SLEEP FACILITATING SYSTEM
FIELD OF THE INVENTION
This invention relates to a device which facilitates better sleep and rest, particularly suitable for those who are seated when they wish to sleep or rest. BACKGROUND TO THE INVENTION
Long-distance travel, particularly be airplane, train, bus or car is a feature of modem day life. It is becoming ever more common as both world population grows and the financial resources to pay for such travel become available to an ever increasing proportion of the world’s population. Save for a small proportion of first and business class passengers for whom lay flat sleeping positions are possible, such travel for everyone else is usually undertaken in a sitting position. For that reason it is generally not possible for a passenger to sleep in a more or less horizontal position, in which the weight of the head is supported on an adjacent predominantly horizontal surface such as a mattress or pillow. Instead the head has to be supported by the neck during rest or sleep, with the back of the head supported on the headrest of the seat the passenger is sitting on.
In such a seated position, the spine and the muscles in the neck have to support the head and prevent or at least restrict it from moving forwards and/or sideways during rest or sleep. However during sleep (and especially although not-exclusively deep rapid eye movement (REM) sleep) elevated levels of two neurotransmitters gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) and glycine induce temporary paralysis of the voluntary muscles known as atonia (literally the absence of tone), during which all tension, strength and ability to move the muscles (apart from those that control eye movement) is lost. This invariably causes the head to tilt to one side, thus leading to discomfort, fitful frequently interrupted sleep and neck and shoulder joint and muscle pain.
Even when a passenger only rests and does not actually fall asleep the strain on the neck and shoulder muscles caused by the effort of keeping the head more or less vertical for long periods, often after a prolonged period of being awake, frequently causes tiredness and/or pain in or around the muscles in the neck and shoulders as well as stiffness in the neck. The pain can be particularly acute for those with an underlying medical condition such as osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis.
These problems have long been recognised and numerous solutions proposed as illustrated by the type of product illustrated in Figs 1 - 3. Typically such products comprise a U shaped semi-resilient cushion member which is between 5 to 20 cm thick which fits around the neck of the user with the open part of the "U" typically being located during use at the front of the wearer’s head more or less under the chin, as shown in Fig 3. Such devices improve the quality of rest and sleep by supporting the head and reducing its freedom of movement.
However such devices have an obvious disadvantage in that during sleep the user’s head may tilt forwards during rest or sleep thus causing the interrupted sleep and neck pain the devices are bought to assist with. Some manufacturers have sought to get around that problem by making the support cushion capable of being wrapped around itself in the manner of a scarf as illustrated in Figs 4 and 5. The Bcozzy Chin Supporting Travel Pillow is one such device. However in use such devices provide only limited relief from broken fitful sleep and neck pain because they don’t sufficiently prevent the user’s head moving either forwards or from side to side. Also when the wearers head and neck move forwards so does the semi-resilient cushion.
Other solutions include the Skyrest (https://www.skyrest.com/) inflatable pillow, which the passenger inflates at the seat and then leans forward on, as shown in Fig 6. These however are bulky and a potential safety hazard for that reason. The use of such a device by an aisle passenger, for example, would also make it awkward for a window or middle seat passenger to go to the loos. Other versions of the forward facing sleeping device include Cloud Nine and Woolip.
Jetcomfey is a head rest which is not front facing but instead attaches to the seat arm in place of the tray table, as depicted in Fig 7. However the armrest attachment creates its own problems: if the user is in a middle seat the armrest attachment may impinge on the armrest space of the other passengers. It also pre-determines which side the user will have to rest their head on for potentially many hours.
A solution proposed by airline pilot Donald Robert Linrothe (US D776,748 S) uses a circular tubular member which fits snuggly around the head but has an additional narrow integral elastic strap which fits around the back of a headrest connected to the seat on which the user is seated.
There are however two potential disadvantages of the Linrothe design. Firstly the user either has to fit the device over the back of the seat whilst it is on their head and they are facing forwards or else manoeuvre themselves into the device when it is already fitted to the headrest of the seat. Such manoeuvres can be difficult or impossible, especially for those with limited mobility. Secondly when used by airline passengers there is a concern about how such head restraints perform during mild, moderate, severe or extreme turbulence if the user inadvertently wraps the straps not around the headrest of the seat but around a fixed part of the seat itself. During turbulence an airplane can experience sudden downward forces which have the effect of moving the airplane rapidly down with the result that the passengers move upwards relative to their seats. If a passenger’s head and neck are in effect fixedly attached to his or her seat by the use of a device made according to the Linrothe design, which has been incorrectly fitted to the headrest or seat then the weight of their upwardly moving body colliding with their downwardly moving head could lead to compression injuries in the neck, in particular as their head’s ability to move upwards with the rest of the body is constrained. This is a particular risk for shorter haul flights for which many carriers do not use headrests at all with the result that the strap has to be fitted around the back of the seat with the various obstacles to rapid disengagement, associated therewith.
A still further alternative is the face cradle. The face cradle is basically a free floating neck pillow that attaches to the back of the wearer’s seat via two straps that go around the back of the airline seat with the user supported on the front of their head by a pillow and on the front of their chest by an associated hinged member as shown in Fig 8. The face cradle however requires the user to lean forwards to a position where their back is not supported by the back of the seat they are sitting in or alternatively to retain their neck cricked forward of their body and thus can be uncomfortable in use and lead to neck, shoulder and back pain and interrupted broken sleep. Such devices can cause particular problems for those who have chronic lower back pain.
Thus there is a need for a head support system that provides support to the wearer whilst their back is supported by the seat they are sitting in, does not require them to lean forwards away from their seat, does not require their necks to be in an unnatural position which will lead to muscle or joint pain in the shoulders or neck and is safe to use even in turbulence when the wearer has no seat belt on and can be folded away into a very small space and is not bulky in use. The invention hereinafter described satisfies all these criteria.
SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION
Disclosed is a head support system comprising a first loop of material (not in the form of a narrow strap less than 5 cm wide) that attaches either around an airplane seat and/or a headrest affixed to such an airplane seat so as to firmly attach it thereto. Connected to or in some embodiments integral with the said first loop of material is a second loop of material designed to accommodate the head of the user and to closely and securely fit around the user’s head. When in use the system prevents the user’s head from moving forwards and greatly restricts the extent to which the user’s head can tilt. This greatly increases the chances of restful sleep and greatly reduces the chances of neck and shoulder joint and muscle pain.
In a preferred embodiment the second loop of fabric is detachably connected to the first loop, thus permitting the user’s head and second loop to move independently of the first loop either when the user wishes to get up from their seat or alternatively if the user is struck by sudden turbulence, thus preventing injury to the neck.
In a further embodiment of the invention the second loop comprises a front section designed to cover the eyes of the user and block out most or all light from entering the user’s eyes. Such second loop may further or alternatively comprise side portions designed to fit over the ears of the user and thus reduce the amount of noise entering the ears.
In a further embodiment of the invention there is one or more further loops of material which fit around either the top portion of the user’s head and/or under their chin or both over the top portion of the user’s head and under the chin.
In a further embodiment of the invention, the first rear loop is connected to the second front loop only at the outside surfaces of each loop.
In a further embodiment of the present invention, the first and second loops of the head support system are provided by a common loop.
BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE FIGURE
Figs 1 - 8 are pictorial views of the prior art.
Figs 9 and 10 both show a front view of part of a device made according to the invention.
Fig 11 shows a side view of a device made according to the invention.
Figs 12 & 13 shows one embodiment of a device made according to the invention in which the front loop is fastenable onto itself.
Figs 14, 15 & 16 show cross sectional view of a device made according to the present invention and shows how such a device may attach to the user and to a seat.
Figs 17 & 18 show a front view of a front material loop and rear material loop, suitable for use in connection with the invention herein disclosed, showing a fastening for connecting the two loops.
Fig 19 shows a loop suitable for use in the invention herein disclosed which includes a suitable interlining.
Figs 20, 21, 22 and 23 show front views of embodiments of the invention herein described.
Figs 24 & 25 show front views of a further alternative embodiment of the invention herein described.
Fig 26 shows a front side view of an alternative embodiment of the invention herein described.
Fig 27 shows a still further embodiment of the invention herein described.
DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION
Figs 9, 10 & 1 1 show a head support system 101 made according to the present invention, comprising two loops of material: a rear loop 102 and a front loop 103. The front loop may be fitted with a label 108 (which may be detachable) which bares instructions such as "DO NOT DISTURB", "PLEASE WAKE ME UP TO DINE". Neither loop is in the form of a narrow strap of less than 5 cm width.
Fig 1 1 shows a head support system 101 made according to the present invention which includes a fastening 107, which may be a Velcro type, snap fastening or conventional buttons or other suitable fastening, which connects the front loop 103 to the rear loop 102 during use.
Figs 12 and 13 show a front view of a head support system 101 made according to the present invention, comprising two loops of material: a rear loop 102 (not shown in Fig 13) and a front loop 103. The rear loop 102 fits around the seat 104. In the embodiment shown in Figs 12 &
13 the front loop 103 is not a permanent continuous loop but comprises one strip of fabric which has fastening 103b and 103c, which may be of Velcro type, snap fastenings (such as
press studs) or conventional buttons or other suitable fastenings, which are fastened during use so as to produce a continuous loop of fabric during use. This arrangement of the invention has the additional advantage of being continuously adjustable, thus permitting a single sized device to be suitable for use by multiple users with different head and neck sizes.
Fig 14 shows a cross-sectional view of a head support system 101 made according to the present invention. It comprises two loops of material, a rear loop 102 and a front loop 103. Neither loop is in the form of a narrow strap of less than 5 cm width. Rear loop 102 goes around the seat or headrest 104. Front loop 103 goes around the user’s head and can be in the form of a tubular member of ideally a width at least 5cm but preferably 7 - 10 cm.
Section 105 of front loop 103 can be made of thicker, padded more comfortable material which supports the head when it is leaning forwards and also is comfortable over the eyes of the wearer and keeps the light out thus facilitating sleep. In a preferred embodiment the front section 105 can be made of a resilient stiff material and moulded/contoured to improve comfort. Such a moulded/contoured section can include a section that is not in close contact with the user’s eyes thus facilitating comfort. Such a moulded section can be made of well- known plastics materials or polystyrene.
In one embodiment of the invention, shown in Fig 14, an additional loop of material 106 goes around the upper head portion of the wearer and helps support their head. Alternatively as the man skilled in the art will readily appreciate, the additional loop could be so located so as to fit under the user’s chin.
In a still further embodiment of the invention, not shown, there are two additional loops one which is located so as to go around the upper head portion of the wearer and one which goes under the chin of the user.
The material loops 102 and 103 (and optionally other loops as herein described) can each comprise one continuous piece of material, as shown in Figs 14 and 15, which could be formed as one continuous loop for example by knitting or crocheting or could be a strip of fabric the ends of which could be permanently fixed together by stitching, stapling, or by the use of a suitable adhesive. Alternatively, as shown in Fig 16, rear loop 102 and/or front loop 103 could each comprise an elongate strip of material with openings, respectively 102a and 103a, which can be formed into continuous loops by the use of Velcro type touch, snap fastenings or buttons, 102b and 102c, 103 b and 103c. Similar openings can also be used for
material loop to fit under the chin or for the material loop to fit over upper head section as illustrated in Fig 16 (106a being the opening and 106b and 106c being the fastenings).
The various loops can all be made as a one piece item by weaving, knitting, crocheting, moulding, by the use of dies or by 3D printing. Alternatively the various loops can be made separately and connected together permanently, for example by stitching, stapling or by the use of an appropriate adhesive or by heat melting of the material at the junction between the two or more loops.
However, importantly in a preferred embodiment of the present invention, shown in Figs 14,
15 & 16, the rear loop 102 (which goes around seat or headrest 104) is detachably connected to the front loop 103. Such detachable connection can be achieved by the use of a Velcro type touch fastener or one or more snap fasteners (press studs, poppers, snap or tich fasteners) or by loose fitting buttons well known to those skilled in the art. Those skilled in the art will readily appreciate that the type and surface area of the Velcro type touch fastener can be chosen so as to provide a degree of connectedness between the two loops such that it will hold the user’s head in place during ordinary use but would detach rapidly if the airplane the user is in drops suddenly due to turbulence with the result that the passenger moves upwards suddenly. Further the use of such a detachable connection between the front and rear loops greatly reduces the chances of serious injury when a device made according to the invention is used by a passenger in a road vehicle, which is involved in a collision. The use of a device of the type invented by Donald Robert Linrothe, as referred to above, would be particularly dangerous for a passenger in a road vehicle involved in a collision, especially if such passenger was not wearing a seat belt at the moment of the collision. The type and number of snap fasteners used can also be similarly varied to provide a similarly appropriate degree of connectedness.
Fig 17 shows a front material loop 103 and Fig 18 shows a rear material loop 102 suitable in both cases for use in a preferred embodiment of the invention. Both loops have a Velcro type fastener for connection of the two loops during use. It will be noted that the area of connection 107 on rear loop 102 is wider than the corresponding area 107 in the front loop 103: this is to enable the user to turn their head to the left or right and still enjoy good connectivity of loop 103 to loop 102.
There may be only one Velcro type or snap fastening 107 between the two material loops, as shown in Figs 14 & 16, comprising two Velcro type or snap elements 107a and 107b.
Alternatively there may be at least two Velcro type or snap fastener attachment areas 107 between the two material loops 102 and 103 as shown in Fig 15, effected by at least two Velcro type or snap fastenings 102a and 103a and 102b and 103b.
We have found that the Velcro fastening should be arranged so that the "hooks" are on material loop 103 rather than material loop 102 as this reduces the extent to which the user's hair gets caught in the loops. Preferred types of Velcro are types that allow for differential ease of release in response to an up/down force relative to a side to side force: this type of Velcro allows for ease of release when standing up or during sudden up and down turbulence. Such types of Velcro are well-known to those skilled in the art. Such differential attachment is achieved by using specially shaped hooks and specially located loops.
The material from which the loops are made can be almost any type of fabric material although fabric materials which are breahable to at least some extent are preferred, such as cotton, nylon, polyester, wool, crimplene or lyrca or mixes thereof. The materials can be woven, knitted, crocheted or felts. Materials containing or made from plastics are also suitable for use with the invention. The loops can also be made at least in part from rubber or rubber like materials. Anti-bacterial fabrics are particularly preferred for use with the invention, such as those that contain small amounts of silver. Cooling fabrics are also desirable for use in the invention as are fabrics that wick sweat away from the user.
The material can contain at least some elastic yams (such as 2 to 5% lycra) and the use of at least some elastic yams is preferred so as to assist the two or more material loops 102, 103 and 106 being firmly affixed during use to respectively the seat and/or headrest in the case of loop 102 and the wearer’s head in the case of loops 103 and 106. However the use of elastic yams is not an essential element of the invention as either the dimensions of all loops can be chosen to be a tight fit or alternatively the use of adjustable fastenable openings 102a, 103a and 106a, as shown on Fig 16, can allow the loops to be manually adjusted to give a sufficiently tight fit.
If fabrics are used to make the loops then a suitable interlining can be inserted into such loops as shown in Fig 19. The loop 103 contains an interlining 109 which can be stitched, glued with a suitable adhesive or otherwise affixed to the piece of fabric from which the loop 103 is made. The fabric is then folded over along the interlining fold line 110 and the edges of the fabric are stitched or otherwise fastened together. The two ends 111 and 112 are also joined together to make the loop 103. This embodiment allows for an elastic interlining to be used to
provide sufficient restraining force to properly retain the user’s head in a desired position during use.
Each of the loops can be of various shapes but a substantially tubular arrangement is preferred.
Figs 20 and 21 show a further embodiment of the invention herein described in which the rear loop 102 fits around the seat head rest 114 and front loop 103 fits around the head 113 of the user. The two ends 103b and 103c of the loop 103 are joined together in use by a suitable fastening such as one that uses a Velcro type fastener.
Figs 22 and 23 show a still further embodiment of the invention herein described in which the rear loop 102 fits around the seat head rest 114 and front loop 103 fits around the head 113 of the user. A Velcro type strip fastener 107 holds the front loop 103 in place during use. The front loop 103 has a moulded front section for user comfort and to facilitate rapid eye movement during sleep.
Figs 24 and 25 show an alternative embodiment of the invention herein described in which only one material loop 1 15 is used, which fits around both the seat-rest 1 14 and the head of the user 1 13. Ends 115a and 1 15b are joined together in use by a suitable fastening such as one that uses Velcro.
Fig 26 shows a still further embodiment of the invention herein disclosed in which the rear loop is a close fitting cover 102 which fits over the headrest 114 and has a Velcro or other suitable fastening 107 for connection with the front loop. The close fitting cover can have a zip or further Velcro fastening to ensure close fitting over the rear seat or headrest.
Fig 27 shows a still further embodiment of the invention herein disclosed. Some train companies use a centrally located headrest or cushion 1 17 securely affixed to the back of the seat 104 by means of a strap 1 16. To work with such a headrest or cushion, the rear loop 102 can be securely fitted around the said headrest or cushion 117 as shown in Fig 27. The rear loop has a Velcro type or other similar type fastener 107 or press studs or buttons for connecting to the front loop 103.
It is to be understood that while certain forms of the invention herein claimed are illustrated in the Figures and described herein, the disclosed invention is not to be limited to the specific form or arrangement herein described and shown. It will be apparent to those skilled in the art that various changes may be made without departing from the scope of the invention and the
invention is not to be considered limited to what is shown and described in the specification and any drawings/figures included herein.