The average eight-hour-a-night sleeper spends 229,961 hours in their lifetime in bed. But few of us spend much time or effort choosing a mattress that’s suited to our ergonomic needs. Sub-$200 beds, one of the best-selling categories, can cause back and neck pain, and require replacing as often as every two years, according to The Telegraph.
That depressing statistic drove Nick Segal to craft an ultra-comfortable mattress — the Kala — that would deliver a superior experience. “I had a sense that the mattress industry wasn’t getting innovative and creative enough,” he told Digital Trends at a launch party in New York City. “It had to come up with a new angle.”
Segal’s effort got the attention of ultramarathon runner Dean Karnazes, who ended up switching from a custom-designed, hand-assembled $10,000 cot that weighed 150 pounds to a Kala mattress, which he says he prefers.
“It has a much lighter feel to it,” he said. “It’s like a Mac versus a Dell — it’s really different, and really hard to describe.”
Karnazes regularly participates in 100-mile foot races and long-distance running, and has completed 350-mile contiguous endurance runs, a marathon to the South Pole in -13 degree Fahrenheit temperatures without snowshoes, and a race in each of the 50 states on 50 consecutive days, said what most impressed him about the Kala was its ergonomics. “You’re kind of whacked out after 100 miles,” he said. “It’s about where your hips go down on the mattress. You don’t feel like you’re twisted in an awkward position.”
That’s thanks to the Kala’s “sandwich” design of three layers. A firmer high-density foam sits at the base. The middle is made up of a softer memory foam that conforms to the shape of the lower back. And on the top is a plastic material that provides variable levels of firmness — firm, medium, and soft.
There’s more to the top layer than meets the eye — a honeycomb, accordion-like structure helps to dissipate body heat, a feature that Karnazes came to appreciate.
“Typically when you run a 100-mile footrace, you generate so much body heat that you wake up half an hour later in a pool of sweat,” he said. “With this, that doesn’t happen. Recovery is much better.”
It acts like a “miniature hammock,” in effect. “If you’re just on a flat mattress, your butt just kind of jams into the mattress and you don’t have any support on your lower back,” Segal said. We basically use angles and stack foams of different densities so it responds to your body in a different way. You can feel slope. It keeps you at an incline.”
That posture confers potential health benefits. Your muscles are at rest, Segal said, relieving tension. And blood flows easier. “Your heart pumps blood to your head, and gravity brings it back down — there’s no extra work involved.”
“We’re aiming it at people who are all about performing and want to be at their best all the time — to wellness-oriented people who have those lifestyle aspirations” Segal said. “It doesn’t just deliver a good night’s sleep, but an optimal night’s sleep.
To test the bed’s efficacy, Kala had six participants try the mattress for thirty nights and keep a detailed sleep journal. They recorded metrics like quality of sleep and the frequency of morning aches.
The results, Segal said, were consistent across the board: The study participants developed a clear preference for the Kala over their old mattresses. “There was a two-notch difference between what they reported on their own mattress and what they reported on ours,” he said.
The Kala, which launches online this week, won’t be made available in brick-and-mortar stores. For Segal, that was a very conscious decision. “People are starting to realize that the mattress store experience is a waste of time and money,” he said. “You go and lie on 12 mattresses while you’re dealing with lights in your face and the mattress guy who’s trying to upsell you. It’s theoretically a good way to try a bunch of mattresses, but in reality, you just kind of get overwhelmed and you pick one and it doesn’t really work.”
The company is offering a 100-night trial to prospective buyers. If they’re not satisfied after the period’s over, they can send the mattress back for a full refund. A queen mattress costs $1,610, and buyers can choose between soft, medium, and firm levels for each side.