Researchers from University of Massachusetts at Amherst have developed a new smart pajama, dubbed Phyjama, that can track physiological signals during sleep. Their work demonstrates that the technology can reliably measure heart rate, breathing rate, and sleep position during the course of the night. One day, advances like this can be incorporated into regular sleepwear, which can be an additional source of biomedical data and may help track and monitor various health conditions.
Currently, smart devices such as smart watches can be used to measure biomedical signals, such as heart rate or blood oxygenation. Yet, these devices are not commonly used by the elderly and wearing a smartwatch throughout the night is uncomfortable. To address this, the smart pajama, which is already a natural part of many people’s daily routine, can do the physiological monitoring.
Developing smart pajamas was no simple feat. Typically, body monitoring devices are tight-fitting in order to get a high quality signal. This approach wouldn’t work for pajamas, which have to be loose-fitting in order to be comfortable. The researchers used an array of triboelectric sensors all around the pajamas, so that when the person wearing the rests on the bed at night, part of the body always presses at least against some of the sensors. These arrays of sensors, which are activated by a change in physical contact, are able to measure subtle changes in pressure and correlate those with body parameters.
The device was tested in a controlled and natural settings, where the researchers found they could measure heart rate, breathing rate, and sleep posture with high accuracy.
“We expect that these advances can be particularly useful for monitoring elderly patients, many of whom suffer from sleep disorders,” said Trisha L. Andrew, on of Umass Amherst professors infolved in developing the Phyjamas. “Current generation wearables, like smartwatches, are not ideal for this population since elderly individuals often forget to consistently wear or are resistant to wearing additional devices, while sleepwear is already a normal part of their daily life. More than that, your watch can’t tell you which position you sleep in, and whether your sleep posture is affecting your sleep quality; our Phyjama can.”