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Running Accessories • September 11, 2019

Interview with Tara Youngblood, Co-Founder of Chili Sleep Systems

tara youngblood, co-founder of chili sleep systems

We obviously love our sleep, and as runners—we need it. We reached out to Chili last year to its original ChiliPad Sleep System (which we loved). The system is comprised of a hydro-powered mattress pad that allows its users to regulate the temperature to their liking. It’s kind of been a game-changer for us, so we’re testing out their newest system, the OOLER.

In the meantime, we reached out to founder Tara Youngblood to hear about the science behind Chili, why sleep is so important, and general tips on how to sleep better. (Just don’t fall asleep reading this or we’ll put you on the hot seat.)

BITR: Your background is in physics— how did you get into the ‘sleep’ industry, and specifically, how did you get into temperature regulation as a means of improving sleep?

TY: My husband, Todd and I have been designing, consulting and bringing new products to market for almost 20 years. The ChiliPad was designed to fill a market niche of personalized temperature, part of the evolving market for mattress pressure and individualized comfort.

After we started selling the ChiliPad, we started getting calls from dozens of people who hadn’t been able to sleep through the night for years and suddenly, with the help of the ChiliPad—they could. It seemed that temperature was the key component. As a scientist, I had to find out why was temperature working when nothing else would.

Temperature in physics is an interesting measurement of order or disorder (entropy). It is how we measure the age of the universe. For us, a thesis emerged: Could the cold therapy we use for healing somehow be affecting the quality of sleep? How can we use temperature to get better quality sleep?

We spent tens of thousands of hours of research, as well as collaborations with labs and other scientists, to try and find ways to impact sleep through non-pharma methods. We continue to do it because, at this point, I’m basically addicted to helping people sleep.

BITR: It seems like we’ve had a shift in our culture recently, at least in the running world, with regards to sleep. Sleep was seen as something for the weak/lazy, but now we view it as vital for optimal performance. Is the science coming out now supporting this? Why are we seeing this big shift from ‘work hard’ to ‘work hard, but also rest hard’?

TY: Sleep is finally being recognized for the role it plays in our memories, immune system, stress response, and both physical and mental health. Lack of sleep is like being drunk.

One study shows[1] that moderate sleep deprivation produces impairments equivalent to those of alcohol intoxication. After 17 to 19 hours without sleep, performance was equivalent or worse than that of a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) level of 0.05 percent. After longer periods without sleep, performance reached levels equivalent to a BAC of 0.1 percent.

In athletes,  sleep—especially deep sleep—is very important for recovery. Sleep is also becoming a key factor in how coaches can predict readiness and what kind of workout their athletes should work on. Heart Rate Variability (HRV) during sleep is such an accurate predictor of readiness and recovery. So much so that you can analyze a person’s nighttime HRV and predict illness days before they actually get sick.

BITR: What are the proven long-term benefits to better sleep?

TY: The studies tying sleep to Alzheimer’s, auto-immune conditions, chronic pain, and mortality are now so numerous, that it is impossible to mention them all. So yes, absolutely.

BITR: What are some of the benefits of sleeping cooler, or regulating your temperature throughout the night?

TY: Temperature can flip a switch in your brain (i.e. excite the neurons that trigger the release of melatonin) and help you get consistent deep sleep (see Saper, Nature Communications, October 2018).

We actually have a blog post that goes into detail about those questions perfectly.

Is cooling the temperature of the bed versus just cooling the ambient temperature in the room different?

TY: The mattress materials and your blanket all affect how much your body heats up the sleeping space or cave that you sleep in. Your room may be cool, but your mattress is a memory foam that absorbs and reflects heat and you have a highly insulated blanket on, your 98F body is going to heat things up substantially. To trigger sleep and deep sleep stages, you need that “cave” to be 86F or below.

BITR: What are some common things you see people do today that take away from a good night’s sleep? (i.e. are our phones keeping us awake)?

  • Phones
  • Alcohol
  • TV in the bedroom
  • Food at late in the evening
  • Exercise late at night
  • Not starting out your day with outside time and/or enough sunshine

BITR: What are your top tips for better sleep?

TY: Here’s a few:

  • Track stress during your day like you do calories.
  • Focus on ending your day with being peaceful.
  • Create a “What’s Keeping Me Up at Night” list.
  • Clear your mental inbox every night at least a half an hour before bed. Start winding down so that you are sunsetting your day in a magnificent way, allowing your conscious mind to relax and let the unconscious one take over

BITR: How do the ChiliPAD and OOLER work? Can you give us a little overview?

TY: Here are the best explanations:

OOLER Sleep System

OOLER Sleep System

BITR: Most people don’t have extra time in the day to dedicate to sleeping. Do the ChiliPAD/OOLER systems help with getting ‘better’ sleep even if you don’t have 8-9 hours to dedicate to it?

TY: Temperature regulation is definitely “secret sauce” when it comes to “short sleepers”. The fact is, if you’re over the age of 30 and getting less than 7 hours of sleep, your deep sleep is lacking. Adjusting the temperature (especially in the first half of night) can trigger users to still achieve 2 hours of deep sleep, even if they would struggle to get that much after 8 hours.


BITR: Who would you recommend OOLER for?

TY: Anyone over the age of 25 (when we start losing deep sleep). By the time we are 80 we may get none. Even teenagers and kids in today’s constant ambient environment can use temperature to optimize their sleep. Our current VIP and professional athletes are some of the top performers in the world and they all use it to optimize their night to get the most out of their day.

BITR: Anything else we should know about the ChiliPAD, OOLER or Kryo Inc?

TY: We have ongoing studies and scientific endeavors, so for anyone looking to do research on optimized sleep—we are always accepting new applications for research partnerships. We are currently working on studies to look at the effect of temperature-optimized sleep and mental health as well as the reduction of hot flashes for menopausal women.




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