Smart pillows trick the body into falling asleep faster

Bioengineers from 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 sleep. It induces a feeling of drowsiness, which helps to fall asleep faster and improve the quality of sleep.

The new technology aims to “facilitate sleep preparation by maneuvering with internal body temperature-sensitive sensors to adjust [what can be described] the body’s thermostat for a brief period until it is believed that the temperature is higher than it actually is.

The skin of the neck is one of the most important temperature sensors in the human body, and therefore it is the primary sensor that the mattress targets, with a heating pad, and the mattress is designed to cool the central areas of the body at the same time while heating the neck, hands and feet, thus increasing blood flow to dissipate body heat.

The researchers published a proof-of-concept study of the unique combination of a pillow-heating plus cooling and heating dual-zone mattress system in the Journal of Sleep Research, explaining that there are two versions of the mattress, one that uses water and one that relies on air to manipulate core body temperature.

The researchers reported that the results of the study proved that the heating and cooling system helped fall asleep faster by up to 58%, compared to cases when the cooling and heating function was not used, even in difficult conditions early in bed.

Reducing the internal body temperature not only had a significant impact on the time required to fall asleep, but also significantly improved 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 thermoregulation and temperature for therapeutic devices, to find new ways to use thermal stimulation to aid sleep.

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