Sweet Dreams

Science and technology led Tara Youngblood, co-founder of Sleepme, to discover secrets to a good night’s rest.
Ambient temperature and metabolism influence sleep quality.  Photography: dada _design

By Cristina Cuomo

CRISTINA CUOMO: You’ve created a tool kit that can enhance the quality, duration and impact of your sleep through the companies you founded, ChiliSleep and Sleepme. Let’s talk about sleep hacks and address the challenges related to sleep and the science-supported tools that we need to know. How does sleep work? What is the science behind it?

TARA YOUNGBLOOD: Sleep is actually really old. It’s crazy that we’ve only recently discovered its health benefits. if you look at the melatonin mechanism that we talk about putting you to sleep, its origins are 700 million years old. Even the most simple organisms like those little amoebas in the ocean all have the same mechanism. There’s actually something called a sleep switch. Clifford Saper out of Harvard discovered it.

CC: What is that on and off switch?

TY: It’s actually a change of temperature. We like to have things constant in our environment today. Our core body temperature is supposed to drop 2 degrees Fahrenheit. That cooling part is what triggers us to release melatonin in the evening. You turn off sleep in the morning, and you get a release of cortisol as you warm back up those 2 degrees, so it’s an on/off switch.

CC: What is the ideal sleeping temperature?

TY: Most people think of temperature in terms of room temperature, but your body temperature is what really matters for sleep. Your mattress, your covers, your ambient temperature, and your metabolism are going to dictate how much cooling you need to drop those 2 degrees.

CC: You have award-winning technologies and apps that are changing the way the world sleeps.

TY: We just got on Time’s Inventions of the Year list. My husband and I came up with this company. It started because Todd sleeps really hot. I was trying to put pillows on his side to insulate the heat. He’s a set-it-at-one-temperature-and-forget-it kind of guy, and that’s great. But I don’t have one temperature. We girls need something more dynamic. The artificial intelligence manages that for me. I tell most people if they are using our system to start with around room temperature, like cool sheets you like to get into—but some people still like to warm up, which means closer to body temperature.

CC: Sleepme is a pad that goes over your mattress. What’s the material made of?

TY: We have a mesh layer that transfers that temperature really well. We use urethane in the middle, and then we have a waterproof layer, which is really soft. That part goes on your bed, and also any half of the bed.

CC: You also have the Cool Luxe weighted blanket and sheets.

TY: The weighted blanket is the only thing I have to have when I travel. We think we’re all grown-ups, but bundling makes us feel really good. Weighted blankets are amazing, but they can get really hot.

CC: When would you use the option to heat it?

TY: Different people are going to want different temperature profiles, but when I climb into bed, I like to read. So, I want to warm up first under that blanket while I’m reading and relaxing, and then the moment I go to sleep, it cools down. sleep.me