasons why it was not used in the later Sleep Number beds. It may have been support or durability issues, or it may not have been as effective as expected for cooling.
Without a more detailed description of the materials (or a physical inspection of these models), it’s hard to determine why the gel is no longer used. Several experts in mattress design and construction, including Dr. Rick Swartzburg (a chiropractor and VP of Product Development for Relief-Mart), have questioned the use of gel for cooling in mattress foams. Gel infusion has also been linked to the breakdown of memory foam.
The adjustable air support in the i7 Bed is the same as in other Sleep Number beds, with one air chamber in Twin XL and Full sizes, and two in Queen, King, and California King. Air pressure in the chambers is controlled by hand-held remotes. Users set their preferred firmness by selecting their Sleep Numbers, with 100 as the firmest.
360 Smart beds Technology
What makes the i7 a 360 Smart Bed are sensors which detect a sleeper’s movements. Taking these as indicators of how the user is sleeping, they adjust air pressure until the user is sleeping normally. The control module uses sleep data from consecutive nights to calculate the best settings.
This is an adaptation from smart adjustable bases, which automatically adjust the position of the bed. When a FlexFit adjustable base is used with the Sleep Number 360 Smart Bed, both position and pressure may be optimized for the sleeper(s).
The 360 Smart Beds technology can be linked with Sleep Number’s SleepIQ System, as well as various health and wellness apps. The SleepIQ App is available online for Apple IOS and Android mobile devices.
The Sleep Number i7 Bed is an innovative design with merit. The adjustable air pressure allows support to be customized for the sleepers. The 5” memory foam comfort layer provides pressure relief and aids in spinal alignment. Customer response indicates that this works for many users, but others indicate problems, a few with the memory foam, but more with hammocking.
The use of memory foam by Sleep Number with an adjustable air bed is beneficial for firmer (higher Sleep Number) settings. With a firm support core, memory foam provides contouring pressure relief.
A long-standing problem with memory foam has been “sleeping hot.” Memory foam gets its memory by being temperature-sensitive. It gets softer when it warms up. This also means it absorbs heat. Companies have tried a number of means to keep memory foam cool:
- Gel infusion is one solution, but it has its limitations.
- Lower density foam absorbs less heat than the higher density memory foam.
- Open-cell foam helps by allowing air to filter through the foam.
- Greater airflow can be achieved by perforating the memory foam, cooling the foam more effectively. This is used in the Airflow Transfer System, patented by Selectabed.
However, memory foam cannot compensate for hammocking.
Some Sleep Number bed owners complain about sagging in the middle, otherwise known as hammocking. An air bed hammocks when the heavy midsection of a sleeper’s body pressing down on the middle of the air chamber transfers air to the head and feet, pushing them up.
This is more of a problem with side sleepers than with those who sleep on their backs:
- First, the natural curves of the spine are on the front-to-back plane, but side-to-side the back should be a straight line.
- Secondly, because of this, side sleepers generally prefer softer mattresses so the shoulders can sink in enough to let the neck be in line with the backbone. This also lets the hips sink in enough so there’s support for the lumbar.
- Thirdly, hammocking is more likely with softer (lower pressure) than firmer air chambers. The problem is also worse for heavier sleepers.
A solution to hammocking is provided by multiple, independent air chambers, as used in Air-Pedic Beds by Selectabed and Night Air Beds by Boyd Specialty Sleep. All Air-Pedic beds use 6–Zone Air Support. Night Air has 6-Chamber and 2-Chamber beds, giving the customer a choice.
Each side of the bed has three air chambers. Head and foot chambers are adjusted together, separately from the center chamber. The center chamber has a higher pressure. While the midsection is held steady, the user can raise or lower the pressure in the outer chambers until the spine is straight This means that the bed can be adjusted for the user’s sleeping position, whether on the back, the stomach, or the side.
We calculate our ratings in accordance to our Verified Review Policy.
As with most mattresses, the i7 Bed by Sleep Number gets mixed reviews. The only direct reviews of this model are those found on Sleep Number. Some inferences may also be drawn from reviews of Memory Foam Series beds on other sites, but these are not definitive.
Of the three 360 Smart Beds, i7 has the fewest reviews (63) and the lowest average rating (4.40, 87.94%). The p6 has 412 reviews with a 4.47 average (89.37%), and i10 has 136 with 4.71 (94.12%). On GoodBed, the m7, with only 9 reviews, had the lowest average rating (1.9, 38%) of all the Sleep Number beds rated, and on Yelp only two m7s were rated (5 stars and 1 star). However, we should not equate ratings of the m7 with those fot the i7.
Sleep Like the Dead did not evaluate owner response for the i7 bed, but they did compare five airbed brands, with Sleep Number having the lowest owner satisfaction rate (77%) of the five.