AUSTIN (KXAN) — Have you ever felt so tired but struggled to fall asleep once your head hit the pillow?
That’s what one man was experiencing when he decided to research a solution.
“I always had a sleep problem,” said Shahab Haghayegh.
While getting his Ph.D at the University of Texas at Austin, Haghayegh and a team developed technology they say tricks your body into falling asleep faster.
Haghayegh explained sleep is possible when your body temperature declines at night.
So, bioengineers have rigged a mattress and pillow to warm and cool the body in specific areas to stimulate a sleepy feeling.
It starts with the pillow, which warms up your neck, which has natural thermal sensors and sends a message to your body to cool down it’s core.
“So more blood goes from the core to the hands and feet and this blood brings the heat from the core to the surface of hands and feet and then rejects it to the environment,” Haghayegh said.
The mattress helps stimulate blood flow to your hands and feet, and helps them dissipate that heat off of your body and into the environment.
“The neck is like the thermostat, and then the hands and feet are like the radiator in the in the house or like the AC in the house,” Haghayegh explained.
He said that all temperatures in the system are lower than your core body temperature, but the mattress is coldest in the center for your core, and warms up around the edges.
Researchers published a study about the sleep system in the Journal of Sleep Research. Two versions of the mattress were documented — one that uses water and another that uses air to change the core body temperature.
The mattresses were evaluated with 11 subjects, UT said in a press release. They were asked to go to bed two hours earlier than normal, only using the mattress functions on some nights.
The study found the warming and cooling of the mattress system helped them fall asleep about 58% faster compared to nights they didn’t use it. UT said the quality of sleep also improved when using the warming and cooling settings.
Now, they want to test it on more people– specifically those who have diagnosed sleeping disorders.
They also want to further test on another benefit they discovered on those who used the mattress system.
“When we used this mattress, we saw that… the subjects have lower blood pressure during their sleep time. And that’s because the vessels in the hands and feet were open up,” Haghayegh said.
He said lower blood pressure means lower risk of cardiovascular and renal diseases.
They’re hoping for more funding to further those studies, he said.
The research team also has a patent for the mattress and pillows and is looking to partner with mattress companies to get it out to the public.
Haghayegh said the prototype is ready to scale, and once they partner with a company, they can get the system in stores in a year.
He said the benefits are far-reaching, for so many people.
“The quality of sleep and performance of the kids in the school, on performance of athletes in the different matches and sport games. It’s also associated with like stress, depression,” he said. “It can make a big difference when you sleep better.”