LIVING

High-tech or old-fashioned, products aim to take the bite out of getting into a cold bed

01/27/2015 07:32 EST | Updated 03/29/2015 05:59 EDT
As a guy who built heating systems for spacesuits, Mark Aramli found it perplexing that there was no good way to get the temperature right for his mom when she was laid up during a recent Rhode Island winter.

"I kept astronauts warm in space, and this was just a bed," the former NASA engineer says. "Everything was too hot or too cold."

So Aramli put his engineering prowess to work creating BedJet, an apparatus that heats up — and cools off — your bed by blowing temperature-controlled air between the sheets. Add the company's air-filled comforter to the mix ($149 on top of the main unit's $499 price tag), and you get dual-zone temperature control to boot — luxuries that Aramli says are overdue.

"You can buy heated and cooled seats for your Mercedes-Benz and Ford and GM cars, which are wonderfully comfortable for a 30-minute ride to work," he says. "But there has really been nothing that can give you that same level of heating and climate control in bed, and that's where we spend 30 per cent of our lives."

BedJet is among the latest developments in the age-old quest to take the bite out of getting into a cold bed.

Electric blankets, mattress pads and throws still rule (the Electric Blanket Institute says 4.5 million of those products are sold in the U.S. every year). But the new generation of bed warmers harnesses alternative means — notably air and water — to make things toasty.

The Aqua Bed Warmer, for instance, uses hot water to take the cold edge off. It includes a water heater, which sits away from the bed and pumps warm water through a mattress pad. The product costs between $249-$449 depending on the size of the bed and whether you want dual-zone heat.

Like the BedJet, Aqua Bed Warmer can be programmed to turn off once you're warm and cozy.

Mary Helen Uusimaki, spokeswoman for the International Sleep Products Association, says the marketplace is replete with products targeting temperature-sensitive sleepers. "Many of today's beds use a combination of materials to encourage comfort and support and temperature control," she says.

"Certain materials are known to 'sleep hotter' than others, but a lot of that can be very subjective," she says. "The top-of-bed segment is huge, and boasts every type of offering from cooling to toppers for aches and pains, athletes and top performance to allergy control."

Still, there are purists who snub such gadgetry, saying that warming up a bed doesn't have to be rocket science.

Glenn Bowman, owner of Vermont Soapstone, still sells the same bed warmer — a stone slab that sits between the sheets after being heated in an oven, over a fire or on a windowsill — that his company has made since the 1850s.

"There are no moving parts," Bowman says. "It's just a piece of stone and a handle."

Although his business has expanded into countertops and flooring, Bowman says he sells 200 or so bed warmers a year, most around holiday time, and that they work as well for today's consumers as they did for 19th century ones.

"You heat it up to 105 or 110, and it will still be 95 degrees in the morning," he says. It has an old-fashioned price, too: The $42.50 charge per bed warmer includes shipping.

Even an industry advocate like Uusimaki says there is something to be said for the old standbys — like clothes.

"In my opinion, if you want to be able to easily control your temperature, blankets, pyjamas and socks are the easiest solution," she says.

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