Sleep Number’s adjustable air beds have been a hit with Consumer Reports’ readers and have done well in our tests for the past few years. In our surveys, readers tell us that adjustable air beds help them sleep, especially if they have aches and pains. And in our mattress tests, Sleep Number beds have earned consistently high marks for support and durability. Then along comes the It Bed by Sleep Number, which the company claims is "smarter than the average bed." We don't test for that, but we can tell you whether it will help you sleep.

The It Bed by Sleep Number, $1,100, is a bit of a departure for the company in the way it’s sold and delivered. Most shoppers buy a Sleep Number bed in one of the company’s 450 stores and have it delivered and set up in their home by the company. The It Bed is a direct-to-consumer play like the trendy beds-in-a-box from Casper and Tuft & Needle. You buy it online and set it up yourself. And that's what we did. 

Our Mattress Tests

In our labs, we put the It Bed through our tests for support, durability, and motion transfer with test subjects of different sizes and in various sleeping positions. The It Bed by Sleep Number offered only mediocre support for petite, average, and large/tall sleepers who sleep on their side or back and was worse than that for large/tall back sleepers. It's also less forgiving when one partner changes positions, meaning the other will probably be shaken or jostled.

By contrast, in our tests its two brandmates, the Sleep Number i8 Bed, $3,000, and the Sleep Number c2 Bed, $800, provide very good support for all side sleepers, and even better for some who sleep on their back. And when one partner tosses and turns, the other is less likely to be bothered.

The part that's smart on the It Bed is the WiFi-enabled pump and the SleepIQ app, which lets you adjust the air bladders from your smartphone and track your sleeping habits. The other two beds we tested are controlled by a remote; if you already have one of them, you can add the new pump for an extra $300. The SleepIQ app is free.

Finding Your Sleep Number

Whether you buy your bed in the store or online, Sleep Number encourages you to find your sleep number by inflating the bed to 100, then slowly letting air out of the bladders until you feel comfortable in your normal sleeping position. At home you’re on your own, but in the store you have help from an apparatus that measures your pressure points as you lie on the mattress. The majority of people who own the conventional Sleep Number beds prefer settings from 35 to 50, according to a company spokesperson. By contrast, owners of the It Bed by Sleep Number prefer a setting of 80.

CR captures both preferences. In our adjustable air mattress tests we use two settings: 35 and 85. We average the two, and our experts have found that there’s little difference in support and firmness between Sleep Number's lower and higher levels of inflation. The new It Bed scores a 3 in firmness on a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the firmest.

Later this year, Sleep Number is coming out with a new line of adjustable air mattresses called the Sleep Number 360 Smart Bed. They’ll have some intriguing features, including one that adjusts the bed automatically by adding or removing air as you change positions, a foot warmer that kicks in shortly before your normal bedtime, and a so-called snore detector that raises your head via the adjustable base to alleviate mild snoring. It comes with SleepIQ and can sync with your fitness tracker and other apps including the one for the Nest thermostat to adjust the temperature based on its reading of your body temperature.

Once the Sleep Number 360 mattresses hit the market, we'll evaluate whether to buy and test one. We also plan to test adjustable air beds from other brands in addition to more innerspring and foam mattresses.