Though everyone needs different amounts of it throughout their life, we all need sleep. It’s an important way for our bodies to maintain healthy functioning. That’s why it’s so troublesome that many people struggle to fall and stay asleep. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), for example, an estimated 70 million people in the U.S struggle with sleep in some way. This can be detrimental to a person’s health.
A team of researchers at the University of Texas at Austin have developed a new way to help people fall asleep and get better sleep: a mattress designed to stimulate the natural rhythms the body uses to help a person fall asleep. Their proof-of-concept study is published in a recent edition of the Journal of Sleep Research.
Specifically, the mattress is designed to address a particular part of a body’s natural rhythm that can signal to the body that it’s time to sleep: temperature. As we settle in to sleep at night, our body temperature starts to go down. This is what signals to the body that the conditions are right for sleep. The mattress uses sensors to manipulate an individual’s body temperature.
The mattress manipulates body temperature by helping increase blood flow, which can bring body temperature down. Sensors near the neck and feet create heat, while the mattress cools areas like the torso and limbs.
In the study, 11 people were asked to sleep on either a water mattress or this newly engineered mattress. Participants were asked to go to bed about two hours earlier than they normally would have.
Overall, the study found that the mattress was successful in not only helping people go to sleep sooner, but also improving the quality of sleep. For example, about 58% of participants fell asleep faster at night. Their findings build on prior research that shows things like warm baths before bed can help with sleep.
This new mattress, however, uses subtle warming at targeted areas, rather than warming or cooling the entire body.