Sleep is one of the most essential elements for physical and mental well-being, yet millions of people can’t get the sleep they need to function well.
The ALL4REST project, partially funded by the European Union, set out to find a solution, successfully developing and testing new textile-based products meant to improve the quality of sleep. Not content to stop there, the team is now taking the next step, moving new products based on these technologies to market, including mattresses with built-in heating and cooling functions and scented, skin-friendly pyjamas and bedclothes.
“Medical reasons account for some cases of sleeplessness,” says Korinna Mollá, of Spain’s Textile Research Institute AITEX, the project coordinator, “but lifestyle factors also play a part, such as stress, eating habits, jetlag or shift work. And sleeplessness can become self-perpetuating.”
Signs that a person may not be getting enough quality sleep can include difficulty in waking up in the morning, poor performance at school, on the job or in sports, increased clumsiness, difficulty making decisions and moodiness.
“Getting good, restorative sleep is not just a matter of hitting the pillow at night and waking up in the morning,” Mollá says. “Regulated by the body clock, night-time rest consists of sleep cycles and specific sleep stages, all vital for health.” Getting the best sleep at all stages, she says, depends largely on physical and thermal conditions.
With this in mind, project partners developed new sleep-conductive materials, investigated the use of aromatherapy scents, temperature-sensitive materials and designed automatic monitoring and temperature-control systems.
There’s more to sleep than you might think
“We know that sleep problems can be related to an uncomfortable mattress or bedclothes,” Mollá says. “This can result in shortened sleep cycles, low back and shoulder pain, or stiffness.”
Combining eco-friendly materials and advanced processing technologies, the ALL4REST team developed new biofibre-based clothes for nightwear. Benefits include a softer, more comfortable feel, as well as being better for the skin in comparison to conventional materials.
Turning their attention to mattresses, the team developed a 'phase change material' system, which allows the new mattress to automatically adjust to temperature changes and release suitable sleep-enhancing scents. Together, says Mollá, the new ALL4REST products enhance users´ sleep quality, increasing the tactile and thermal comfort of all elements forming the rest system.
The project also looked at various innovative manufacturing processes to assess the commercial viability of the new technologies. And this crucial last step has now become the next step for project partners. A new initiative called ALL4RESTgo2MARKET has received EU funding towards launching new products based on the project’s results on the market.
“One of our partners,” says Mollá, “the Spanish company ECUS, is already including the ALL4REST mattress in their product catalogue. The ability to put our results into practice and actually market new products represents a great opportunity for us to capitalise on our research efforts while at the same time having a positive impact on the economy and helping everyone to get a better night’s sleep.”