What's New About Smart Beds Featured Inside Olympic Village

Athletes arriving to the Olympic Village in Beijing were greeted by a host of some of the most current technology on the market. This includes 5G wireless technology everywhere, high-speed rail transportation to the event spaces and driverless retail minibuses.

But the new tech getting perhaps the most attention in the Olympic Village are the smart beds provided to the competitors. Athletes have already taken to social media to praise the beds, which contrasts with last year's Summer Games in Tokyo when many Olympians publicly complained about the small, cardboard beds they were given.

Dr. Chris Winter, a neurologist and sleep specialist who has worked with over 30 college and professional sports organizations to help athletes with their sleep, spoke with Newsweek about the smart beds.

Winter spoke highly of the the benefits of the beds' technological enhancements designed for comfort, noting "athletes are flying from very long distances, and getting a good night's sleep is really critical to having good performance."

Olympic Village room
Olympic athletes on social media have praised the smart beds they have in Beijing. This photo shows an athletes' room in the Olympic Village for the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympic Games on December 24, 2021 in Beijing. Getty

The beds in the apartments at the Olympic Village feature memory foam mattresses and a remote control to allow users to change sleeping positions. The beds also monitor vitals such as breathing and heart rate, and reports of these measurements can be sent to coaches.

U.S. luge athlete Summer Britcher has shown off her bed in a TikTok video, where she demonstrates a feature known as Zero-G mode, which she calls "phenomenal."

Rugby player Ilona Maher, who represented the U.S. at the 2020 Summer Olympics, responded to Britcher, saying the beds in Tokyo were small and caused back pain for "a week after I started laying on them."

When asked if athletes can expect a better sleep experience on the Beijing beds when compared with the Tokyo option, Winter said he would expect they would, "especially if you're going to go from one end of the spectrum to another—cinder blocks with the small pad on top of it [like in Tokyo] to a real mattress with smart features."

"Obviously, there be always be outliers," said Winter, who has also authored the books The Sleep Solution and The Rested Child. "You know, the guy who prefers to sleep on his floor at home, and now this comfortable mattress is screwing him all up. But I think for the most part, just the actual functionality of the bed and the comfort of the bed is a plus."

When asked about the Zero-G mode, which is a feature purportedly developed by NASA for astronauts to equalize their weight prior to takeoff, Winter explained it's a position on the adjustable bed that gets the user in a curved position with their feet and their head slightly elevated.

The position is meant to take "pressure off of various parts of your body while at the same time still being in a somewhat recumbent position," Winter said. "One of the things that people struggle with when they sleep is sleeping on their side; it puts a lot of pressure on the hip or shoulder. The zero gravity position is designed to maximally relieve pressure, while allowing the individual to still be in a recumbent position."

Winter also discussed the recent advancements of memory foam, which come on all the Beijing beds. He noted that while a past complaint of memory foam was that it could make sleepers too hot during the night, new technology keeps the foam cooler.

However, even with all these tech improvements created for making the best sleep conditions, Winter warned it may not be for everyone.

"What an athlete like a luger thinks is remarkably comfortable could be extremely uncomfortable to a heavyweight weightlifter," Winter said.