New Mattress ‘Tricks Body Into Falling Asleep Faster’

A look at the heating and cooling sections of the mattress using a thermal camera. Undated photograph. (University of Texas,SWNS/Zenger)
A look at the heating and cooling sections of the mattress using a thermal camera. Undated photograph. (University of Texas,SWNS/Zenger)
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By Martin M Barillas

A new high-tech mattress tricks people into falling asleep faster by manipulating the body’s core temperature.

Our body temperature changes according to a natural 24-hour rhythm and a lower core temperature helps to trigger sleepiness.

The new mattress lowers core temperature by, counter-intuitively warming up the neck with a special pillow, which helps stimulate blood flow toward the hands and feet and means that heat dissipates faster.

Shabab Haghayegh of the University of Texas, who led the development of the mattress, said: “We facilitate the readiness to fall asleep by manipulating internal body temperature-sensitive sensors to briefly adjust the thermostat of the body so it thinks the temperature is higher than it actually is.”

A Chinese shopper sleeps on a bed in the showroom of the IKEA store on July 6, 2014 in Beijing, China. (Photo by Kevin Frayer/Getty Images)

The engineers looked at two versions of the mattress, one that uses water and another that uses air to manipulate body temperature.

They then tested the mattresses on 11 subjects, asking them to go to bed two hours earlier than usual and to use the cooling-warming functions of the mattress some nights and other nights not.

On average, people fell asleep 58 percent faster when they used the cooling-warming functions compared with when they didn’t, despite going to bed two hours early.

And not only did it help them nod off faster but it also improved their quality of sleep.

The project is the latest from the lab of Professor Kenneth Diller of the Cockrell School of Engineering, University of Texas, which seeks to find new ways of helping people sleep using heat.

In 2019 the researchers published a study that found taking a warm bath an hour or two before bed helped people fall asleep faster.

The current project, published in the Journal of Sleep Research, is similar in that it aims to lower the internal body temperature at just the right time so it sends the signal to go to sleep.

Diller added: “It is remarkable how effective gentle warming along the cervical spine is in sending a signal to the body to increase blood flow to the hands and feet to lower the core temperature and precipitate sleep onset.

A Chinese shopper sleeps on a bed in the showroom of the IKEA store on July 6, 2014 in Beijing, China. (Photo by Kevin Frayer/Getty Images)

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

The team has a patent for the cooling-warming mattress and pillow technology and is seeking partnerships with mattress companies to commercialize it.

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

Produced in association with SWNS.

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