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Monitor Your Sleep with the Somnus Shirt

By Lito Carasig - Monday, May 30, 2011

This one is close to my heart, literally.  As for more than 10 years now I’ve been suffering from on-and-off insomnia (or at least something very similar to it).  I normally manage to get to sleep at around 9:00 PM but then I wake up at about 2:00 AM which is 5 hours of tossing and turning in bed. You can just imagine my frustration every night for years and years now.

Enter Nyx Devices, a start-up company which has developed a night shirt embedded with fabric electronics to monitor the wearer’s breathing pattern.  The Somnus Shirt does not have any adhesive, cable or any special setup : all the user has to do is to put the shirt on when he is about to sleep and the electronic chip in the shirt’s pocket does all the job of processing data to determine light sleep, REM (dream) sleep or deep sleep.

People with sleep disorders are often asked to spend a night at a sleep clinic in order to be hooked up to a daunting configuration of cables and sensors so that specialists can monitor brain and muscle activity, eye movement, as well as heart and breathing rates.  This can be very uncomfortable, even more so if one is not accustomed to sleeping in strange beds or places. 

The Somnus Sleep shirt does away with all of that, thanks to a recent discovery by sleep specialists which showed that monitoring breathing patterns alone could sufficiently identify what stage of sleep a person is in. What’s more, the data is much simpler for the specialists to analyse.

Matt Bianchi, a sleep neurologist at Massachusetts General Hospital, and co-inventor of the Somnus Shirt, said that his group were motivated to design the apparel to allow repeated measurements of sleep patterns over time in the home.  Users should faithfully log any of their habits which may affect their sleep pattern, such as coffee or alcohol intake, food consumption, exercise, or stress, so that the experts can help them find a solution to their sleep disorder.

Though sleep analysis through respiration monitoring is still in its infancy and experimental, Bianchi and his group are conducting parallel tests using the Somnus Shirt in his clinic using industry standard assessment technology, called polysomnography, with his patients to determine if the results are comparable.

The team will soon begin home testing of the shirts to further determine how effective it is outside controlled laboratory conditions. If all goes to plan, the company hopes to make the shirts available commercially by late summer for less than $100.
Well, summer is just a few months away and since I’ve waited long enough for such a welcome development, I think I’ll sleep on it while waiting (if I can).

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