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NEWS
‘Smart’ Pajamas Developed
April 4, 2019

If you’ve ever dreamed about getting a good night’s sleep, your answer may someday lie in data generated by your sleepwear. Researchers have developed pajamas embedded with self-powered sensors that provide unobtrusive and continuous monitoring of heartbeat, breathing and sleep posture — all factors that play a role in how well a person slumbers. The “smart” garments could give ordinary people, as well as clinicians, useful information to help improve sleep patterns.


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

The researchers presented their results, “Sensing human behavior with smart garments,” recently at the American Chemical Society (ACS) Spring 2019 National Meeting & Exposition.

“Our smart pajamas overcame numerous technical challenges,” says Trisha L. Andrew, Ph.D., who led the team. “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 pajamas is a process called reactive vapor deposition. “This method allows us to synthesize a polymer and simultaneously deposit it directly on the fabric in the vapor phase to form various electronic components and, ultimately, integrated sensors,” Dr. Andrew says. “Unlike most electronic wearables, the vapor-deposited electronic polymer films are wash-and-wear stable, and they withstand mechanically demanding textile manufacturing routines.”

The “Phyjama,” as the University of Massachusetts, Amherst team calls it, has five discrete textile patches with sensors in them. The patches are interconnected using silver-plated nylon threads shielded in cotton. The wires from each patch end up at a button-sized printed circuit board placed at the same location as a pajama button. Data are wirelessly sent to a receiver using a small Bluetooth transmitter that is part of the circuitry in the button.

According to information, the garment includes two types of self-powered sensors that detect “ballistic movements,” or pressure changes. Four of the patches are piezoelectric. They detect constant pressures, such as that of a bed against a person’s body. These first-of-their-kind patches are used in different parts of the Phyjama so that the researchers can determine sleeping posture. However, this type of sensor cannot pick up the faint pressure from a beating heart. The triboelectric patch detects quick changes in pressure, such as the physical pumping of the heart, which provides information on heart rate. This is the first time such a sensor has been shown to detect tiny ballistic signals from the heart.

Dr. Andrew’s team has tested the garment on volunteers and validated the readings from the sensors independently. They also have applied for patents on the Phyjama. After Dr. Andrew partners with a manufacturer, she estimates the product could be on the market within two years for $100-$200.

The researchers acknowledge support and funding from the U.S. Air Force Office of Scientific Research and the David and Lucile Packard Foundation.


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