THE BLOG

My Q and A With Firas Kittaneh, Who Has Glimpsed the Future of Sleep

02/27/2015 01:27 pm ET | Updated May 07, 2015

Firas Kittaneh wants to disrupt the mattress industry. And the success of his online mattress company Amerisleep is about more than people's increased willingness to buy a mattress online without every trying it out in a showroom. It's about something much bigger: our changing attitude toward sleep.

As Kittaneh points out, we spend a significant part of our home lives in bed. And more and more people around the world are seeing that a good night's sleep requires more than a subpar mattress in a distraction-filled bedroom. We are living through an incredible time, when the importance of sleep -- to our health, our creativity, our productivity, and indeed every aspect of our lives -- is finally getting its due.

In answer to my questions, Kittaneh shared his insights on how we shop for mattresses, the future of the "smart" bedroom, and how to create the conditions for a truly good night's sleep.

What trends do you see in how people are creating their sleep spaces?

One trend I've noticed over the past few years is that many people are actively looking for healthier bedding options. In addition to comfort, today's consumer wants to know what's in the beds that they buy, where the components come from and what type of impact they might have on their family.

Before, this information was rarely requested by customers and mattress manufacturers were hesitant to release it. These trends are what led us to develop plant-based memory foam mattresses and organic latex mattresses as alternative options for the shopper that values being eco-friendly.

The web is also definitely changing the way people shop for beds and bedding. Many people at least research, compare or check reviews online before shopping in stores, and the wider selection, pricing and convenience factor have really propelled the popularity of online mattress shopping.

I've also seen a huge increase in the use of social communities like Pinterest and Houzz by consumers to better inform how they decorate and remodel their bedrooms, which has had an impact on the overall mattress shopping experience.

What do you think is the future of "smart sleep," or technology-enhanced beds/bedding?

I think more and more people are starting to look at the bedroom as a functional part of the house due to greater awareness of the importance of healthy sleep. Since we spend most of our time at home in bed, it's really one of the most important rooms in the house.

Adjustable beds are seeing strong growth. It's not just seen as something for seniors anymore -- even younger people like the idea of being able to customize sleep positions. A couple of manufacturers are coming out with adjustable bases with app connectivity and other smart features to attract these tech-savvy sleepers.

Going forward, I think we will see a lot more emphasis on "smart" mattresses, bases and bedding designed to offer a more custom or personalized experience, whether in the form of adjusting temperature, pressure or other factors. One thing we have in the works are beds with "smart fabrics" designed to respond to the sleeper's body and boost oxygen levels for better, healthier sleep.

Connectivity to other smart devices within the home is also on the horizon. For example, beds will soon adjust the thermostat if you get too hot, turn off your TV and lights after you fall asleep, open your curtains in the morning or even sync with your kitchen appliances. Biometric data could also be an area of interest with bedding.

What mistakes do you see people making in how they set up their bedrooms and houses for sleep?

One of the biggest mistakes is having too much distraction in the bedroom. Ideally, the bedroom should really only be for sleep, not watching TV, working or doing other things.

If you make it a habit of watching your favorite shows, working or studying in bed, it makes it harder for your body and mind to associate the space with sleep. There is also quite a bit of evidence that electronics like smartphones, tablets and TVs used before bed cause us to stay up later due to light they emit, and may contribute to less restful sleep.

Light and temperature are also important things that can get overlooked. Research shows the ideal temperature for sleep is in between 60 and 70 degrees, which is cooler than a lot of people may be used to. Essentially, cooler temperatures support deep sleep.

Bedrooms should also be as dark as possible at night to support melatonin release. In addition to turning off electronics, many appliances have LED lights that glow pretty brightly, and windows that let too much light in can also affect rest especially for late sleepers.

Why is finding the right mattress so important, and what tips do you give to people to help them on their search?

The mattress is the foundation for sleep, and sleep is essential for so many aspects of physical health and mental well-being. If your bed is old, out of shape or uncomfortable, it's not going to help you get the best sleep possible.

In a nutshell, my most important tips for prospective mattress shoppers are to cast a wide net, spend time researching and comparing, and check reviews. Take a look at the diverse types of mattresses out there. Much has changed in the mattress world over the past ten years, so taking a little while to learn about beds before buying can help you make a more informed decision especially if you've only slept on springs.

Compare the pros and cons of different types against your personal preferences, and thoroughly research different beds and brands to see how they compare on value. This is where many people feel intimidated, but basically it's about asking for a breakdown of what's inside the mattress, quality of materials and manufacturer guarantees. While personal ideas of comfort vary quite a bit, checking for reviews online can also give you insight helpful for identifying your best match.