Jun 20, 2019
Carly is the former VP of Product Development at Casper. Previously she worked at IDEO and Smart Design, where her work was recognized with multiple design awards.
There are all sorts of sleeping positions; there’s side, stomach, back, log, starfish, free fall, covered in crumbs, and more, but the truth is no one really has just one.
Our insight into the myth of sleeping positions came about after doing overnight research. We asked people about how they slept and were invited to observe them sleep, and we saw a stark difference between people's descriptions (like identifying as a stomach sleeper) and how they actually behaved. The reality is that people were often all-over-the-place sleepers.
It was eye opening. Shortly after lights out, we saw how the image study participants had of themselves, curled up in their favorite position and sleeping stoically, gave way to cover pulling, leg kicking, and all sorts of movement. For example, about 70% of participants slept on their side at some point, no matter what position or positions they identified as "being theirs."
Our conclusion was that most pillows weren’t made for the way we really behave. They’re made to achieve a certain height, shape, and density, and be best for a particular sleep position, but at some point during the night they become the worst pillow for the positions we actually end up in. I wanted to figure out if we could make one that adapts to you: a universal pillow that would work for anyone in any position.
We started by looking at existing fill options for the pillow. One material we considered was memory foam, because it adapts to weight and shape, but it can also sleep hot. We were looking for something that sleeps cool. Also a lot of people complained that memory foam pillows don’t have the huggable, squishable feel in a pillow that they love, so we moved beyond it.
We dove into the material sciences. The first stop was to visit a fiber guru (there really is such a thing), before visiting a dozen other experts around the U.S. and abroad. We learned that you can alter the physical properties of synthetic fibers, based on their polymers and finishings, and we started digging through the thousands of varieties of fibers to find one with the softness of down and rebound of foam.
We gathered fibers from our trip all over the world and emptied them into various bins. We ran our hands through each of them: some of the fibers felt waxy or dry, some stuck to your clothes, and some floated in the air while others quickly fell to the ground. Selecting a few of our favorites, we used a leaf blower to fill trial pillows with different ones and handed the prototypes out for testing.
Based on the tests, there was one pillow we made — out of one unique microfiber — that people universally loved. The fill is a synthetic blown fiber that has a special polymer and coating and is incredibly thin (its width can be measured in atoms). The fiber itself is probably the secret ingredient to the Casper pillow.
We had over 90 members of Casper Labs, of varying ages, genders, and weights, test a second set of prototypes that had different amounts of this one micro-fiber inside. The fill amount we settled on equates to about one billion fibers in each pillow.
It was the perfect amount of fill, and perfect fiber, to create the universal pillow we were looking for: one with the softness and comfort of down and the conforming qualities and rebound of foam. You can see how it came out here.