A unique mattress and pillow system that uses heating and cooling to trick the human body into sleeping has been developed by engineers in the United States.
Sleep is possible when the body temperature declines at night as part of the 24-hour cycle. Therefore, researchers explained this new mattress stimulates the body to trigger the sleepy feeling, helping people fall asleep faster and improving the quality of sleep.
"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," said Shahab Haghayegh, a study co-author and a research fellow at Harvard Medical School.
As per a study published in the Journal of Sleep Research, scientists said that the mattress targets the skin on the neck with a warming pillow as this part of the body is an important bodily thermostat for humans. The mattress is designed to simultaneously cool the central areas of the body while heating up the neck, hands and feet in order to increase blood flow to dissipate body heat.
The researchers experimented with two versions of the mattress: one that uses water and another that uses air to manipulate the core body temperature. As per the study, they tested the unique mattresses with 11 subjects, asking them to go to the bed two hours earlier than usual, some nights using the cooling-warming functions of the mattresses and other nights not.
The team found that the warming and the cooling-warming mattress helped them fall asleep faster - approximately 58% faster compared with nights when they did not use the function. They explained that lowering the internal body temperature significantly not only shortened the time required to fall asleep but also resulted in a significantly improved quality of sleep.
"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, another study co-author.
"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," he added.
Now, as per the study, the team has a patent for the cooling-warming mattress and pillow technology and is seeking partnerships with companies to commercialise it.