Sleep Number 360® iLE Limited Edition Smart Bed
Sleep Number 360 iLE smart bed profoundly changes the way people sleep. It takes time to adjust to the bed, but that effort will likely prove worthwhile to those who make it. Cost, of course, is an issue, as the Sleep Number 360 iLE smart bed reviewed here will run well over $7,000 even with discounts. But keep in mind how much of your life is spent in bed, and the affect a good night’s sleep plays in everything else you do. Your restful sleep is likely worth the price if you can afford it.
Sleep Number 360 iLE smart bed review
For months, my wife and I discussed our bed. It was aging out. We spent a third of our life in it, and I argued it was time for a new mattress. My wife also discovered she had some medical conditions that might benefit from a more adjustable bed. I was experiencing near chronic hip and shoulder pain nightly from my body hitting our old mattress in just the wrong places.
I spend time with the Sleep Number team every year I attend CES. In 2016 I covered them in The state of virtual reality in 2016: What’s working, what’s not, and what’s next, my CES VR reporting coverage for GeekWire when Sleep Number introduced a sleep deprivation VR experience.
Sleep Number always seemed like the best answer, as my wife and I always ended up in a Goldie Locks conversation about our bed being too soft or too hard. After hundreds of hotel nights, I traveled a lot pre-COVID and learned what I liked in a mattress. My preference gravitated toward a mattress that would hug and cuddle, with pressure points floating somewhere out-of-reach.
So, one day after a lunch out in Issaquah, Washington, my wife and I visited our local Sleep Number store.
Apologies ahead for oversharing.
The buying experience
We met Tim at the Issaquah store. After chit-chatting a bit, Tim introduced us to the available choices of mattresses, from their basic models up to their most expensive ones. Of course, expensive is relative in that you spend more time in bed than in a car, but most people spend $25K or more on a car.
But just looking at cutaways of various heights and densities of foam wasn’t enough. When you buy a mattress, you need to lay down on a bed in a glass-encircled showroom and find out how it feels.
First up was the demo mattress. This high-tech sleep way station introduced buyers to their “sleep number.” A few queries ensued about sleeping position, height, weight, and other issues you seek to resolve, such as snoring.
Tim dialed in our individual sleep numbers. The bed relaxed around us. On the ceiling, a projected view of our body’s interaction with the bed flickered to life (see the image above). Our stress points faded. But this was the testbed. We had other bed models to try. We tried a variety of beds with slightly different profiles for pressure relief, support, and cooling. The lower-end bed didn’t express the right level of plush. The high-end i10 model felt too firm. We settled on the Sleep Number 360 i8 Smart Bed.
We did not buy immediately. Hopefully, a ‘friends and family’ discount would arrive soon, so we waited. Ahead of that deal, other deals emerged. No one was sure what the exact friends and family discount would be. A current discount is a known quantity. We eventually acquiesced. We probably should have waited (see the note on Navigating Sleep Number Discounts).
So, we selected the i8 model, but the i8 was not the bed we ended up buying. We purchased the Sleep Number 360 iLE smart bed, or Limited Edition. I’m still not sure of the differences, but it runs about $1,400 more than the i8, except, of course, when it’s not on sale. The price on an iLE often runs less than the sale price of the i8. The Sleep Number team told us the iLE was not always available, but it seems to be regularly available now with the product listed on the website.
A key feature we wanted (read, I wanted) was Bluetooth/Wi-Fi connectivity. It makes no sense to own a smart bed that can’t be part of the greater data ecosystem of the home. We chose the FlexFit™3 over the less connected bases.
The Sleep Number 360 iLE Smart Bed as Reviewed
- FlexTop California King
- 6″ comfort layers
- 12″ matress height
- Breathable sleep surface
- Gel-infused, temperature regulating foam
- Advanced airflow
- FlexFit™3 Smart Adjustable Base
- Wide range of head and foot positions
- App control (Wi-Fi and Buetooth) with server-side analytics (requires Wi-Fi)
- Partner Snore™ technology
- Under bed lighting
- SleepIQ app
- Sleep analytics
- Biometric tracking
- Bed control
- Health app integration
The final part of the buying experience, doing the paperwork, was relatively easy, all digital, with a quick credit application and an even faster approval.
Navigating Sleep Number Discounts
Retail being retail, there are always discounts at Sleep Number. Look for deals on the mattress AND the base. We worked with a salesperson and the PR team, and we still did not maximize our savings. Yes, the sheets and bedding and some minor hardware were a review package, but we paid full price for the base. A few weeks later, we could have matched the incredible 50% off the mattress plus a discount on the base. When we reached out to customer service for an adjustment, we were informed that price matches apply only from the date of purchase, not the date of delivery. Unfortunately for us, we missed our window.
Sleep Number offers discounts regularly. Unless you need a bed immediately, take your time and shop the discounts—often around major holidays. Look for some discount on all the parts: mattress, base and bedding. Make sure you hit a window when they offer free delivery and setup as well. And for those interested in financing your new bed purchase over time, Sleep Number does offer reasonable no-interest terms during sale promotion periods.
The Sleep Number 360 delivery experience
We had no deadline. During the pandemic, we were warned that the availability of the bed and people to set it up required loose expectations. We received our bed ahead of schedule. On the day of delivery, the bed was delivered as scheduled, arriving even early.
The professional set-up crew comprised of David and Jamie started with the removal of our old bed. They took out the old box springs and mattress for recycling. Then they disassembled the old steel bed frame. It was our responsibility to dispose of these parts (see the Dirty Little Secret of Bedframes).
Be ready for dust. Most people don’t routinely clean behind or under their beds. Ours was home to dust bunnies. Some of our old-rigged solutions to eliminate squeaks between the bedframe and the headboard also needed to be removed to accommodate the new hardware between the Sleep Number Smart Frame and our headboard.
A bit of dusting and vacuuming cleared the way for the new bedframe.
David and Jamie quickly assembled the frame. They then installed the compressor that would react to the bed’s commands. They then secured magnets in place which would be used to seat the mattress.
The team was personable and professional. We have experienced no issues with the bed since its installation.
The Dirty Little Secret of Bed Bases
Make sure you buy the bed base you want before you commit to your purchase. While mattresses have a sleep guarantee with returns accepted up to 100-days—the base is yours. And if you have a base (or bed frame) on your old bed, that base is yours too. Nobody wants used bed bases. We still have the iron frame from our previous California King waiting for spring to combine it with some other items to be hauled away as junk (at our expense). Here in the Seattle area, our preferred charity, The Boys and Girls Club, doesn’t like to take Christmas decorations as donations—I think old bedframes are even less liked.
I can see for a mattress delivered in a role that the manufacturer might not feel obligated to pick up anything. At the prices charged by Sleep Number, they should invest in a bed frame disposal program as part of their sustainability and environmental committments.
So as much as you sleep on your mattress, it has some flexible time built into its new relationship. Once you buy a bed frame, it is likely yours forever. Choose wisely.
The Sleep Number 360 iLE smart bed sleeping experience
I was primarily a side sleeper. My wife often changed positions. Being able to put up your head and feet took some getting used to. We settled into what is known as the “Zero G” position: head and feet up, core pulled down by gravity into the center of your Sleep Number mattress (see my notes below on changing too many things for more on this).
I think I sleep better. I had chronic shoulder and hip pain before moving to Sleep Number. In the new configuration, my shoulder pain is completely gone, at least the pain I would attribute to sleeping on a bad mattress. The hip pain remains—usually a dull ache that I don’t ascribe to sleeping—and I think the new mattress no longer contributes to worsening of that pain at night.
When you first get into bed, settle for a moment and let the bed adjust to you. After a few minutes, you will feel the adjustments toward your sleep number, and other micro-adjustments. Then you can move to your favorite head and foot position.
Open the app, click on the FlexBase feature, and adjust the head or foot to your preferred positions. Push the button up, and the corresponding feature gets invoked. The head rises, the feet rise. Don’t worry about overreaching on either; it’s easy enough to retreat to a new position.
The Sleep Number 360 iLE smart bed changing experience
As smart as the Sleep Number beds are, they do not clean themselves. As with other bedding, you must remove the blankets and sheets, pillowcases and mattress cover and wash them. Once washed, you must make up your bed.
First of all, the sheets and pillowcases are high quality—soft and snuggly, seemingly robust—it is unclear how they will wear over time. Still, given the general quality of Sleep Number products, I am sure they will wear as well, if not better, than those from other brands.
However, the time it takes to reinstall the mattress pad and fitted sheets on a FlexTop California King bed proves surprisingly long and arduous. If I was not very tall, I think my much more diminutive wife might need a neighbor to help her put the sheets on.
The mattress’s FlexTop™ “split” is in the top, middle. The sheets are extra-long and have elastic bands to secure them in place. Luckily, once in place, they do tend to stay where they were put, despite the daily movement of the bed. But putting them in place under the edge of the split top takes some stretching. Most people want to avoid leaning on the sheet when tucking under an opposite corner. This bed has corners in the middle that require some contortions, even for me, to put them in place. I always remove my Apple Watch for fear of snagging it on the headboard as I coerce the sheet into place.
A note of caution when tucking in the sheets: The mattress attaches to the base via magnets. When running a hand under the bed to tuck in the sheets, it is not uncommon to run up against a magnet, sometimes violently. Once you get used to it, you will more gently shove your hand under the bed corners to make your corners—but the first few times can be a wake-up call of pain to your hand.
Sleeping on metrics: The app bed adjustment experience
The Sleep Number app offers two primary features: reporting and control.
The control part is pretty easy. Set your sleep number, put up your head to your desired position (or not), and adjust your feet (or not). And if you have the option, turn on the LED under the bed. Those are your options.
Our Sleep Number 360 iLE smart bed connects via Bluetooth. My wife and I both have control. Occasionally, the bed loses connection to our devices and switches to a Wi-Fi connection, which is far inferior to the Bluetooth connection. With Wi-Fi, you must set the position and then click on a set button, but the bed usually doesn’t pay attention to the position set in the app and just keeps going until you tell it to stop. The precision of Bluetooth is lost on the Wi-Fi configuration.
Sleep on metrics: Does my Sleep Number bed have my number?
I caution business executives about using a single number to represent performance. A Sleep Number® is a single number that represents the bed’s firmness. A smart bed makes micro-adjustments. Those adjustments are either on or off. The app offers no visibility into how those adjustments relate to a base Sleep Number.
The daily SleepIQ® score is Sleep Number’s other single number. When you awake and finally leave the bed for the day, rather than record an exit and return during the night, the Sleep Number app presents with a daily sleeping score. I thought I was sleeping well. Unfortunately, my bed reports a different story.
I rarely reach a SleepIQ®I would consider “good” in the context of other numbers that are considered good. Few occurrences of 85 or better. Some poor scores are understandable: I was babysitting my granddaughter, and she got spooked, which started with the first bed exit at 5:30 AM, followed by others soon after that. I received a 45 for that night’s score. I knew the entire next day I was tired … the 45 didn’t add new information.
Some nights though, I thought I had slept well, but my bed informed me that I was wrong. I received a 62 or a 65. I was restless. I went to sleep much later than I thought and slept for less time.
It seems that the algorithm is heavily weighted toward eight hours of sleep. No matter how you get it, you receive a high score if you achieve eight hours of restful sleep. I have reached a 95 after staying up too late and then waking around noon on a Saturday. And while the app hints at rhythms, I’m not sure it understands enough about personal rhythms. I think it also has a bit of a bias against night owls. Not the worse bias in an AI, but a bias, nonetheless.
And then there is the dog. Our 16-year-old Labradoodle, Indiana Jones, sleeps with us. I know. I’m sure many of you sleep with your dog too. Judge if you must—embrace if you will. I’m not sure that the bed doesn’t see the dog’s restlessness as mine. He wanders around and flops, often on or near me, certainly in the human area of the sensor array. While the bed may not officially recognize Indiana Jones’ restlessness and attribute it to a dog and not the human, I do.
The app also records heart rate, breathing rate, heart rate variability and determines your circadian rhythm. It offers trends across its data set. The app integrates with Apple Health, FitBit Health, and MapMyFitness. I manage my bed with an iPhone, which only tracks activities between SleepIQ and Apple Health. Data analysis would be better if Apple Health incorporated Sleep Number and Apple Watch data for correlation and comparison.
If you are trying to manage your sleep, the app also allows you to track activities, set goals and create routines.
While functional and relatively simple to use, the app would benefit from a UI refit to deliver a more compact dashboard and a more consolidated control panel.
Numbers are tricky things
I think my bed mostly understands me, perhaps better than I know me. Sleeping on my side with my shoulder and hip pain was the impetus for our long-term investment in a Sleep Number mattress. I argued that we spend more time sleeping than any other activity, so even at $6,650, the bed is a better investment than the much more expensive cars that we are still paying on during the pandemic to drive around the corner to the grocery store.
I don’t regret the price as a number. I think people should spend more on their sleeping. Get a bed you enjoy because if you don’t, it will likely reflect on your feelings of joy in everything else you do.
As for my Sleep Number, the number adequately reflects my preferences. I sleep much deeper and more contoured than my wife. I wanted a mattress that would hug. I have spent hundreds of nights in hotels. I love a mattress that you fall into, burrowing into its embrace. The Sleep Number bed’s mechanics take away from that metaphor to some degree, but for the most part, I really enjoy sleeping in my Sleep Number 360 iLE smart bed (even the model’s name feels a bit clinical).
I have considered changing the base to a full split, but that would represent an existential risk. If we had purchased a full split so my 6-foot-4 frame could rest more independently from my wife’s 5-foot-and-a-whisper frame, it might have made a difference at times, but probably not often enough. We end up with our feet in the same position most nights. More importantly, if I was wrong about the full split, I would have purchased an even more expensive unreturnable base. The FlexTop base was the right choice—radical enough to reinvent our sleep, not so radical that we feel like we sleep in separate beds.
Avoid Changing Too Much All at Once
My biggest lesson learned from buying the Sleep Number bed was changing too many things at once.
I adopted the “crash couch” position, or what Sleep Number calls “Zero G.” My head is up, my feet are up, and the middle of my body nuzzles into my Sleep Number setting at the core. I like this position. It has become normal for me now. But it wasn’t normal before. I was a side sleeper with a small buckwheat pillow.
II didn’t realize that sleeping on my side would not be a viable option once my feet were elevated, which they are most nights. I’m too long and the bed bends in the wrong place. Turning to my side while in my “crash couch” configuration proves extremely uncomfortable.
So, I moved to sleeping on my back in my version of the Zero-G setting.
I also changed my pillow. And sadly, for my old buckwheat pillow, its 10-year-old innards are now mulching fresh garlic in my garden. I purchased a new Novafoam memory foam pillow from Costco. I think I like it, but it is very different from buckwheat. Sleeping on my back probably makes it an acceptable replacement. If I were still laying on my side, the much more immovable character of the buckwheat pillow would remain more amenable to that position.
That is a lot of change in the activity that I do most and most consistently. It took some getting used to. I’m still getting used to it. 100-days is not enough to decide how you feel about changing sleeping habits built over decades. It is long enough to decide if exploring and adjusting was a good investment.
Sleep Number 360 iLE smart bed: The Bottom Line
A Sleep Number bed is a significant investment. We did not buy our Sleep Number 360 iLE smart bed without deliberation. Sleep Number delivers an excellent product with professional support. A Sleep Number bed creates a discontinuity—a new sleeping experience unlike any before. They are not the only company to offer adaptive mattresses or adjustable bases, so this observation applies to any significant change in personal sleep dynamics. I can only speak to the Sleep Number experience.
The Sleep Number 360 iLE smart bed is a good partner in my ongoing journey to sleep better. Of course, it won’t fix all of your sleeping woes, and it may introduce a few new ones, at least temporarily, but so far, I found that it impacted my sleep, and my waking hours, in positive ways, especially when I take the app’s advice and get in bed early enough to ensure eight hours of restful sleep.
I would love to see Sleep Number step up their investment in recycling everything from the customer’s previous bed, and including their bases on the 100-night return policy.
Sleep Number provided the sheets, mattress cover, assembly hardware and Sleep Number branded pillow for review. Images courtesy of Sleep Number unless otherwise noted.
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