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Technology

New PJs Could Watch You Snooze—& Track Effects of That Last Cup of Coffee

80beatsBy Veronique GreenwoodMay 24, 2011 12:32 PM

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What’s the News: Smart clothes might soon be coming into bed with you. A company is developing shirts endowed with a chip that senses the changes in breathing that accompany shifts in sleep phase, to help people track how variables like exercise, coffee intake, and stress affect their sleep.

How the Heck:

  • Subjects in a sleep lab are usually hooked up to an array of instruments to track brain activity, muscle activity, breathing, and other measures. But a scientist involved in the shirt’s development says that for determining sleep phases, simple breathing patterns alone can suffice (via Technology Review):

    During REM sleep [when we dream], the respiratory pattern is irregular, with differences in the size of breaths and the spacing between them. Breathing during deep sleep follows an ordered pattern, “like a sine wave,” says Bianchi. The lighter stages of non-REM sleep fall somewhere in between.

  • People could use the shirt, which Nyx Devices is calling Somnus, to track their own sleep cycles and suss out how their waking lives affect their sleeping ones. Bianchi hopes to use the shirt to help insomniac patients, who frequently underestimate how much sleep they’ve gotten, get better baseline measures of their sleep.

What’s the Context:

  • The shirt was developed by undergraduates at MIT, who launched the company to commercialize it.

  • Personal sleep tracking isn’t an entirely new idea, and the last few years have seen several devices aimed at this market niche. Sleep Cycle, for instance, is an iPhone app that uses the phone’s accelerometer to follow your movements as you sleep, which reflect sleep phase, and then wakes you up when you reach the lightest phase, near your body’s natural wake-up time.

The Future Holds: Nyx hopes to release the Somnus shirt, which should cost less than $100, by the summer of 2012. How much more will you get for your buck remains to be seen—the iPhone app, after all, is 99 cents. The company’s site says that the shirt will provide access to a suite of online tracking tools, though, which could make for some fun statistical analyses of your snoozes. Just don’t stay up all night poring over the stats.

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