Tag Archives: Lack of Sleep

Sleep Number Bed – How It’s Made & Review

Kind of random I know, but that’s my blog.

This post inspired by our battle with our own bed and Sleep Number’s customer non-service department.

Image from Businesswire.com

As you doubtless guessed from my opening and previous post about sleep quality, I have some real gripes here. I’m going to be fair and talk about the pluses we experienced while we owned the bed also. It’s probably easiest to work through things in a chronological order.

We started out looking for a new bed about 5 1/2 years ago when my back was probably at it’s worst, or at least during one of several truly bad points over the years. The advertised fact that the bed could adjust to conform to the needs of a sleeper, and even that sleeper’s changing sleep needs was a powerful selling point for us. You could make it firmer or softer if you had a physically demanding day, etc…

Resting on the bed at the store, it was just as comfortable as a foam mattress like a Tempur-Pedic, but seemed to adapt and support even better as our sleep numbers were dialed in. And that’s the trick; Sleep Number beds are great when you first buy them.

Purchase is where we hit our first snag or grumble though. When you see the commercials and they say “Only X Dollars”, they’re only talking about only the mattress assembly itself. The base costs more, with an adjustable base potentially more than doubling the cost of the bed. Then there’s the topper that goes on top of the air chambers. The more plush or heat dispersing you go, the price goes up, but the topper is disguised as a different model number. “Oh no, the super plush cooling top? That’s our i12 model, not this i8… It’s much more.”

To be fair, the vast majority of manufacturers of numerous products play the “different model” game. Even with other bed manufacturers though, there’s more of a difference in material construction than with a Sleep Number bed. Many of those beds won’t cost you upwards of $3000 out the door either.

Sleep Number Construction:

Let’s get into how the bed is made so that we can actually start talking about where the real problems begin.

Above is our (former) Sleep Number bed. It was a little over 5 years old when we got rid of it. That is about the shelf life for a poor to middle quality inner-coil spring traditional mattress. The reason we bought this bed though is that it came with a 20 year pro-rated warranty. We figured in the end, we’d come out ahead vs buying 3 or 4 supposedly lesser quality beds over that same time period.

If you notice above, the topper or “pillow top” already looks pretty shabby in terms of holding it’s shape, particularly on the right side. The problem is that the topper is primarily just cheap foam:

It’s got the sleep number logo all over it though, so that must make it high end, right? LOL.

Aside from that foam, there’s about 3/4 of an inch (1.9cm) of not very dense or supportive padding in the upper casing. The problem with the foam is that it loses support without you even realizing it IF you’re only judging it’s condition based on it returning to a normal shape after you get off of it.

As a side note, this is an issue I have with Tempur-Pedic; to get warranty replacement of their mattresses, the foam has to show a full 1 inch (2.4cm) of sag or indentation before they’ll replace it, per some internet sources. Foam, even high quality stuff like Tempur-Pedic uses, loses support well before it shows that kind of sag.

Same problem with our topper there. It looked OK if you unzip it, but NO support. Why does that matter? Because the rest of the bed is a glorified air mattress:

Or in the case of our Queen sized bed, two air mattresses connected via a zipper so there’s no gap in the center. This allows each side of the bed to be adjusted to varying firmness levels independent of the other side. If you’re wondering, the construction there is a combination of cloth and some vinyl-like material. Not much different from a decent quality camping air mattress that you’d buy from a department store.

Needless to say, the potential for leaks is there. Unlike those camping air mattresses, these held pressure pretty well up till our move out here from California. More on that in a minute or so.

Oh and of you’re wondering, YES, that IS just a foam block border around the air mattress, on all four sides. The outer fabric shell is primarily what holds the bed together. NOW, for the sake of being complete, here’s what’s under the air chambers:

First, we have about 3/4 of an inch of more foam to act as padding for the air chambers. THEN we have the bottom of the outer shell, secured to the adjustable base via four bolts anchoring wide plastic hold downs:

As you can see, it’s a fairly simple design overall. The air bags provide the firmness level of each side of the bed, and the topper helps the bed conform to your body and feel softer than a basic air mattress would. The hold downs keep the mattress from going anywhere while the adjustable base is in anything other than a flat position.

The air pump’s hoses hook into the head of the air mattress, and keep the mattresses at the desired setting, at least in theory.

Our Actual Problems:

Aside from the topper’s foam wearing out without us being fully aware of it (the air chamber softness can make this harder to notice than with an all foam mattress), the big problem was with air pressure. Customer (Non) Service as well, as you’re about to read.

Twice in the last 4 months we’ve had my side of the bed alternate between not holding pressure and just slowly being completely random in what it would be. I might go to bed at my ideal sleep number, wake up 2 hours later and have the pressure maxed out, and the next time I wake up, it could be nearly flat. This played hell with my back and neck as well as my already very poor sleep quality.

The first time, we called Sleep Number’s corporate customer service. We got told that we could throw parts blindly at it, OR have somebody come out and diagnose the bed. That would cost $100 though. Cheaper than just guessing and going through a pile of parts, right? We went that route.

It took a week and a half for them to get somebody out. We were stuck on our old inner spring guest bed during that time.

Two young guys that barely look out of high school show up, unzip the topper from the main body and take a quick look at the mattress, looking lost the entire time. They call the same 800 number we did, and talk to corporate. Perhaps unknown to corporate, we can hear the other end of the conversation, and they tell the kids to just label it the air chambers and get on to the next call. They sounded quite annoyed that the kids seemed to want to actually do the diagnosis we paid for.

Unsure what to do at the moment due to fatigue and not knowing how to check the other parts ourselves, we throw up our hands and say “fine”.

Here’s the kicker for this first call: Not only did we get charged $100 for a diagnosis that was nothing more than a blind guess, our 20 year pro-rated discount price for the new air chambers was another $200! Being pro-rated and only 25% of the way through our warranty, that means the parts should have been 75% off. MEANING, Sleep Number prices their air chambers at $800 MSRP.

The replacement parts order was also botched, and when we called back a day or two later, the order had never even been placed. THEN it took almost two weeks for the new air chambers to arrive. Yes, if you’re doing the math, that’s a month without the high priced bed. We also told them we’d install the new parts ourselves (it’s really pretty simple). Another three or four weeks later, Sleep Number has two new guys knocking on our door at the crack of dawn saying they were here to install the new parts we’d ordered.

SO, if we’d waited for them that would have been almost two months with no bed.

We put everything together though, and for a short while everything seemed OK. We figured that MAYBE the fluctuations in air pressure were caused by the pump trying to compensate (poorly) for a previous leak and we were good.

Three months later, we were back exactly where we were before.

THIS time, I spend a couple of days online researching things. YouTube and other review sites have several irate reviews about the pump systems on these beds being complete crap, and Sleep Number allegedly deliberately making them that way so they can sell a steady stream of replacement parts.

The crappy pump in question

Between the cost of the parts last time, realizing finally that the topper is worn out also, and feeling very burnt over the diagnostic fee, we had enough. We figured we’d be paying the same inflated prices for a replacement pump and topper, AND that we’d have NO idea how long before those parts or something else gave out again. That was when we opted to replace instead of repair.

Sleep IQ and Questions of Privacy:

Another thing to consider with a Sleep Number bed is their “Sleep IQ” phone app. First, the app is going to want access to quite a bit of your phone’s system. It’s also not just tracking your sleep via pressure sensors in the pump, it’s reporting that info back to Sleep Number’s computers. It will also pressure you to allow the app to monitor your wi-fi enabled thermostat, “to help avoid you sleeping hot or cold”.

All in all, there’s a ton of data about your sleep habits, sleep schedule, and home energy usage, along with God only knows what else from the other phone permissions, that the app data-mines and reports back to Sleep Number. I guarantee you that info is getting sold to third party marketers.

Since the app also claims to stop snoring by detecting it and elevating the upper portion of the bed, one can assume that the app is also using your phone as a listening device. How else is it going to detect snoring after all? Tossing and turning might be detectable via minor, brief changes in air pressure, but snoring??

Needless to say, we never installed the app. WAY too “Big Brother” for us.

Final Thoughts:

First, let me be fair: Our Sleep Number bed was pretty comfortable when we got it. It really helped with my back. MY big issue with the bed is the lack of long term quality and the piss-poor customer service with the company at the corporate level. When one pays a premium for a product, it’s naturally expected that performance and longevity will above average, ideally well above average.

Most fair, independent review sites will show that the Sleep Number bed is at the top of the charts for long term cost of ownership with beds. Even the custom fitted sheets designed to stay put on the unusual construction and movable base are around $250 for a queen set. Sleep Number is as much in business to sell you parts as they are an actual bed.

As you can see from the pictures above, the bed is really just an air mattress surrounded by foam as well. Nothing that justifies a nearly $4000 price tag for the newest models. In short, in my opinion, not only is the quality not there to justify the price, it’s long term costs are too high, AND the combination of foam and air mattress also make it hard to recognize when some parts are wearing out.

It’s also pretty lousy for sex as well. Too much give, and neither side is intended to support the weight of two people.

Buy ANYTHING else, but save your money here. It’s not worth the aggravation.

Sleep, Lack of It, and Sleep Deficit

Something I’ve heard many times over the last decade is the idea that proper amounts of sleep is important not only because of the long term slow toll it takes on you, but also that a “sleep deficit” can’t be made up. For example; running on 4 hours of sleep a night during the work week and then trying to (partially) make up for it on the weekend.

Personally, I think this is yet another example of twisting scientific fact to try to scare people into good behavior. Lack of sleep always catches up with us eventually. It doesn’t matter how superhuman we try to kid ourselves into believing we are, nor how much we might abuse stimulants like caffeine or the toxic waste called energy drinks.

Yes, energy drinks are VERY bad for you. I’ve seen first hand what abusing them can do to a person. That’s a separate post however.

Staying on topic however, I can tell you that my body demands a sleep deficit be made partially up. My most recent experience here is after my acupuncture treatment roughly 36 hours ago.

Prior to that, my mid back was acting up so badly that I hadn’t gotten more than 3 hours of quality sleep in a night for over a month straight. Beyond that, it was laying there awake, or waking up every few minutes, etc… I was such a mess that my blood pressure readings at the clinic indicated I am now at the lower levels of stage two hyper-tension. O_O

The treatment released enough pain and tension that I finally have been able to sleep though, and I’ve spent probably 24 of the last 36 hours sleeping. Not the first time I’ve had similar experiences either (although I think this is the most extreme example). So some degree of sleep deficit does indeed need to be made up.

It makes a huge difference when you do also. Brain fog is lifting for me, my creativity is feeling close to normal again, I have more energy… I feel like that hyper-tension has gone down also. Meditation and yoga will hopefully fix the rest of it. I can tell I’m not out of the sleep deficit woods yet either, but I’m getting there.

Lesson for the day here; ideally to get proper sleep in the first place. You have to “Sharpen the Saw” (as Stephen Covey put it) if you’re going to function at peak efficiency. Barring that, make a real effort to catch up on missed sleep. If you don’t, it WILL catch up with you sooner or later, in one form or another.