Tech mattress tricks your body into falling asleep faster

Summary: A new system of pillows and mattresses stimulates the body to trigger feelings of drowsiness using sensations of heat and cooling. Researchers say the new system helps people fall asleep faster and improves overall sleep quality.

Source: UT Austin

When people feel sleepy or alert, this feeling is controlled in part by the ebb and flow of a 24-hour rhythm of their body temperature.

Bioengineers at the University of Texas at Austin have developed a unique mattress and pillow system that uses heating and cooling to tell the body it’s time to go to sleep.

Sleep is possible when body temperature decreases at night within the 24-hour rhythm. This new mattress stimulates the body to trigger the feeling of drowsiness, helping people fall asleep faster and improving sleep quality.

“We facilitate preparation for falling asleep by manipulating internal sensors sensitive to body temperature to briefly adjust the body’s thermostat so that it thinks the temperature is higher than it actually is,” said Shahab Haghayegh, a researcher at Harvard Medical School’s Division of Sleep Medicine and Brigham and Women’s Hospital, who helped lead development of the mattress at UT Austin while earning a Ph.D. in biomedical engineering. Haghayegh graduated in 2020.

The skin of the neck is an important body thermostat for humans, and it is the primary sensor targeted by the mattress, along with a heated pillow. The mattress is designed to simultaneously cool the core areas of the body while warming the neck, hands and feet, increasing blood flow to dissipate body heat.

Researchers have published a proof-of-concept study of the unique combination of heated pillow and dual-zone cooling and heating mattress system in the sleep research journallooking at two versions of the mattress: one that uses water and another that uses air to manipulate core body temperature.

They tested the mattresses with 11 subjects, asking them to go to bed two hours earlier than usual, some nights using the mattresses’ cooling-warming functions and others not.

The study found that both the heating mattress and the cooling-warming mattress helped them fall asleep faster – about 58% faster than on nights when they did not use the cooling-warming function, even in the difficult environment. an earlier bedtime.

Not only did lowering the core body temperature dramatically reduce the time it takes to fall asleep, but it also led to a significant improvement in sleep quality.

The project grew out of a larger goal in the lab of Kenneth Diller, a professor at the Cockrell School of Engineering and an expert in heat and temperature regulation for therapeutic devices, to find new ways to use stimulation thermal to help people sleep.

This shows a thermal image of the mattress
A look at the heating and cooling sections of the mattress using a thermal camera. Credit: UT Austin

Researchers published a study in 2019 that found that taking a hot bath an hour or two before bed helped people fall asleep quickly and sleep better.

This project is similar but more focused. Lowering the body’s core temperature at the right circadian time sends the signal that it’s time to go to sleep. Targeting important body sensors in just a few areas that control heat dissipation, and therefore body temperature level, made more sense than focusing on the whole body.

“It is remarkable how gentle warming along the cervical spine sends a signal to the body to increase blood flow to the hands and feet to lower core temperature and hasten sleep onset,” said said Diller.

“This same effect also allows blood pressure to drop slightly overnight, with the added benefit of allowing the cardiovascular system to recover from the stress of maintaining blood flow during daily activities, which is very important for health. long-term health.”

The team has a patent for the cooling and heating mattress and pillow technology and is seeking partnerships with mattress manufacturers to bring it to market.

Other team members are Sepideh Khoshnevis and Michael Smolensky from UT Austin, Ramón Hermida from the University of Vigo in Spain, Richard Castriotta from the University of Southern California, and Eva Schernhammer from Harvard University.

About this news about neurotechnology and sleep research

Author: Nat Levy
Source: UT Austin
Contact: Nat Levy–UT Austin
Image: Image is credited to UT Austin

See also

This shows a scale and tape measure

Original research: Access closed.
“Novel Temperature-Controlled Sleep System for Improving Sleep: A Proof-of-Concept Study” by Shahab Haghayegh et al. sleep research journal


Novel Temperature-Controlled Sleep System to Improve Sleep: A Proof-of-Concept Study

The sleep-wake cycle is regulated by circadian process C and homeostatic process S. Selective thermal stimulation (STS) of the cervical spine region improves glabrous skin blood flow (GSBF) and increases heat dissipation to increase the distal-to-proximal skin gradient (DPG) causing a decrease in core body temperature (CBT), which may shorten sleep onset latency (SOL) and improve sleep quality.

A total of 11 young male healthy/normal sleepers challenged to go to bed (lights off) 2 h earlier than usual were subjected in random order to non-consecutive treatment and nocturnal sleep sessions of control.

The overnight treatment involved the activation of a dual temperature zone mattress with a cooler center and warmer periphery plus an STS pillow that applied mild heating to the skin of the cervical spine for 30 minutes after the treatment. turning off the lights to sleep.

During the first 30 minutes after lights out, GSBF (average [standard error (SE)] D=49.77 [19.13] infusion units, p = 0.013) and DPG (mean [SE] ∆ = 2.05 [0.62] °C, p = 0.005) were significantly higher and CBT (mean [SE] ∆ = –0.15 [0.07] °C, p = 0.029) was significantly lower in the treatment than the control night, while there was no significant difference in these variables during the 45 minutes before lights out (baseline).

In addition, SOL was significantly reduced (mean [SE] ∆ = –48.6 [23.4] min, p = 0.032) and the subjective quality of sleep significantly better (p< 0.001) in the treatment than the control night. In conclusion, the new sleep facilitation system composed of the STS pillow and the dual temperature zone mattress induced an earlier increase in GSBF and DPG and an earlier decrease in CBT.

This resulted in a statistically significant shortening of SOL and an improvement in overall sleep quality, thereby reducing S-process sleep pressure, even under the challenging survey protocol requiring participants to fall asleep 2 h earlier. than usual.

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