I celebrated Sleep Awareness Week 2023 on a $7,000 smart mattress and here’s what I learned
In March, I tested whether the Bryte Balance connected mattress could make me a deeper sleeper, and my one night on it was dreamy.
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Apparently, I am a baby.
I’ve always treated sleep like a punishment, putting it off until I pass out in awkward places and positions. Put “I’m just resting my eyes” on my couch-shaped crypt—which, apparently, I’ve always wanted to occupy sooner than later when I look back on the way young me embraced sleep deprivation. Sleep is good for heart health, boosting antibodies, and other things I think about more at 46 than I did when all-nighters were routine. So when offered a restorative experience, I traveled to New York—the city that never sleeps—and called it a night early cradled in a Bryte Balance AI-powered mattress that gently rocked me to bed. When I woke up, I felt more rested than I’d been in ages. Apparently, I am a baby, and I’m adult enough to admit it. Here’s what it was like to have some dynamic downtime.
The promise of this trip was an adaptive, sensor-stuffed platform optimizing my sleep by monitoring weight distribution, motion, respiration, heart rate, and other metrics to compensate. Before we get deeply into the Bryte Balance, however, we need to get to the Bryte Balance. The company’s mattresses (Queen/King/California King) are available for homes but were first adopted by hospitality. They’re featured in two dozen luxury hotels and wellness resorts nationwide. While a five-star stay is rarely inexpensive, it’s a cheaper, less involved way to audition the bed than in your bedroom (though Bryte does offer a 100-night trial).
My one night of serenity took place March 16 in Midtown Manhattan at the Park Hyatt New York, centrally located a block south of Central Park between Sixth and Seventh Avenues. The hotel’s 210 rooms occupy 25 floors at the base of the 90-story One57 building, the elevated lobby above and beyond the oversized brass doors that swung open as I approached thanks to welcoming doormen with responsive clickers.
Rounding the corner from the Living Room restaurant and lounge, with its floor-to-ceiling waterfall glass windows overlooking 57th Street, aka “Billionaires’ Row,” I passed through a seating area that offers a first glimpse into the hushed modern classic hues throughout the hotel. The polished marble and timeless neutrals—elegant grays, whites, and browns—usher you into a world apart for world travelers (or an urban oasis for regional Amtrak passengers, in my case).
Rooms average 500-625 square feet and extend up to a 2,300-square-foot presidential suite. Most have a king bed, though there are some with double beds. All have a bed of some sort (shocker). But just five have a Bryte Balance. Ensconced on the 19th floor, my Restorative Sleep Suite was 900 square feet with a partial view of the park and well-appointed furnishings. Sure, there’s a large flatscreen on the wall but dark wood sliding doors, automated blackout curtains, and a nightstand topped with a prominent Vitruvi Diffuser and SLEEP Essential Oil Blend (plus a sleep mask on each pillow) establish the bedroom as a cocoon for attempting to recalibrate mind and body. I’ve had insomnia in plush surroundings before, however, when the bed is too pillowy. I certainly don’t lay off an afternoon coffee or dinner cocktails, and melatonin abuse is real, so I look to what I lie on to defrag my sleep cycle.
After a short walk to and from a fabulous bowl of Ippudo ramen, I considered the heated indoor saltwater lap pool, where if you can’t wash away your troubles, you can at least swim them into submission with an underwater classical soundtrack curated by neighboring Carnegie Hall. There’s also a spa, though the bathroom in the suite is plenty spa-like, with its rainfall shower and Le Labo amenities. I opted to stay in and enjoy a warm bath; studies have shown that a relaxing soak or shower at around 105 degrees Fahrenheit an hour before bed can hasten falling asleep. And though it may sound counterintuitive, it will help you stay cooler at night because it increases blood flow to hands and feet and improves heat release as you rest. Temperature, on both ends of the spectrum, plays a big part in sleep. Science.
Speaking of cooler … the bed itself. There’s other technology offering a customized experience in the suite—like a Toto bidet toilet, equally purpose-built and dramatic as the lid opens when it senses your entry … however, I wouldn’t say it’s relaxing. But you’ve made it through all the scene-setting because you want to hear about the bed (then maybe take a well-deserved nap).
Outwardly indistinguishable from any other rectangle wrapped in smooth, soft sheets, the Bryte Balance’s signature features are—like many of the best innovations—intuitive and mostly in the background. Beneath the fabric-wrapped foam layer are 90 “Rebalancers,” which are basically independently controlled air pockets that inflate and deflate silently based on your body profile—back, front, side, or hybrid. This is ongoing through the night, with firmness and support adjusting to shifts in PSI that indicate which of the five stages of sleep your body is in and any pressure points that might interrupt sleep.
This reactive repositioning is in service of both sleep quality and quantity, which can’t be decoupled according to Bryte’s sleep science advisory board led by Dr. Matthew Walker, Director of the UC Berkeley Center for Human Sleep Science and author of Why We Sleep—found on the Park Hyatt coffee table among related books. (It’s a highly informative read, but you might not want to crack it right before bed … being confronted with the compounding physiological and psychological interest of your sleep debt could lead to restless nights.)
To guide its proactive approach, the Bryte Balance AI learns your patterns over time—establishing a snapshot in about a week, according to the company. However, a guided 14-day process, including open dialogue with Bryte team members, can take place to tailor comfort. Wi-Fi-enabled, the bed’s settings are configured via an app (iOS and Android)—beginning with support settings (20 grades soft to firm) on dual independent zones, or the entire mattress. I accidentally had a cup of tea on the opposite side of the bed as I sat down rather aggressively, and it remained undisturbed … not a drop spilled. That’s a testimonial for sleeping comfortably with a partner. The same app gives you insights into your sleep duration, efficiency, sleep stage composition, and recovery.
Where things settled
I didn’t have 14 days to spend with the mattress; I had barely 14 hours. I also didn’t have access to the full native app; rather, I scanned a bedside QR code to bring up a web-based one (so settings but no insights). But in my one night certain functions did stand out while I was laid out. Bryte offers a hero feature called Somnify, an expanding library that lets you select custom soundscapes synchronized to complementary motions that lull you to sleep. (You can opt out of the audio, which plays on your phone or personally paired earbuds or speaker, etc., and still get silent movements; they are intended as harmonious content, however.) I was skeptical—that’s probably what they should put on my crypt—but this multisensory approach to relaxation was one of the most potent sedatives I’ve taken.
Concerned I’ll be left alone with my own thoughts, I commonly travel with a compact portable Bluetooth speaker—a Marshall Emberton II, in this case. I connected my iPhone to it, pushed play, felt the bed gently ripple beneath me, and … woke up the next morning to the gradual wake assist vibrations I set the night before (over time, the AI picks up on the optimal rhythm to rouse you). According to my Apple Watch Ultra, I experienced more intervals of Core and Deep sleep than on either the night before or after (apparently, my REM intervals are fairly regular).
Something innate, deeply neurological was triggered in my brain—the calming reflex of a newborn. Was it deliberately paced, gently repeating oscillations in my inner ear—in any way related to why I find rocking trains or listening to William Basinski compositions soothing? I don’t know. I do know that the last time I passed out that quickly an anesthesiologist was involved. While coming around from that procedure was surprisingly refreshing, the Bryte Balance mattress is preferable for dozing off and waking on.
During a follow-up with Bryte’s Chief Product Officer Rex Harris to see if I have any questions, I joked about the opportunity for Somnify collaborations, inviting artists to do sound design and pattern programming the way you can pick different navigation voices for Waze. And, of course, the potential for hacking a bed and causing it to convulse as a prank. Neither is a consideration or concern at the time.
Once back home, I started thinking more about my sleep routine—and how it takes practice to really nail one. So I’ve been working on ways to make my sleep more regulated and replenishing in order to fine-tune my daily metabolism and accumulated memories without a smart mattress; I’ve got a Purple 3, and it’s always been pretty good to me. One night isn’t enough to benchmark how restorative my sleep would truly be with a Bryte Balance. Still, it did a good job of lowering my stress and raising my awareness in our brief time together, and I’m keeping it in mind for our mattress and smart home coverage in the future. I do sometimes wish I could get more of that Somnify function, but I’m trying not to be a baby about it.