“I’ll sleep when I’m dead” is out. “I sleep eight to nine hours a night” is in.
Just a few years ago, hustle culture mandated that work should take precedence over rest, and if you were spending one-third of your life asleep, that was wasted time. CEOs and entrepreneurs bragged about getting just four hours a night in bed, and that attitude filtered down to anyone aspiring to success. To quote Nas, the bard of venture capitalists: “I never sleep, ’cause sleep is the cousin of death.”
Several factors have led to a healthier shift in attitude about sleep—and with it, the rise of the Eight Sleep Pod Pro. (The company doesn’t call it a bed, but this isn’t a nut milk kind of thing where some traditional trade group is trying to stop them or something. It’s a bed.) The iPhone quickly gave rise to the quantified-self movement, as apps and sensor-based accessories gave people interested in managing their own health some basic tools to do so. These body hackers started with exercise—remember when counting steps was all the rage?—and then moved on to optimizing their food intake, popularizing the paleo and keto diets as well as intermittent fasting (which, of course, you tracked via an app).
After you’ve tuned up your fitness and your diet, there’s really only one aspect of life left to tweak and maximize: sleep. Combine that with COVID-19, which led even the most hardcore rise-and-grind types to reassess their lifestyles and focus more on their overall health. Geoffrey Woo, cofounder and executive chairman of HVMN, a nutrition startup, acquired his Eight Pod in 2020. “I was tracking all this stuff anyway,” he says, referring to such metrics as resting heart rate and heart-rate variability that Eight measures. “It might be helpful to prevent me from dying in a global pandemic.”
The sleep tech trend started in earnest in 2015 when the first generation of the Whoop activity band was released, and the Oura ring and the Eight Sleep Tracker and Smart Bed Cover had successful crowdfunding campaigns. Each of these products has its benefits and its adherents, but Eight Sleep and its army of tech influencers are leading the way. Its fully optimized bed has inspired more than two dozen tech-founder customers to invest in the company, which has raised over $150 million. A queen starts at $2,995, though I am told the company’s most popular product is its queen-sized Pod Pro cover, which retails for $1,795.
Why is Eight the one? I spoke to four of those 24-plus techies to get the answer.
Temperature control is a very cool feature
“It’s the cooling that drew me in,” admits Patrick O’Shaughnessy, partner at the VC firm Positive Sum, CEO of O’Shaughnessy Asset Management, and host of the popular Invest Like The Best podcast. When I ask Anthony Pompliano, the investor and digital media creator, what his favorite feature is, he doesn’t hesitate. “The temperature control, for sure . . . the ability to make it cold.” The way that the Eight Pod works is each bed has two zones—so partners can personalize their experience—and water circulates through a grid system to regulate temperature. Users can set it anywhere between 55 and 110 degrees. (The Pod simplifies it to a -10 to +10 scale, which translates to that temperature range. Any temperatures cited here are rough equivalents based on the company’s scale.)
O’Shaughnessy, who’s been using the Eight Pod for about a year and a half, dozes off at a brisk 65 degrees. “I like sleeping in an iceberg apparently,” he says with a laugh, noting that the temperature rises slightly in the night to about 70. He estimates that he was sleeping about seven to seven and a half hours a night before getting the Eight Pod and now sleeps about eight to eight and a half.
It knows when you’re sleeping, it knows when you’re awake
Sensors in the bed measure resting heart rate, heart rate variability, and the time spent in sleep stages (light, REM, deep). Users can analyze their data. “My heart rate, my deep sleep got much better over time,” says Pompliano, who resolved going into 2020 to focus on healthier living, setting a goal of eight hours of sleep a night. He quit drinking, controlled the light and sound in his bedroom, but soon the Eight became “a no-brainer,” saying that he could see the “quantifiable and qualitative” difference. He starts the night at about 70 degrees, then has the temperature drop to about 67 before rising to 75 when he wakes—and his sleep now also clocks in between eight and eight and a half hours a night.
The Eight Pod also offers users the opportunity to view their data over time to assess how they’re doing. “I can look back at times in my life when work was stressful, and my resting heart rate was substantially higher,” says Ankur Nagpal, founder of the online course platform Teachable who now invests via his VC firm Vibe Capital. He starts the night around 70 or 71 degrees, waking up with the bed at 79—and he, too, now averages eight hours a night. “No device can fix the root causes of stress, but it puts up a mirror to your habits and lifestyle and says, ‘You need to deal with this thing.’”
Eight Sleep uses individual data to calculate a nightly “Sleep Fitness” score between 1 and 100. “Having some quantitative feedback, some number that says you did a better job today, is helpful,” says Woo. “It’s helpful to gamify.” The longtime biohacker was curious about Eight after having tried competitors and played with Oura and Whoop. He gets into an 84-degree bed, which dips down to 78 in deep sleep and then rising to 87 degrees at wake-up time. “I’m a worse human with no sleep,” Woo admits, but he now gets eight to nine hours a night.
Like everyone else, Woo can’t help but divulge these details. As Pompliano says, “You have a great night’s sleep, you have to tell everyone. If you have a bad night, you have to tell everyone. Massive word of mouth.” It’s that irresistible element of the Eight experience—users are naturally motivated to share their sleep stories with others—that seems to have been a significant driver in these tech founders wanting to be Eight investors and not just customers.
When I ask “Pomp,” as he’s known, how he manages prioritizing sleep with his professional responsibilities covering Bitcoin and cryptocurrencies, which trade 24/7, he says that our always-on environment means, “You need more recovery. Better sleep is part of fitness.” The stress of hyperconnected living can degrade sleep—even if you’re not a startup founder, even if you’re not buying the dip in a Bitcoin selloff. Woo laments the tradeoff we make for living in “super dense, loud cities.” But, he adds, this bed takes “the best of modernity to alleviate the worst parts.”