The prototype pillow features an inflatable chamber that connects with an external pump and motor. This allows it to expand and contract like human lungs.
Interactive tactile devices, such as Paro the cuddly seal robotThey have been linked to anxiety reduction and could provide near-immediate relief, without the need of medication. To understand the potential benefits of these devices, click here Alice Haynes, now at Saarland University in Saarbrücken, Germany, and her colleagues developed a pillow prototype that expands and deflates like human lungs.
The team asked 129 volunteers to fill out a questionnaire to measure their anxiety before and after being told that they would need to take a maths test.
Next, 45 of the volunteers hugged the prototype pillow across their chest and torso for just over 8 minutes, while 40 of the participants listened to a guided meditation and the remaining 44 volunteers sat and did nothing, acting as the experiment’s control group. The volunteers’ anxiety was then measured again.
Hugging the pillow was found to reduce pre-test anxiety by the same amount as the meditation, while the control group’s anxiety increased ahead of the test.
“I think ultimately, it’s just nice to give people with anxiety a choice of different ways to support themselves,” says Haynes. “A benefit of the cushion is that we haven’t had to give anyone guidance on using it – it seems to be very intuitive. It’s familiar and you don’t have to use an app or be on your phone or any of your devices.”
The pillow is 36cm long and contains an inflatable chamber which connects to an external pump/motor.
Most of the volunteers adapted their breathing to match the pillow’s expansion, according to Haynes. “Slow breathing practices in general activate the part of the nervous system which is associated with rest and digest,” she says.
Journal reference: PLOS ONE, DOI: doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0259838