Jul 21, 2022 - News

UT-engineered mattress tricks body into falling asleep faster

Illustration of a brain wearing a sleeping eye mask.
Illustration: Megan Robinson/Axios

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

Why it matters: A lot of us could use more ZZZ's.

How it works: By heating the neck, hands and feet, the new mattress stimulates the body to trigger a sleepy feeling.

Details: The researchers tested mattresses with 11 subjects, per a new paper in the Journal of Sleep Research.

  • The subjects were asked to go to bed two hours earlier than usual, some nights using the cooling-warming functions of the mattresses and other nights not.
  • The mattress helped them fall asleep faster — approximately 58% faster compared with nights when they did not use the cooling-warming function, despite an earlier bedtime.

What they're saying: "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," said Kenneth Diller, an engineering professor at UT and an expert in heat and temperature regulation for therapeutic devices.

Flashback: The researchers published a study in 2019 that found taking a warm bath an hour or two before bed helped people fall asleep quickly and sleep better.

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