Top positive review
918 people found this helpful
ONLY buy the C2 mattress, no upgrades (comprehensive overview)
on July 1, 2013
My wife and I did extensive research before purchasing a Sleep Number bed, and we were surprised by much of what we learned. I want to share some of that information now, then I'll return periodically to report on how well we're sleeping.
WHY A SLEEP NUMBER BED
There are two main reasons to buy a Sleep Number bed: (1) so you can change the firmness of your mattress to suit your preferences, which may change over time, such as during pregnancy or while recovering from a back injury; and (2) so you can have a different level of firmness on each side of the same mattress to accommodate two sleepers with very different comfort preferences. If you don't care about either of those benefits, there's no reason to buy a Sleep Number bed that wouldn't be just as well served by other, cheaper options, such as a spring mattress.
WHAT TO KNOW BEFORE YOU BUY A SLEEP NUMBER BED
All Sleep Number beds use the same quality of pump and air bladder (the size of the bladders may vary, but it makes no difference to comfort). The taller air bladders or "upgraded" layers of padding are not necessarily desirable. In fact, customer reviews are consistently highest for the most basic model, the C2, which gives you the most "bang for your buck" and seems to produce far fewer complaints than their higher-end models.
A Sleep Number bed essentially is a glorified air mattress. The benefit of an air mattress (versus springs or memory foam) is that you can adjust the firmness of the bed from 0 to 100. In practice, this means the bed adjusts from uncomfortably soft (to the point of sinking into it like a hammock) to uncomfortably firm (like laying on a board). Most people will prefer a sleep number somewhere between 30 to 60. Presently, my wife's "sleep number" is a very soft 35, while mine is a fairly firm 60.
You only need the MATTRESS (which includes the air bladders and pump). The Sleep Number box frame is overpriced and not required. Any appropriately-sized box frame will work. The Sleep Number salesperson will likely warn you that traditional wooden box frames tend to expand and contract as the temperature and humidity change, but their "special" polymer box frame won't. Ignore the sales pitch. You don't need it as long as you have a solid, flat foundation for the mattress. We used the box frame from our previous bed, and it works great.
Do NOT buy a "high-end" Sleep Number bed. Customers appear to be consistently and significantly LESS SATISFIED (long-term) with Sleep Number's upgraded models. Search the Internet, and you'll see a distinct pattern in customer reviews: The simpler the model (C2 is the most basic), the happier the customer (on average). The upgraded models also seem unjustifiably overpriced. For instance, in the C3, Sleep Number merely adds a little foam padding and a slightly taller air bladder, but the price jumps by $300 or more! (You could buy a thicker mattress topper of better quality foam for half that price or less.) In short, the most cost-effective (and frankly, most comfortable) choice is to buy the basic C2 model, then purchase a 1" to 3" thick, high-quality memory foam topper from another supplier. You'll spend less money AND sleep better! One caveat: Don't overdo it on the thickness of the memory foam toppper. A topper about 2" thick is plenty to add a touch of luxurious softness, while the C2 mattress provides you with a highly-adjustable firmness level. Thicker toppers have a greater tendency to sink in and sag (a frequent complaint about memory foam after extended use), and thus, can negate the benefits of buying a firmness-adjustable air bed in the first place!
A queen-sized C2 Sleep Number mattress with dual bladders (so each "half" of the bed can be set to a different firmness) costs about $700.00, and the Sleep Number mattress protector (which adds a 10-year warranty) costs another $200. After tax, you're looking at around $1,000 for an air mattress with a warranty that, by many reports from other customers, may not actually be backed by the manufacturer. Nonetheless, having had TWO very disappointing experiences with two different high-end memory foam beds (each in the $1,000 price range), my wife and I decided to give the C2 a try. We will be satisfied with our purchase if our bed stays inflated for at least a decade, and adjusts in firmness when we need it to. Only time will tell.
WHAT TO KNOW WHEN YOU BUY YOUR SLEEP NUMBER BED -- DELIVERY/SHIPPING
When you buy a Sleep Number bed, you can pay approximately $160 for delivery and setup, or you can pay about $90 for UPS delivery. Unless you're physically challenged or disabled, I'd save money by opting for the UPS delivery. The bed is easy to set up yourself. It arrives nicely packed in a relatively small box with clear instructions. To save even more money, wait for a promotion period when Sleep Number offers free shipping, and then make your purchase. That's how my wife and I escaped paying any setup/delivery costs.
WHEN YOUR SLEEP NUMBER BED ARRIVES
When your Sleep Number bed arrives (assuming you didn't pay for setup), it is easy to assemble. You lay out the mattress cover on a box frame, unzip the top, insert foam stiffeners around the perimeter of the bed, drop in the air bladders, attach the air pump, inflate the bladders, and zip the top of the mattress back on. Done! It only took me about 30 minutes to set up a dual bladder Queen-size bed, and at least half of that time was spent waiting for the bladders to inflate (the initial inflation is slow).
On the first two nights of sleeping on our bed, we tried an old, 4" thick memory foam topper that we had stored in the closet for the past five years. As expected, the 4" of foam was TOO thick and allowed my spine to sag. Even with the C2 mattress itself set to a moderately firm 50 on the first night, and a very firm 70 on the second night, I woke up both mornings with a lot of back pain due to the sinking effect of the (thick) topper. I also sweated a lot both nights because memory foam runs very warm and doesn't breathe well. My wife had no complaints about the mattress itself (she chose a much softer sleep number of 35), but she also sweated and felt uncomfortably hot due to the memory foam topper. We reminded ourselves that we bought this bed to get away from our disappointments with memory foam, so the topper went back into the closet.
On the third and fourth night, we slept with no topper at all (only the C2 mattress and the very thinly padded mattress protection cover we purchased). Initial comfort wasn't great (it doesn't feel "soft as a cloud" because you feel the air bladder pressing smoothly but stiffly against you through the padding). However, the level of back support and sleep-through-the-night comfort were both dramatically better. I woke up with almost no back pain. That confirms the C2 mattress's ability to fulfill the firmness and support needs that we couldn't get from our two previous, high-end memory foam mattresses. Now the task is to find an appropriate topper to add that extra touch of initial softness against our backs.
After a lot of research into memory foam alternatives, we settled on the Downlite Extra Plush Bamboo Top Mattress Pad (sold here on Amazon). Once we've received it and slept on it a few nights, I'll write a separate review for that product, as well as return here to report the overall results on our happiness with the C2 mattress. Stay tuned...
[UPDATE 7-19-2013: After three weeks on this bed, we're definitely sleeping much better. The first week was a bit rough as we adjusted to the new feel of an air bed, but the last two weeks have been great. The C2 mattress, combined with a Downlite Extra Plush Bamboo Top Mattress Pad, is substantially more supportive than the memory foam mattresses we used previously. Although the initial comfort doesn't feel quite as luxuriously soft when you first lay down on the bed, our actual through-the-night sleeping comfort is outstanding. My sleep number has hovered around a (firm) 65, while my wife continues to prefer her much softer 35. We both agree the Downlite topper made the bed feel substantially better since it is just thick enough to prevent us from feeling the air bladders in the C2 bed.
I also noticed that the Downlite topper feels firmer and more supportive than the upgraded beds we tried out in the Sleep Number store, reinforcing my suspicion that higher-end Sleep Number beds use layers of memory foam which probably sink in over time and cause back pain like we experienced with our previous memory foam beds. That probably accounts for why the higher-end Sleep Number beds are reviewed much more negatively than the basic C2 mattress. If you can give up the pleasure of that initial cozy feeling you get from memory foam, the C2 mattress and Downlite topper are a great combination that will give much better (and adjustable) sleep-through-the-night comfort and support for those who suffer from chronic back pain. So far, we're quite pleased.]
[UPDATE 9/10/2013: After two full months sleeping on the C2 Sleep Number bed and our Downlite topper, I am THRILLED with the improvements in my neck and back pain--which have essentially disappeared. Each time I lie down on the bed, I'm still aware that the initial "cushy" softness of the memory foam is missing, but after lying down for a few seconds, that observation immediately gives way to a pleasant impression of how firm and supportive the bed feels against my back. After two months, that same initial impression continues to replay in my mind when I go to bed each night.
More importantly, I can now attest with full confidence that the C2 mattress and Downlite topper combination alleviates ALL of the neck and back pain issues I was experiencing with the memory foam mattresses and toppers we have previously slept on. In two months, I haven't had ANY serious problems with pain--and that's a remarkable change from the almost daily pain I was experiencing before.
More impressively, a week ago, I strained my back badly when I slipped while raising a sailboat mast and strained to catch the mast before it slammed down onto the concrete. The last time that (same incident) happened, I couldn't move out of my bed for two full days and I suffered excruciating lower back pain for three weeks before I recovered full mobility. This time, although the pain and strain felt nearly as bad as last time, I was able to get on my feet the next morning and now, a week later, although my back is still tender, I'm recovering exponentially faster than before with near-full mobility and can again lift modest amounts of weight (like my one-year-old daughter) comfortably. The only possible explanation is that this bed is so supportive, it is accelerating my recovery. I now realize now that the last time I injured my back, the memory foam topper we had at that time was probably exacerbating the strain at night, stretching out my pain and debilitation unnecessarily.
Suffice it to say that I am well pleased with the Downlite topper and our C2 Sleep Number mattress. My wife--who is now pregnant--has remarked a few times that she misses the cushy softness of the memory foam a lot, but even she (with her much better back) agrees that this bed's supportiveness is still much better and gives her better "through-the-night" sleep comfort. She just likes her bed to be very soft feeling, and this topper just isn't as initially soft as a more foam-like material would be.]
[UPDATE 3-11-2014: Well, my wife just completed her pregnancy with our third child and she has said repeatedly throughout the last trimester that she was glad to have an adjustable bed. So far, we've had no air leaks, no signs of premature wear, nor any other complaints. We continue to get good support and comfort from this bed. My wife still occasionally mentions her desire to put a one-inch memory foam topper under the Downlite topper just to increase the initial softness a little, but it's such a small issue, she hasn't really gotten around to it yet. We're plenty comfortable. I can definitely say now that the approximately $1000 investment in this bed was well worth it. We're glad we bought it, and continue to find the adjustment feature useful whenever I have a strained back or my wife's body is changing as it does through a pregnancy and thereafter.]
[UPDATE 12-28-2015: Well, years later and this bed is still holding up great -- with no evident signs of wear, despite three little girls who occasionally jump on it (though we tell them not to) -- and still giving us sleep-through-the-night comfort. Every three months or so, it seems we have to readjust the bed: deflating it down to its lowest setting (20, I think), then inflating it up to its highest setting (100), and then dialing it back down to our preferred sleep number (mine is 55 or 60). This seems to recalibrate the bed's pressure gauge. If we don't do it, we notice that after a few months our sleep number starts to feel "softer" than it is supposed to... as if the bed has let out a little air and/or fallen out of calibration. It takes so long for this to happen that I don't think it can be attributed to a leak (the bed never goes flat!). It just seems to be a quirk that is easily resolved using the recalibration method I described.
Also, having slept on this bed through several more hot seasons, I will say it again: we sleep much cooler on hot Georgia nights than we ever did on memory foam! Overall, we're very pleased with this bed. It's not dreamy soft, but it is comfortable and supportive.]