IF YOU’VE EVER searched ways to optimize your sleep, chances are your social media algorithm has probably showed you the Eight Sleep Pod Cover. For the uninitiated, it’s a smart mattress cover that provides surface temperature regulation to help improve sleep. It also captures a treasure trove of sleep data and staple health metrics like heart rate, HRV, and breath rate. Eight Sleep first caught my attention after Aaron Judge told Men’s Health about it. Then came run-ins of viral cosigns from figures like Andrew Huberman, Elon Musk, Mark Zuckerberg, and more.
Everyone I’ve spoken with who has purchased a Pod Cover has told me its dynamic surface temperature regulation and capturing of sleep data has been a game changer in improving their sleep. The main qualm, however, is its grail-worthy price tag, clocking over two grand for a queen sized cover. I finally decided it was time to determine if the Pod Cover warrants its price. So I set out on a three-month journey of testing the Pod Cover. Keep scrolling to get my full review below.
Unboxing and Setup
Material-wise, the Pod Cover feels like any regular mattress cover. The fabric is soft and stretchy, kind of like a jersey cotton sheet. When stretched over my mattress, I began to see the outlines of small plastic tubes running in vertical and horizontal directions. Those tubes hold water in order to form the Pod Cover’s active grid for regulating the surface temperature of the bed.
At the top end of the Pod Cover is a much larger set of tubes that connects to the Hub, a console-looking device that holds water and circulates it to the mattress cover. The Hub also operates as a command center for collecting and processing sleep data. I was able to hide the large tubes by fitting them under my bed frame and connecting them to my Hub that was positioned bedside.
The entire time of setup of my Pod Cover took about three hours. The majority of that time was spent waiting for the Pod Cover to circulate all the water out of the Hub’s reservoir and into the active grid of the mattress (this process is called “prepping”). My only problem during my setup came when my Pod Cover would not connect to my Wifi network. The Pod Cover can’t be used without Wifi connection, as everything is controlled through the Eight Sleep app. To my surprise, the Eight Sleep chat support was helpful in troubleshooting. I got immediate support from a support agent (on a Sunday afternoon) and had my Pod Cover connected within 15 minutes. Later that evening, my Pod Cover finishing prepping and was ready to go.
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First Night of Sleep
The first time I used the Pod Cover, I laid on my bed and turned on the Hub to adjust my temperature dial to -1 for the night. The Pod Cover has a temperature range of -10 (extremely cold) to +10 (extremely hot). Before the temp adjustment, my Eight Sleep app was reading -7 degrees (so quite cold). As the Pod Cover started to warm, I could feel the cold water of the tubes gently change to a much more comfortable temperature. In a few minutes, my bed transformed into a gentle level of coolness. It felt like my whole body was enveloped in the same temperature as the dark side of my pillow. It. was. awesome.
As the night progressed, my Pod Cover was programmed to go down to -2 on the temperature dial to help cool the surface of my bed. Eight Sleep calls this automatic changing feature “Temperature Autopilot,” and the software attempts to best match proper sleeping temperatures for each stage of the sleep cycle. By morning, my Temperature Autopilot warmed up to zero. I felt like I got phenomenal rest my first night of sleep. My Sleep Fitness Score said I got a 97 (out of 100), and my sleep report showed I spent proper amounts of time in REM sleep and in deep sleep.
To make sure I wasn’t getting caught up in some kind of a placebo effect, I asked Dr. Chris Winter, a board certified neurologist and double boarded sleep specialist, as well as the host of Sleep Unplugged with Dr. Chris Winter, his thoughts on if a cooler surface at night could help improve sleep. “I think temperature can influence sleep quality tremendously and I estimate many people could benefit from devices that cool the bed,” says Dr. Winter.
The Next Few Months
If you judge the Pod Cover on what it does for you in only a weeks time, you are not going to experience the full potential of the product. That’s because you need a few month’s of use to see how your sleep changes when using the Pod Cover. It also takes time to learn how to use all of the Pod Cover’s features and tools.
For example, playing with the temperature dial on the Pod Cover can be a bit intimidating at first. But now after a few months of use, I have become a master programming my temperature dial. When I feel like sleeping in on the weekends, I crank my bed to a +2 or +3 temperature setting to make my bed nice and toasty so I can just veg out on my phone for half an hour. On nights when I feel colder than usual (like when the weather outside is extremely cold), I’ll bump my Pod Cover’s temperature up to +1 or +2 for an extra boost of warmth. These temp-adjustments will definitely come in clutch come summer, when I want a cool night’s rest without blasting the A/C.
The three months of testing also taught me how to be strategic with the Pod Cover’s alarm function, which works by heating the bed to an optimized temperature that will make you more inclined to wake up. At the same time, a vibration feature can be programmed to help shake you awake. The alarm I have sets the heat of my bed to +5 in the morning, followed by a vibration strength of 5 (vibration works on a scale of 1-10, with 10 being the strongest). The alarm can only be stopped by unlocking your phone and entering in the Eight Sleep app, so there’s no quick-fix snooze button.
Tread Lightly with Sleep Fitness Score
It is possible to achieve a perfect Sleep Fitness Score of 100. The brand says its Sleep Fitness Score can be higher or lower due to three factors: sleep quality, sleep routine, and time slept. However, take Eight Sleep’s recommendations with a grain of salt. When I asked Dr. Winter about the importance of following the Sleep Fitness Score to boost overall wellness, he notes the Pod Cover is similar to a fitness tracker or sleep tracker. “An accurate tracking device can help us understand our sleep, which can help inform change that leads to improved sleep,” says Dr. Winter. “But it’s important to understand sleep trackers are unidirectional. They provide information like a modern MRI—great information, zero intervention.”
I have come to think of my Sleep Fitness Score as a way to gamify my sleep. Striving for a high score means I’m striving for sleep consistency, and I think settling into a more consistent routine has become the biggest example of how I’ve used my data to help improve my sleep. Like Dr. Winter mentions, though, a tracking feature like Sleep Fitness Score won’t step in and directly solve sleep problems and conditions.
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Navigating Sleep Reports
Sleep reports are great for gaining a better understanding of how you are sleeping. While I am not necessarily looking to nail a 100 Sleep Fitness Score every night, I still aim for a Sleep Fitness Score in the 80s and above. I read my sleep reports the most on days when I feel like I got horrible rest. If I’m irritable, groggy, or just plain tired, then I’ll take a look at my report and see how many times I woke up through the night and check my REM sleep and deep sleep numbers.
To alter your sleep report, all you have to do is tap on a specific day, then scroll down to the bottom of the page and tap “edit sleep session.” I’ve had to do this a couple of times because my Pod Cover thinks I have started sleeping, when in reality I was sitting on my bed and catching up on work.
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Sleep reports contain a section where you can add your own personal notes. For example, you can jot down how much coffee or alcohol you had on a specific day. I’ve found the nights where I wrote I consumed alcohol the most insightful, as it normally indicates my rest has been negatively impacted. Using my sleep reports to track alcohol consumption has led me to lower the average amount of drinks I consume per week. I now find myself thinking more frequently about how I might feel the next day before I commit to ordering drinks at dinner.
Consider This Sleep Expert’s Alternative Approach
Eight Sleep might be the first brand to combine sleep tracking with temperature regulation, but if you don’t want to pay $2,000, there are sleep trackers and surface temperature regulators on the market you can buy separately and use together.
If it’s just temperature regulation you’re after, Dr. Winter says the Chillipad Cube from Sleep.me is a solid alternative you can get for around $650. “The Pod Cover’s technology is not necessarily new, as I started using the Cube years ago,” says Dr. Winter. “It’s half the cost, creates a bed that is near freezing cold, and allows me to set my side of the bed to my own temperature and my wife can set her’s independently.”
Chillipad also makes a Dock Pro Sleep System that starts at $1,099 (for half of the bed) that has a greater temperature range than the Cube, plus an ability to connect your phone to control temperature (as opposed to only having a remote). Choosing either product, and then pairing it with the brand’s basic Sleep Tracker mat for an additional $199, would then give you an ability to cool and track for hundreds less than the Pod Cover. Pairing the Cube and its Sleep Tracker mat together for yourself would theoretically cost around $850. A Dock Pro with a Sleep Tracker mat would cost around $1350.
The counterpoint to all of this, though, is that you have to buy two of each Chillipad device if two people are sleeping in the same bed (like noted above, the brand sells its products in halves). So saving money using a Chillipad is only worth it in my eyes if you are buying for one person (yourself), or if you are only wanting the Cube for surface temperature regulation (and no tracking).
The Pod Cover is a massive investment, but after testing for such a long period of time, I’ve realized it’s the best tech product that packs in premium sleep tracking and temperature regulation in a sleek user experience that’s easy to navigate. In 2024, there is no other sleep tech that matches the overall excellence of the Pod Cover.
Like we just touched on above, though, there are more efficient, affordable alternatives. Those interested in temperature regulating can downgrade to more barebones products. As far as sleep trackers go, there are a handful of wearables and tracking mats on the market that deliver insightful information on how you sleep.
So here’s the final take: If you want similar tech but want to save money, you have cheaper options. If you want the best of the best, the Pod Cover is the most fun and most comfortable way to track your sleep and to potentially help improve your rest.
John Thompson is the Senior Gear and Commerce Editor at Men’s Health, where he covers fashion, grooming, gear, and technology. He was previously the Style & Gear Editor at BroBible.com, and a commerce writer for TheManual.com. His interests include attending concerts, spending time outside, and following his favorite baseball team, the Kansas City Royals.