Originally published July 15 2019.
Updated June 13, 2020.
Skip to one-year reflections, or read from the beginning.
I've been using the chiliPAD as one of my key tools for better sleep for the last 3.5 months (update: 14.5 months), and here is my experience.
I had been thinking of buying a chiliPAD for years, ever since I heard Kelly Starrett, the CrossFit mobility guru, mention it on a podcast with Tim Ferriss, jack of all trades and master of self-experimentation.
The chiliPAD: An Air Conditioner for Your Bed
The chiliPAD, and its latest iteration, the OOLER, is a mattress pad that acts as an air conditioner for your bed. It sucks the warmth out of the bed and blows it into the rest of the room. To fall asleep, your body must lower its core temperature. Once you are asleep, the quality of that sleep is dictated in large part by how successful you were in lowering your core body temperature. By making it cooler under the covers, the chiliPAD helps you fall asleep faster and get more restful sleep.
Update: Chili has a new product, the chiliBLANKET, that works by the same principle, but as a blanket. I haven't tried it yet.
The chiliPAD Can Enhance Your Love Life
The chiliPAD can also enhance your love life. Often one partner wants the room and the bed warmer than the other: more often the woman wants it warmer than the man. The “we” (instead of “me”) models of the chiliPAD allow you to set one side of the bed to a cooler temperature than the other, solving the problem in a cinch.
In fact, it isn't just that you can cool one side more than the other. You can cool one side to as low as 55°F (12.8°C) and actually warm the other to as high as 110°F (43.3°C).
Update: After I published this, many women pointed out that they needed the bed cooler than their husbands. This is especially true for women who experience hot flashes.
My Sleep is Very Sensitive to Temperature
I mostly thought of the chiliPAD as an eventual purchase in this context, sort of like “someday I'll buy a house.”
I have always had trouble sleeping alone without a fan when the room is warmer than 65°F (18.3°C), and guaranteed insomnia when the room is warmer than 72°F (22.2°C) without a fan. Sleeping under a fan dries out my eyes, so I've always preferred an air conditioner.
Trouble Sleeping With Someone Else in the Bed
Sleeping with someone else in the bed has always given me lots of trouble, because that lowers my ideal sleeping temperature by almost 10°F, yet virtually no woman would be comfortable sleeping in a room that cold.
Part of me thought for many, many years that maybe if I just find the right woman, I'll finally be able to sleep well with someone else in the bed.
Once I heard Kelly Starrett talk about the chiliPAD, a part of me thought, if I ever find the right woman, I'll buy a chiliPAD.
Now that I have a chiliPAD, however, I've found that it's been game-changing in improving my sleep even when I'm alone, and I don't think you need to be as sensitive to temperature as I am to get these benefits.
The Night I Gave the chiliPAD a Test Run
In late March, I attended a business event where I met Todd Youngblood, the founder, CEO, and president of Kryo Inc, which makes the chiliPAD, and now OOLER.
Oddly enough, I think he actually looks a little like Kelly Starrett, who had initially planted his product in my mind.
He offered to let me borrow a chiliPAD for a night.
How could I resist a test run?
There was one test I wanted to run more than anything: could I set the temperature of the room at something that I knew would otherwise give me insomnia, and see if setting the chiliPAD cool enough would allow me to get good sleep?
So I did exactly that: I set the room temperature to 78°F (25.6°C) and the chiliPAD to 55°F (12.8°C). I slept like a baby.
I was sold.
At the same time, I was about to go on my fifth date with a woman that I knew I would soon want sleeping in my bed, and we had even discussed on our very first date how she loved the warmer temperatures and I loved the cooler temperatures. This was a situation for the “we” chiliPAD if I ever saw one.
Update: After I wrote this, I realized that Todd had let me use an OOLER, not a chiliPAD. I have realized that the OOLER I first tried is a bit more powerful than the chiliPAD and can tolerate a higher ambient temperature. With the chiliPAD, I prefer the ambient temperature be no higher than 74°F.
Why I Bought the chiliPAD Instead of the OOLER
When I returned from the trip, the newest upgrade, the OOLER, was taking pre-orders for shipment in June. I needed a chiliPAD, stat.
I recommend buying the OOLER for reasons I will describe below, but I bought the chiliPAD just so I could get it right away.
My Experience With the chiliPAD
Here's what I noticed right off the bat:
- Whereas 72°F (22.2°C) usually gives me guaranteed insomnia, with the chiliPAD I can often sleep well with the surrounding room temperature as high as 80°F (26.7°C).
- My subjective perception of how much time would pass during sleep shortened. In other words, it felt like the night passed more quickly. I also felt rested on a little less sleep than usual.
At the time I did not have a sleep tracking tool, although I got an Oura ring recently and I will be documenting some sleep quality experiments using it soon, including how the chiliPAD affects my sleep.
Combining the chiliPAD With Air Conditioning
As the months have gotten hotter, I have found that I sleep best if I keep the air conditioning at 72°F (22.2°C) and the chiliPAD set to 55°F (12.8°C).
The reason is that the chiliPAD acts as an air conditioner for the bed. Just as an air conditioner blows the heat from your home into the outside air, the chiliPAD blows the heat from your bed into the air of the room. This can raise the temperature of the room several degrees.
Although I can sleep well with the room temperature as high as 80°F (26.7°C), this is essentially the breaking point, and I will get insomnia if the room temperature is above that even if the chiliPAD is operating at full blast.
With the AC set to 72°F (22.2°C), the chiliPAD may push it up to 75°F (23.9°C), and the AC then takes the heat that ultimately came from the bed and sends it into the outside air.
Why Not Just Use the AC?
You may wonder, why not just set the AC to 65°F (18.3°C) like I used to do?
There is a very, very good reason.
Last summer, the ambient temperature would often be around 90°F (32.2°C). To keep my room at 65°F (18.3°C), I'd have to set the AC to 64°F (17.8°C), put the setting on “cool” instead of “money saver,” and put the fan on “high.”
In my room, I have no choice but to have the AC at my headboard. So sleeping normally on my bed means having my head right under the AC blasting freezing cold air. This itself would give me insomnia. I'd have to sleep backwards on my bed to keep my head away from the AC, but it was still a delicate gamble because if the air current hit me the wrong way, the frigid air coming out of the AC would give me the shivers.
Now, I have the AC set on 72°F (22.2°C), set to “money saver,” and the fan set on “low.” The fan is quieter, the cool air comes in intermittently, and the fan doesn't forcefully shove it in my face.
This is dramatically more comfortable for me, and I can sleep normal instead of backwards.
More importantly, there is no way my girlfriend could ever have tolerated sleeping the way I had it last summer. Now, I give her a couple of extra blankets and she's comfortable with both the bed temperature and the air temperature.
Why I'll Be Upgrading to the OOLER
The OOLER does everything the chiliPAD does and boasts some new extra features:
- control it with an app on your phone
- white noise control
- time-based programming
The big reason I'm excited to upgrade to the OOLER is the time-based programming.
The OOLER allows you to gradually cool the bed when you go to sleep, and to program it to warm as you wake.
This allows you to mimic the natural sleeping patterns that have been recently documented in hunter-gatherers. For millions of years, we slept outside during the period of declining temperature, and woke as soon as the decline started to reverse. In fact, it is reversal of the temperature drop that wakes up outdoor hunter-gathers, not the light of the sunrise.
Do we need to imitate them?
Well, they have no word for “insomnia” so we should try to figure out why.
Just on a practical level, there are two huge reasons to want time-based programming:
- Many of us need a warmer temperature to keep us comfortable so we can fall asleep, but get more restful sleep at a lower temperature. Time-programming allows us to get most of our sleep at a lower temperature than the one at which we fall asleep.
- Our body temperature reaches its lowest point in the early morning, somewhere around 4:00 AM. Some of us wake up cold because of this, and we would sleep through it if we could set the temperature to gradually rise during that time.
Plot twist! Within a few days of using the chiliPAD, my girlfriend told me that she feels like her sleep is better when the bed is cooler. So now I don't actually set her side of the bed any warmer than mine. We both get the chiliPAD on max, and she gets a couple extra blankets to be warmer while falling asleep.
We could optimize this better with the OOLER by setting her side to start off warm and gradually descend to the lowest temperature after she falls asleep.
When I give the whole job of keeping me cool to the AC, I'm very likely to wake up at 4:00 AM freezing cold and need to turn the AC up a few degrees. I find this happens far less with the chiliPAD. I think this is because the room itself is warmer and there is overall more heat in the air my body can draw from if it really needs it.
I could optimize this better with the OOLER by setting my side to warm gradually to wake.
In fact, my girlfriend has the opposite issue: she doesn't feel like getting out of bed unless it's warm enough. So I'll wake up, shut off the AC, and warm her side of the bed. But we could optimize that better with the OOLER by setting her side to warm gradually to wake as well, and to reach an even higher final temperature that is comfortable for her.
As noted below, the OOLER can also be hidden under the bed so is less intrusive than the chiliPAD.
The chiliPAD/OOLER is Game-Changing for Sleep
Overall, the chiliPAD and OOLER are game-changing for sleep:
- We all need our core body temperature to decline to get restful sleep. Some of us, like me, are extremely sensitive to temperature, but we all need a cool bed to get high-quality sleep.
- The chiliPAD/OOLER is less aggressive than the AC and more specifically targets the area of the room closest to your body, that little pocket you sleep in between your bed and your sheets.
- The chiliPAD/OOLER, when combined with a gentler set AC than you would otherwise use, offers the best sleep.
- Less reliance on the AC can lead to less annoying noise from the fan, less high-speed air that could dry out your mucous membranes, and less risk of feeling freezing cold from the frigid air being pumped.
- The “we” versions of both models allow you and your partner to each sleep at the temperature that is best for you individually.
- Get the OOLER if you can afford it, because gradually cooling to sleep and gradual warming to wake can allow you to fall asleep at a warmer, more comfortable temperature, get more restful sleep at a cooler temperature, avoid waking up cold in the early morning, and wake to a rising temperature just like all humans did for millions of years prior to indoor temperature control.
For the first time in my life, I feel like I sleep wonderfully with someone else in the bed.
Travel, Light, Noise, and Space
A few odds and ends:
- I went on a five-day trip and took my chiliPAD in a standard size checked luggage bag. I had no problems transporting it.
- When you turn the chiliPAD on, the display has some blue lights. These go off after a minute or two and there is no light generated while you are asleep.
- The chiliPAD makes a little bit of noise, but it's no more than an AC or a fan.
- The chiliPAD has a box-shaped cooling unit that is a little over 9.5″ L, 10.5″ W, and 7.5″ tall. The “we” version has two of these units. They need about 18″ of space on each side and on top to cool most effectively, and they need to be arranged so that the tubes that carry cool water through the mattress pad aren't twisted. That means that the “we” units together take up about 39″ across, need 18″ buffering of open air on each side, and can't operate under the bed. I keep mine under the bed during the day and take them out beside the bed at night.
- The OOLER unit is 15″ L, 10″ W, and 6″ high. The “we” version has two units. Although the manual calls for “proper spacing,” it doesn't specify how much space is needed and, unlike the chiliPAD, it allows for its operation under the bed or on the bottom shelf of a nightstand. As such the space the OOLER takes up is much less intrusive.
Update: My Reflections After More Than a Year
I have now been using the chiliPAD for 14.5 months, and here are my reflections.
First and most importantly, I would consider it one of the top three game-changing things I've ever done for my sleep. I've used it just about every single night since I've bought it, and I have without fail taken it on every single trip I've been on.
One thing I realized is that it's quite a pain to pack the chiliPAD for a trip and then upon return unpack it and set it up again. Since I had been thinking of upgrading to an OOLER anyway, I thought of having a suitcase permanently dedicated to holding my chiliPAD for use when I travel, and keeping my OOLER set up at home. This way I could avoid the breakdown/setup hassle. However, the emergence of COVID-19 this year tightened my finances early in the year and now it seems very unclear whether travel will be wise or affordable for the remainder of the year. I'm holding out for now on this plan, but once I start traveling again I will buy the OOLER.
My use of the chiliPAD is mostly as I first described, with a few nuances:
- I've noticed that the chiliPAD takes an hour or two to cool the bed very well, especially when the ambient temperature is 80°F or above. I now turn it on at least an hour before bed.
- If the chiliPAD is well cooled, I can tolerate the ambient temperature being up to 74°F.
- My girlfriend and I still both use the lowest setting of the chiliPAD, but she uses a heated blanket on the lowest setting with a timer that shuts it off within three hours. She finds the mattress temperature being its coolest gives her better sleep regardless of the ambient temperature and regardless of the blanket temperature. A few hours of low-level heat from the blanket makes her feel comfortable enough to fall asleep, while getting good quality sleep from the maximally chilled mattress.
I am very interested in doing the opposite for myself. Chili now has the chiliBLANKET, and I'm curious to compare how chilling the blanket, ambient temperature, and mattress all affect my sleep.
After 14.5 months, I'm happy to report that the chiliPAD is one of the best investments I've ever made in my personal health and well being.
Save Between $57 and $390!
I spent some time discussing with Todd the best way I could save my audience a ton of money on this, and here's what I've arrived at.
I've signed up as an affiliate for the chiliPAD/OOLER. You can use my coupon codes for some big discounts. If you do, I'm offering you even more savings by giving you the entirety of my commission if you sign up for the CMJ Masterpass.
The total savings are between $162.18 and $389.68 on the chiliPAD, $164.27-$352.27 on the OOLER, and $56.81-$132.81 on the chiliBLANKET, in each case depending on the model you purchase, saving more with bigger models.
These are greater savings than you can get anywhere else. For example, the current Father's Day sale on the Chili site offers $100 off any product. If you are a Masterpass member, you can use this if it provides a greater discount than any of my product-specific codes (it only does for the blanket and for the smallest version of the OOLER), and you still get my commission back as a rebate. Other Chili affiliates can give you the same discount codes that I can, but only I am literally giving you back my commission in full. So it always saves more.
In fact, the savings that go over and above what any discount code you can find are $26.91-$62.91 on the chiliBLANKET, $37.43-$89.93 on the chiliPAD, and $59.42-$127.42 on the OOLER.
And remember the total savings including the discount codes are between $56.81-$132.81 on the chiliBLANKET, $162.18 and $389.68 on the chiliPAD, and $164.27-$352.27 on the OOLER.
You can join the Masterpass using this link. Use the code STAYCOOL to save 10% off the membership fee for life.
If you don't want my exclusive savings but still want one of the CHILI products, head over there with this link and take advantage of the Father's Day coupon they offer.
Stay cool, healthy, and safe,
How to Share This Post and Show It Love
Have you used the chiliPAD or OOLER? If so, what has your experience been like?
Do you struggle to get the temperature right for your sleep?
Let me know in the comments!
Remember: keep it warm in the streets, cool in the sheets.