How We Built It: Using Data To Design The Ultimate Pillow

Three years ago, we set out on a mission to help people live healthier lives by sleeping better. The first step in this journey was identifying typical sleep habits and understanding what makes a good night’s sleep.

Since the launch of the Eight Sleep Tracker in 2015 and the Eight Smart Mattress in November 2016, we have used machine learning and AI tools to analyze almost 5 million hours of sleep data from nearly 15,000 people across 16 countries. People of all genders, races, nationalities and ages.

One insight that has stood out is that people sleep in different positions: 66% of our users sleep on their side, 17% on their back and 14% on their stomach.

Graph 1: This graph shows the positions in which Eight users sleep.

It has become clear to us upon seeing this data that, just like one mattress doesn’t work for everyone, one pillow can’t either. Everybody sleeps differently, yet the pillow industry has virtually ignored the need for a more supportive pillow that fits each individual’s height and firmness needs. This is why so many people sleep with more than one pillow; they are seeking the right pillow amongst a pile of wrong ones. However, sleeping with more pillows doesn’t mean better sleep. In our research we found that people sleeping with 4+ pillows toss and turn 7% more on average than those sleeping with just one pillow. People sleeping with more than four pillows also get an average sleep score that’s 4% lower than sleepers with one pillow.

Graph 2: This graph shows the percentage of Eight users who sleep on 1 to 4+ pillows each night.

Graph 3: This graph shows the average sleep score per number of pillows

Graph 4: This graph shows the average toss and turns each night per pillow. The average toss and turns per night for Eight users is 18.2, as shown by the dotted line.

Our data and existing research shows that pillows significantly impact the quality of your sleep, particularly in their ability to reduce snoring and combat aches and pains from poor spine alignment. It is estimated that neck pain occurs in nearly a quarter of the population, and poor pillow designs represent important factors contributing to this extremely high incidence (1).

You need a pillow that will keep your neck and spine aligned in a neutral position. If the pillow is too high, your neck will tilt too far forward. If it’s too low, your neck will extend too far back.

The position in which you sleep also affects your body alignment. For example, side sleepers need more pillow support than back and stomach sleepers. Because there is more space between their heads and the mattress, side sleepers typically need thicker and firmer pillows. There is a clear need for a better, more adaptable pillow. And for a simple process to find what’s right for you.

Graph 5: This diagram represents the proper neck and spine alignment for side sleepers (top) and back sleepers (bottom).

Today we are introducing The Ultimate Pillow. Our adjustable, comfortable and cool pillow allows you to adapt its loft and feel to fit your unique bedtime needs. Its proprietary design consists of three removable layers: one piece of memory foam and two insertable cushions. You can rearrange the layers based on your comfort preferences, adding or removing fill to make the pillow the best dimensions for your body size and sleeping habits. Together, the three layers combine to create contouring comfort and ultimate support.

From now on, it is no longer you adapting to a fixed pillow, but your pillow adjusting around your preferences and needs.

Image 1: The Ultimate Pillow with its three adjustable layers

The Ultimate Pillow can provide optimal comfort and support for all 7.5 billion sleepers in the world. It is different from every other pillow on the market in that it’s customizable to your personal preferences and developed using true sleep data.

Image 2: An inside look at our newest design: The Ultimate Pillow

Alongside the Ultimate Pillow, we are also introducing a simple method for finding the right height for your pillow. We call it the Pillow Stand Up Test.

Graph 6: This diagram shows how to use the Pillow Stand Up Test to find the right height for your pillow.

  1. Stand next to a wall as if you were lying down on your mattress. For example, a back sleeper should stand with their back against the wall and side sleeper should stand with their side against the wall.
  2. Rest your head against the wall. Notice how your neck and head probably isn’t straight with your spine. It’s the job of your pillow to fill this gap.
  3. Put the pillow in between your head and the wall. If your spine is straight from your neck to back, you’ve found the right pillow height for your body.
  4. Add or remove the layers of the pillow accordingly until you body is perfectly aligned.

Launching The Ultimate Pillow is one more step in helping people sleep better. Our goal has always been to revolutionize the sleep experience through technology. All of our products are developed using data. We started with an innovative sleep tracker, then we engineered a smart mattress, and now we have The Ultimate Pillow.

Better sleep is always a good investment. And it starts with Eight.

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  1. Chiu & Leung, 2006; Hoy et al., 2010
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