Sleep30 Challenge Wrap-Up with Sleep Number CEO Shelly Ibach

The Sleep30 Challenge has come to an end. I trounced Molner with an average SleepIQ score of 81 to his 71! (Sorry/not sorry.) If you missed out, it’s still available to anyone who wants to improve their sleep habits. Read below for my conversation with fellow sleep warrior, Sleep Number CEO Shelly Ibach, who told me one small change can make a big difference in getting some serious shut eye…

Katie Couric: So, how did you do?! Tell us all about your experience with the Sleep30 Challenge and what you learned about your own sleep…

Shelly Ibach: I learned that there is a correlation between higher quality sleep and turning the TV off 30 minutes before I go to bed. When I took this action, I averaged a higher SleepIQ® score, and I had several nights in the 90s. Overall for the month, I was slightly above my average SleepIQ score of 82. I am happy about the improvements I made and feel inspired to make this adjustment more often to improve my SleepIQ score. It was exciting to see so many people participate in the Sleep30 Challenge and share their journey – Katie, I loved reading your stories that you shared in your PJ’s from your 360 smart bed. It is great to see the competition for high SleepIQ scores between you and Molner!

It was a lot of fun! I love how this Challenge brought so many people together to make positive changes in their lives and it really fits in with your philosophy that “if we can improve people’s sleep, we can make this a kinder world.” Tell us more about this idea and why it’s so important to you…

Sleep is the center of well-being – it renews your mind, body and soul. The more well-rested you are, the more balanced, empathetic and kinder you will be. Quality sleep also prepares you for the trials and tribulations of life, it helps you effectively lean into adversity and respond to difficult situations. With higher quality of sleep, the world will be kinder and more productive.

Taking a more personal turn, I was so moved by the piece you recently wrote about your grief journey since losing your husband less than two years ago…how have you been able to use sleep to help you heal?

The thought of losing George, my constant companion since the age of 19, was unimaginable. It was the worst thing that could have happened to me, and it did in October 2017. His death felt like the end of my life – it crumbled the world beneath my feet. To protect myself from sinking into the abyss his absence left in my life, I went into survival mode. For me, that meant seeking and finding solace in the restorative power of sleep. I stopped using an alarm clock and allowed myself to sleep whenever I could with no barriers. That set the stage for my healing, and my ability to receive the wisdom that would help me move through my grief journey with grace and strength. Life’s shared fundamentals of sleep, diet and exercise have all played an important role in my healing process.

It’s inspiring to hear how you navigated such a devastating experience while also running a company. Speaking of which, you’ve been a real leader in merging technological innovation with helping people sleep better…where do you see this relationship heading? What’s next in tech and sleep?

We are at the beginning stages of merging the intersection between sleep, technology and health. The Sleep Number 360 smart bed is the starting point of this intersection. We’re using connected technology and highly accurate data with a dynamic product experience to help people effortlessly achieve proven quality sleep. At Sleep Number, we hold ourselves accountable for delivering innovation that moves society forward as we shape the future of sleep and wellness. It’s also exciting to see the healthcare industry beginning to focus on the importance of individuality and prevention or wellness.

Is it true that your mattress technology originated as biometric sensors used to monitor premature infants in the hospital? That’s so fascinating! Tell us about this…

Seven years ago, with the anticipation of the digital revolution, we placed a big bet on integrating biometric sensor technology into our Sleep Number beds. We partnered with a Silicon Valley start-up, which was the pioneer and world leader in biometric sleep monitoring and had been using this technology in neonatal units with premature babies. At the time, the value of sensors and artificial intelligence was still considered a moon shot. But my instinct told me that this was the future, and the right investment for Sleep Number. Long story short, we acquired BAM Labs – now called SleepIQ Labs. Our SleepIQ technology is at the heart of our smart beds. As you sleep, the bed senses your movements and reads your biometrics. Powered by the algorithms of the SleepIQ platform, measuring heart rate and breathing rate, the firmness of your bed adjusts automatically to ensure you have the highest quality of sleep.

That’s really incredible. So, now that the challenge is complete, what’s up next for you and Sleep Number in the mission to achieve a more rested and kinder world?

Society has started to realize sleep is important to their overall well-being. The next step is to have people understand that the quality of your sleep matters. We need to move to this next stage of the sleep revolution, from awareness to action. At Sleep Number, we believe this starts with what you sleep on. Having the right comfort and support for your individual body results in higher quality of sleep. We have proven this with our SleepIQ technology and feel strongly about using technology to accomplish more with less effort. We also need to change incentives. It used to be a badge of honor to be loud and proud about how little you sleep. It is time to be loud and proud about your SleepIQ score, just like you and Molner are. I love when you banter back and forth about who is achieving a higher score. We see this with the NFL players too, they are proudly competing with their sleep scores or talking about how they prioritize their sleep — because they want to perform at their best.