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What is a smart mattress?

The mattress of the future is here, and it knows how well you sleep.

Josh Miller/CNET

Smart light bulbs, smart locks, smart speakers and now smart... mattresses?

Yep. Connected, smart technology has reached your bedroom. Plainly, a smart mattress connects to your other smart home devices, and they typically can tell you about how you sleep.

Mattresses tend to cost a lot on their own. One stuffed with technology, even more so. Given that, are they worth the expense? What do they actually do?

We're here to help clear things up so you can decide if purchasing a smart mattress makes perfect sense. Or if you'd rather pass on them altogether.

Read more: 12 proven ways to get better sleep, tonight.

Detailed sleep tracking

By and large, smart mattresses are primarily designed to track your sleep.

We already know that the amount and quality of sleep you get has a huge impact on your health. A capable smart mattress will accurately tell you if you're getting the rest you need.

They do this by monitoring motion to calculate the total time you spend in bed, when you fall asleep, and how often you toss and turn.

Additionally, most smart mattresses can analyze your heart and breathing rates, too. That allows it to calculate how many hours you actually slept, and how long you spent in REM and deep sleep.

Wearable fitness trackers can't match this level of detail.

Dual climate zones

Climate control is another compelling ability smart mattresses offer. Many come with onboard heating systems to keep you warm and toasty on cold nights.

Some, like the Sleep Number 360 Smart Bed and WinkBed with Cool Control Base, take things further yet. They can create flows of cool air on demand, too -- perfect for hot sleepers.

Both these mattresses also split the area you can control into two zones. So, if one person craves warmth while another prefers cool sheets, you're both covered.

Can your current mattress do that?

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Smart-home integration

In today's smart home, your speakers, shades, door locks and lights all talk to each other. A smart mattress you pay good money for should do the same.

The Eight Sleep Mars+ does a good job on this front and has an impressive list of smart home tie-ins.

For example, it works with Alexa, so you can ask the voice assistant how you slept the night before. The Eight also has its own IFTTT channel. 

With it, you can activate numerous useful automations. One we like is to have the bed's silent alarm backed up with your lighting (Philips Hue smart bulbs). Likewise, the mattress cooperates with Nest thermostats to cool your home as you sleep.

Ready to buy a smart mattress? See what we think of the top ones out there.