Everything’s going smart these days. From kettles to sneakers, nothing is sacred. And while the idea of a smart pillow confuses us like nothing else, we have to admit; they’re kind of neat.
Smart Pillows Come in Many Shapes and Sizes
Unlike other products, like toaster ovens and nose hair trimmers, smart pillows come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Some smart pillows are exactly what you’d expect: pillows with built-in electronics. Others are just thin electronic inserts that go inside of a preexisting pillow. Some even come with funky bedside controllers.
But regardless of the form factor, smart pillows tend to exhibit just a handful of smart features. Some smart pillows are meant to deter snoring, others act as sleep tracks, and a few smart pillows, like the ZEEQ, aim to dump every possible smart pillow feature into a single package.
So how do smart pillows work? What features can I expect to find in a smart pillow, and is a smart pillow really worth $100 to $200?
They’re a Personal Bedtime Audio Solution
Some people like to listen to music or white noise while they sleep. Emphasis on “some people.” Unless your stars are perfectly aligned, there’s a good chance that you’re sharing a bed with a very light sleeper.
Smart pillows, like the Dreampad and the ZEEQ, offer an interesting solution to this problem. They have built-in Bluetooth speakers, so you can listen to music or white noise without disturbing your partner. Is this the best way to listen to music? Of course not. But for some people, it’s better than sleeping in silence (or breaking up over a white noise machine).
You can also use a smart pillow’s built-in speakers to watch TV at night quietly, but you may be better off with a pair of earbuds. Remember, smart pillow speakers are embedded in a bunch of foam, so the sound is a bit muffled. Plus, you have to press your ear against the pillow to hear anything.
They’re Effective Anti-Snoring (or Relationship Saving) Devices
Alright, so smart pillows can make your music quiet. That’s neat. But they can also shut up the one thing that your partner hates to hear in bed—you.
Or, at least, they can stop your snoring. In most (if not all) cases, snoring is caused by an obstructed airway. Maybe you’re lying down funny, or maybe you just have too much tissue in your throat. Either way, when your airway is blocked, your throat and nose tissue vibrates, which creates the snoring sound. It’s like one of those noisy rubber chickens, just lower pitched.
Smart pillows can detect that you’re snoring and prompt you to move your head using a small vibrating motor (like a cellphone vibration). Some smart pillows, like the Goodnite Anti-Snore Solution, even have built-in airbags that tilt your head without waking you up.
They’re Unobtrusive Sleep Trackers
A smart pillow can improve the quality of your (and your partner’s) sleep by eliminating snoring and personalizing sleep playlists. But, like a smartwatch, a smart pillow can also track, record, and rate your sleep quality. Naturally, these features usually work with Google Assistant and Alexa.
While this sounds a bit more convenient than wearing a FitBit all night, it isn’t nearly as accurate. Smartwatches track your sleep by monitoring your heart rate and your physical movements. Smart pillows, on the other hand, track sleep by checking for changes in weight distribution, or by listening to your breath with a microphone.
That being said, most smart pillows come with robust sleep tracking apps, and they can serve as a good alternative to a smartwatch if you hate wearing jewelry in bed. While they won’t work nearly as well as a wearable sleep tracker, they can still tell you whether or not you’re fidgeting in bed, and they can guesstimate when you’re entering different stages of sleep.
They’re Smart, Soft, Punchable Alarm Clocks
Built-in speakers? Sleep tracking? It’s easy to see where this is going. With enough use, some smart pillows can determine your regular sleep patterns and decide when its best to wake you up. This is a feature that’s existed in smartwatches for a while, but smart pillows are in the unique position to blast sound into your cranium, which should get you out of bed faster than a vibrating wristwatch (without waking up your partner).
Like any alarm, a smart pillow’s alarm can be adjusted to different volumes. And some anti-snoring smart pillows with built-in motors give you the option set vibrating alarms, rather than sound-based alarms.
While it would be nice to snooze your alarm with a knuckle sandwich, the snooze function on most smart pillows is embedded in a phone app. But hey, you can still punch your pillow in the morning, we won’t stop you.
They’re Usually Just Pillow Inserts
Generally speaking, smart pillows run around the $200 price range, which is a bit of an investment. And to be perfectly honest, most smart pillow features are extremely niche. For some people, they may not even work that well.
So, it’s a bit annoying that most smart pillows are just inserts. The Dreampad and the Moona, for example, slip into your pillowcase to play your music and track your sleep. Some smart pillows, like the ZEEQ and the iSense, are actual pillows with cooling fibers, expensive memory foam, and extra memory foam for firmness adjustments. But again, most smart pillows don’t come with an actual pillow.
Should you buy a smart pillow? Well, if you want sleep tracking, anti-snoring tech, personal audio, and a punchable alarm clock all in one convenient package, then it may be worth the investment.
That being said, only a few smart pillows, like the ZEEQ, the iSense, and the Moona actually offer all of these features. Other smart pillows, like the Dreampad, are designed specifically for music and white noise.
Keep in mind that, if you’re fixated on only one of these features, you can skip the smart pillow and save some money. Want personal bedtime audio? Stick a pair of earbuds in your pillowcase. Want to stop snoring? Buy a cheap mouth guard. Want to track your sleep? Grab a $70 FitBit.