On Memorial Day mattress ads and why I’ll never sleep on a ‘smart bed’ | Opinion

At some point over Memorial Day weekend, Big Mattress will pitch you on something it’s certain you cannot live without. You’ll likely be asked to consider whether a so-called “smart bed” — one that adjusts for temperature, firmness, contour and angle of rest — is right for you.

You’ve probably seen the television commercial I have in mind. It runs frequently. Each time I see it the embedded message, anything but a comforter, makes me wonder: Are we bedding consumers getting just a little too soft?

Mike Kerrigan
Mike Kerrigan

The commercial features a winsome gent who runs hot and, so, likes a cool mattress, while his bedmate sleeps cold and seeks the opposite. The temperature of the mattress is adjustable so each can slumber at his and her own preferred temperatures. This begs a question.

Is this not the job of blankets, along with a dash of couples’ diplomacy? I like to sleep with sufficient covers on me that, under them, my body could safely be X-rayed. My wife, Devin, who prefers the opposite, tosses them nightly in my direction. Our arrangement works fine.

Recall the McDLT of the 1980s. Wasn’t the “have it both ways” approach — a burger with a hot and cold side — unceremoniously deep-sixed by the suits at McDonald’s? The lab-coat set may have high-fived until their hands were sore, but in the market the meal went down like a pair of wet corduroys. Beds aren’t burgers, but this is hardly good law in the jurisdiction.

Smart beds can adjust firmness when one sleeper desires a penitential mattress while the less ascetic other prefers something approaching Nerf. Here I simply note this duality is already achievable on Big Blue, my standard mattress, which after years of dedicated service is unmistakably soft in the center but firm on its edges.

Snoozing on Big Blue’s hard perimeter admittedly can be a bit like cliff camping high above our bedroom’s hardwood floors. Still, we Americans didn’t beat the spread at Yorktown in 1781 by demanding every night’s slumber be one at the St. Regis. I like a firm mattress; for that, I accept the risks of nodding off at altitude.

The state-of-the-art settings even adjust contour at night, sensing and responding to a sleeper’s movements. I’m certain this idea’s flag was raised and lowered in the waterbed era of my 1980s adolescence. I recall precious few good night’s rest at sleepovers, where we bivouacked on the wavy waterbeds of the older brothers — Lotharios, all — of our hosting friends.

If waterbeds aren’t enough to make you long for a stationary mattress, remember Greek mythology, and the lengths that Procrustes went to ensure weary travelers always fit snugly into his guest bed. Bougie though it may be, avoiding a made-to-measure Procrustean bed seems as prudent to me as not opening an unfamiliar box belonging to somebody named Pandora.

Last, the bed frames themselves are adjustable so that, while one sleeper reclines, the elevated other can read, watch “Midsomer Murders,” whittle, or throw playing cards into a hat. I’m no expert, but it sounds to me like someone’s not quite ready for bed. Why not a sink-and-disposal feature, for when she wants to sleep but he wants to finish the dishes?

That seals it. I shall never buy a smart bed. Unless that elevated angle of rest really and truly can stop me from snoring like a sea lion. If that’s true, Devin might have dragged dear old Big Blue to our curb by nightfall.

Mike Kerrigan is an attorney in Charlotte and a regular contributer to the Opinion pages.