Tired? The Best New Way to Improve Your Sleep Involves No Pills or Meditation

by Lara DeSanto Health Writer

The crying kid. The urge to pee. The hunger pangs. The tossing. The turning. Waking up at night is practically an epidemic: About 70 million Americans struggle with sleep disorders, from insomnia to restless leg syndrome, according to the Cleveland Clinic.

But there’s a new solution that doesn’t come from a pill bottle or a meditation app: According to researchers at the American Chemical Society, new “smart pajamas” could help you get the shut-eye you need.

Researchers at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst have developed high-tech PJs — dubbed the “Phyjama” — that monitor different factors that affect your sleep via sensors, including your breathing, heartbeat, and sleep posture. And the PJs look and feel comfortable, just like normal sleepwear. The info the PJs record could help you improve your sleep patterns, researchers say.

How do they work?

They’re PJs with a Ph.D., you might say, with five discrete patches embedded throughout the fabric. In these patches are sensors with special cotton-covered wires that send information to a tiny circuit board disguised as a pajama button. The button uses Bluetooth to send data to a receiver. (Yes, the future is now.)

These first-of-their-kind sensors track pressure changes to determine sleeping positions and can even monitor the actual pumping of the heart, and that data can help you and your doc identify the best ways to improve your sleep. And yet, the tech still allows the garments to be easily washable and comfortable (you won’t even feel the wires).

Why you really need your sleep

Beyond just feeling awake and not needing a coffee IV? Your sleep has big implications for your health, both mental and physical. For example, according to the National Institutes of Health, frequently not getting enough Zzzs can increase your risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, stroke, obesity, and more — not to mention it makes it hard for your immune system to do its job.

Before you can get your bod in those fancy PJs — the goal, say the researchers, is to partner with a manufacturer and launch within the next two years, for around $100-$200 — use these tips to help you improve your slumber:

  • Keep your bed a sacred space — just for sleep and sex. That means, ideally, no Netflix (at least shut it off an hour before you plan to go to bed).

  • Make your bedroom environment optimal for sleep — dark and cool, with comfortable bedding.

  • If you’ve been awake for more than half an hour, get out of your bed and do an activity — like reading — for the next half hour, then try snoozing again.

  • Naps seem great and all… but you should probably avoid them. They can actually make it harder for you to sleep at night. If you absolutely must succumb to a few daytime winks, keep ‘em under 20 minutes.

  • Exercise! It’s been shown to improve sleep. Just try not to do it within the few hours before you hit the hay.

  • Cut the liquid intake within the four-hour period before bedtime. You don’t want trips to the bathroom to interrupt your rest.

Lara DeSanto
Meet Our Writer
Lara DeSanto

Lara is a former digital editor for HealthCentral, covering Sexual Health, Digestive Health, Head and Neck Cancer, and Gynecologic Cancers. She continues to contribute to HealthCentral while she works towards her masters in marriage and family therapy and art therapy. In a past life, she worked as the patient education editor at the American College of OB-GYNs and as a news writer/editor at WTOP.com.