Rethinking Healthcare

Smart shirt monitors your breathing while you sleep

Smart shirt monitors your breathing while you sleep

Posting in Technology

Lacking a quality slumber? A sensor-embedded nightshirt analyzes your breathing patterns while you snooze so you can track how various things affect how deeply you sleep.

To help track your sleep wellbeing, a nightshirt embedded with sensors monitors your breathing patterns, while a small chip in the pocket processes the data.

It determines your phase of sleep – REM 'dream' sleep, light sleep, or deep sleep. And these sleep diagnostics can help track how various things like alcohol or stress affect how well you sleep.

When people with sleep disorders spend the night in a sleep lab, they’re hooked up to complex arrays of sensors that monitor brain activity, muscle activity, eye movement, and heart and breathing rate. It’s called polysomnography.

Developed by Nyx Devices, the Somnus Sleep Shirt (pictured) focuses on evaluating sleep with respiration only – an analysis still considered experimental.

"It turns out that you can tell if someone is awake or asleep and which stage of sleep they are in purely based on breathing pattern," says co-inventor Matt Bianchi of Massachusetts General Hospital. "That's a much easier signal to analyze than electrical activity from the brain."

  • During REM sleep, 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, and the breath-to-breath differences are very small.
  • The lighter stages of non-REM sleep fall somewhere in between.

"The motivation behind the shirt is to allow repeated measurements over time in the home," Bianchi adds. Users can log other variables online, like coffee or alcohol intake, exercise, and stress, and look for patterns in how those things affect quality of sleep.

Bianchi's previous research has shown that insomniacs often underestimate how much sleep they actually get. So he wants to give them an objective way to measure sleep and see if that’ll help them reassess their condition. He adds: "There are zero objective tools available to physicians to assess insomnia."

He’s now testing the device on patients in his sleep clinic who are also assessed using the standard tech.

The company wants to have a commercial product available by summer of 2012 for under $100.

Via Technology Review.

Image: Nyx Devices

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Janet Fang

Contributing Editor

Janet Fang has written for Nature, Discover and the Point Reyes Light. She is currently a lab technician at Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory. She holds degrees from the University of California, Berkeley and Columbia University. She is based in New York. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure