How to sleep better: could smart pyjamas with self-powered sensors be the answer?

An image of a woman going to sleep in her pyjamas, to illustrate the concept of smart pyjamas
© iStock/KrisCole

Smart pyjamas with embedded self-powered sensors could monitor and help to improve quality of sleep.

The data produced by the sleepwear could give people and their clinicians useful information to improve sleeping patterns. The sensors inserted in the smart pyjamas are unobtrusive and provide continuous monitoring of heartbeat, breathing, and sleep posture, which are all factors determining how well a person sleeps.

Why it is important to sleep well

According to the National Institutes of Health, getting the right amount of good quality sleep can help protect against many health issues, including:

  • Stress;
  • Infections;
  • Multiple diseases, including heart and kidney disease;
  • High blood pressure; and
  • Diabetes.

However, many people do not get the right kind of sleep.

Transforming normal pyjamas into sleep sensors

Ordinary-looking pajamas are transformed into “smart” ones with five strategically placed sensors that measure heartbeat, respiration and posture.
©Trisha L. Andrew

Trisha L. Andrew, PhD, led the team from the American Chemical Society. Andrew explained: “We had to inconspicuously integrate sensing elements and portable power sources into everyday garments, while maintaining the weight, feel, comfort, function and ruggedness of familiar clothes and fabrics. We also worked with computer scientists and electrical engineers to process the myriad signals coming from the sensors so that we had clear and easy-to-understand information.”

The key to the smart pyjamas is a process called the reactive vapor deposition process. Andrews added: “This method allows us to synthesise a polymer and simultaneously deposit it directly on the fabric in the vapor phase to form various electronic components and, ultimately, integrated sensors. Unlike most electronic wearables, the vapor-deposited electronic polymer films are wash-and-wear stable, and they withstand mechanically demanding textile manufacturing routines.”

The smart pyjamas, or the “Phyjama,” as the University of Massachusetts, Amherst team calls it, has five discrete textile patches with sensors in them.

The interconnected patches use silver-plated nylon threads shielded in cotton. The wires from each patch meet at a button-sized printed circuit board in the same location as a pyjama button.

The data is sent wirelessly to a receiver using a small Bluetooth transmitter.

The video of the research

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