Title:
SOUND-INSULATING SLEEP PILLOW
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
Sleep pillows are described that wrap around the user's head and are retained by a strap, providing sound insulation, thereby allowing the user to enjoy better sleep in the presence of sleep-disruptive noises.



Inventors:
Minton, Kenley B. (Solana Beach, CA, US)
Application Number:
11/682862
Publication Date:
09/11/2008
Filing Date:
03/06/2007
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
5/636
International Classes:
A47G9/00
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
GROSZ, ALEXANDER
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
WESLEY B. AMES (ESCONDIDO, CA, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. A sleep pillow, comprising a central, back section, a left section, and a right section, each section comprising a compliant foam filler and a fabric cover, wherein said left section and said right section are joined with said central back section, and wherein said pillow wraps around a user's head and holds itself in position.

2. The pillow of claim 1, further comprising a closure that holds said left section and right section over the ears of a user and holds said pillow in position.

3. The pillow of claim 2, wherein said closure comprises a strap that passes over the face of a user, thereby holding said pillow in a U-shaped configuration.

4. The pillow of claim 3, wherein said strap further comprises hook and loop fasteners.

5. The pillow of claim 4, further comprising a release tab, wherein said pulling on said release tab releases said hook and loop fasteners.

6. The pillow of claim 1, wherein said left section and said right section as hingedly attached on opposing sides of said central section.

7. The pillow of claim 2, wherein said pillow will lay flat on a bed surface, thereby allowing use of said pillow as a conventional pillow.

8. The pillow of claim 1, further comprising an eye cover.

9. The pillow of claim 8, wherein said eye cover is attached to a strap that holds said left section and said right sections over the ears of a user.

10. The pillow of claim 1, further comprising ear coverings in each of said left section and said right section.

11. The pillow of claim 10, wherein said ear coverings comprise depressions, thereby reducing pressure on a user's ears.

12. The pillow of claim 10, wherein said ear coverings comprise ear muffs.

13. The pillow of claim 10, wherein said ear coverings comprise earphones.

14. The pillow of claim 13, wherein said earphones are functionally connected with noise canceling circuitry.

15. The pillow of claim 13, wherein said earphones are functionally connected with timed alarm circuitry.

16. The pillow of claim 3, wherein said strap passes through recessed strap passageways in said left section and said right section.

17. The pillow of claim 1, further comprising a removable and replaceable interior liner.

18. A method for reducing noise disturbances during sleep for a user, comprising fastening a pillow of claim 1 around a user's head in preparation for and during sleep.

19. The method of claim 18, further comprising covering said user's eyes with an eye mask attached to said pillow.

20. A method for making an acoustical pillow, comprising inserting three foam sections in separate pockets in a fabric covering forming three pillow sections, wherein said separate pockets are proximal to each other and said fabric covering provides hinge connections between said pillow sections/

Description:

RELATED APPLICATIONS

NOT APPLICABLE.

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

The present invention relates to pillows for sleeping.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

The following discussion is provided solely to assist the understanding of the reader, and does not constitute an admission that any of the information discussed or references cited constitute prior art to the present invention.

Historically, a conventional pillow supports and cushions a sleeper's head thereby providing comfort but provides little or no noise or light abatement. The poor sound deadening properties are due to a combination of selection of materials that are not efficient sound deadeners, and configuration that does not lend itself to efficiently covering the user's ears.

Typically, when it is desirable to reduce noise levels, ear plugs are used. However, for many individuals, earplugs are annoying to use and also readily become soiled and/or lost. Likewise, some individuals use eye masks to reduce light exposure.

Redewill, U.S. Pat. No. 5,313,678, entitled Acoustical Pillow, concerns a pillow that uses a spring inside of a U-shaped core to bias the end of the core against a user's ears, which is said to attenuate environmental sound.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

The present invention concerns a sleep pillow that is designed to improve sleep by reducing noise experienced by the user. The reduction in noise is accomplished using a cushion, e.g., a foam cushion, that wraps around the back and sides of a user's head, covering the ears. Additionally, the wrap-around pillows provide thermal insulation during cold conditions. In some advantageous embodiments, the pillow also includes an eye covering to block light, assisting a person to obtain restful sleep even when there is significant ambient light. Due to the preferred configuration of the cushion in a three section design, the pillow allows for both closed (wrapped around a person's head) and open (the unit lying flat) use.

For napping or sleeping, this invention also preferably includes built-in earmuffs in order to further reduce noise exposure. In a three section design, the two side pillows can each incorporate standard or electronic earmuffs. The standard earmuffs attenuate external noise, while the choice of electronic earmuffs are for those that prefer to rest with music or pre-taped ocean or similar relaxing sounds.

Thus, in a first aspect the invention provides a sleep pillow that includes a central, back section, a left section, and a right section. Each of those sections includes a compliant foam filler and a fabric cover, where the left section and the right section are joined with the central back section, and where the pillow wraps around a user's head and holds itself in position.

In particular embodiments, the pillow also includes a closure that holds the left section and right sections over the ears of a user and holds the pillow in position; the closure includes a strap that passes over the face of a user (usually over the user's forehead), thereby holding the pillow in a U-shaped configuration; the strap also includes hook and loop fasteners (e.g., VELCRO®); the strap also includes a release tab, where pulling on the release tab releases the strap, e.g., releases the hook and loop fasteners.

In certain embodiments, the left section and right section are hingedly attached on opposing sides of the central or rear section; the pillow will also lay flat on a bed surface, thereby allowing use of the pillow as a conventional pillow; the pillow also includes an eye cover (e.g., an eye mask); the eye cover is attached to the strap that holds the left section and the right section over the ears of a user.

Also in particular embodiments, the pillow also includes ear coverings in each of the left section and the right section; the ear coverings include depressions, thereby reducing pressure on a user's ears; the ear coverings are or include ear muffs; the ear coverings include earphones; the earphones are functionally connected with noise canceling circuitry; the earphones are functionally connected with timed alarm circuitry; the earphones are functionally connected with audio input, e.g., white noise, pink noise, music, radio, mp3 or other digital audio format, or the like.

In certain embodiments, the strap passes through recessed strap passageways or channels in the left section and right pillow sections; the pillow also include a removable and replaceable interior liner, e.g., attached with hook and loop fasteners.

In a related aspect, the invention provides a method for reducing noise disturbances during sleep for a user by fastening a pillow of the preceding aspect around a user's head in preparation for and during sleep.

In certain embodiments the method also includes covering the user's eyes with an attached eye mask; the person is in a lighted environment; the person in on an airplane; the person is in a hotel; the pillow is used during daytime hours.

Likewise, in another related aspect, the invention provides a method for making an acoustical pillow of the first aspect above, wherein the method includes inserting three foam sections in separate pockets in a fabric covering forming three pillow sections, where the separate pockets are proximal to each other and the fabric covering provides hinge connections between the pillow sections.

In particular embodiments, the method also involves adding further features described for embodiments of the first aspect above, such as installing an adjustment strap, installing ear coverings (which may involve cutting recesses in a respective foam sections), installing an eye mask in the adjustment strap, installing a liner and/or fasteners for a liner on the inner surface of the pillow, e.g., on the inner surface of the pillow covering, as well as other such steps.

Additional embodiments will be apparent from the Detailed Description and from the claims.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 is a front view of the invention open with no liner shown. The three separate pillows are connected with a sleeve of a fabric material allowing for both open and closed use of the invention. An opening in each side pillow allows for a person's ear to fit into built-in earmuffs. Velcro strips are used to attach the washable liner.

FIG. 2 depicts the invention open at top view. The adjustment strap is shown with it's attachment to the rear pillow, then extending forward through a fabric material loop. In this figure the liner is shown.

FIG. 3 shows a side view. The side pillows are both shaped with an indentation so as to prevent the earmuff from contacting the sleeping surface, thus preventing excessive pressure against the person's ear caused by the person's head weight.

FIG. 4 depicts a person sleeping on his/her side with the pillows closed.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS

The present invention provides a pillow that assists individuals to have restful sleep even under conditions where environmental noise would otherwise be a problem. In addition, the present pillow can be fitted with an eye mask which further assists the user to achieve restful sleep under difficult conditions. Thus, the pillow is particularly advantageous for individuals who work during the night and therefore must sleep during the day and/or for travelers who must sleep in noisy and/or light-filled environments.

Thus, in general, the pillow includes a padding material that acts as an acoustic barrier and is configured such that the pillow wraps around the back and sides of a user's head, thereby covering the person's ears and the adjacent portions of the person's head. Typically, the pillow segments are held in place around the person's head with a strap that is fastened to or wraps around at least the side pillow sections and passes across the persons face (usually across the person's forehead). In this way, the pillow provides both conventional pillow support for a sleeper in a back or side sleeping position, and reduces perceived noise levels. As indicated above, advantageously the pillow can also include an eye mask, which is usually attached to the strap that holds the pillow sections in place around the person's head.

Segmented Pillow: Thus, in particular advantageous embodiments, the pillow has three connected pillow sections, which may be generally rectangular sections. These pillow segments are typically constructed of a foam filler (memory or conventional foam), which is usually covered in a fabric material. As indicated above, during use, the three segments wrap around the user's head such that the central pillow segment is at the back of the user's head and the two side pillow segments are at the sides of the user's head, covering the user's ears. In many cases, the pillow sections have substantially parallel inner and outer surfaces, such that each pillow section provides stable positioning in any of three sleep positions (i.e., with the person resting on their back or on either side).

Because it is desirable to protect the pillow padding from soiling, tearing, and other damage, preferably the pillow sections are covered. For example, each pillow section can be covered with a fabric or breathable film. That covering can also provide the connection between the sections. The covering can be constructed as a removable sleeve. Any of a large number of different fabrics and films may be used, including, for example, fabrics made of natural fibers such as cotton and wool, synthetic fibers such as polypropylene or polyesters, and mixtures of natural and synthetic fibers. As indicated, breathable film materials and materials that include breathable films may also be used, e.g., GORE-TEX® and similar materials.

The covering will also usually provide the physical connection between pillow segments. While the pillow sections can be connected such that the pillow is naturally in a U-shaped configuration, in most cases the connections between the pillow sections will also constitute a hinge. In this way, the pillow can be laid flat on a sleep surface and used as a conventional flat pillow, or can be wrapped around the person's head as described above. Where the covering provides such hinging, generally the individual pillow sections will fit into separate pockets or chambers in the covering.

Generally, the two side pillow sections are thicker than the rear or middle pillow segment. This difference in thickness allows the pillow to support the person's head in a comfortable positions (preferably with proper spinal alignment) when a person rests on his/her side. Similarly, the rear pillow is thinner in thickness for comfort requirements when a person is resting on his/her back. The cross-sectional area of the pillows may vary but in general are sized to accommodate typical head size. Thus, for example, the rear section typically will have a width that is approximately the same as the average width of peoples' heads.

In advantageous embodiments, the side sections of the pillow are relieved such that the pressure against the person's ears due to the weight of the person's head is reduced. This can be accomplished in various ways, e.g., by indenting the inner surface over the ear area and/or by indenting the outer surface such that the thickness of the pillow section over the ear area is reduced. For example, the outer surface can be indented by providing a U-channel for the strap to pass through, e.g., a channel about 1-5 cm or even more in depth. The depth of the channel can be varied depending on the thickness of the pillow section and the degree of thickness reduction desired.

Liner: In addition to the covering, the pillow can also advantageously include a liner, preferably a removable liner. Such a liner can be designed such that it is readily removable and replaceable, e.g., using hook and loop fasteners such as VELCRO® fasteners. Thus, the liner can be removed and replaced with a new liner, or can be cleaned and then placed back on the pillow. The liner material is preferably selected to be comfortable for contact with a person's skin, and/or readily cleanable, such as by washing (preferably by machine washing).

Strap: As described above, the pillow is typically held around a person's head using a strap or straps. Usually the strap is made of conventional synthetic fiber webbing. In most cases, the strap(s) is connected with the covering such that the strap passes around the front of the user's head, e.g., across the person's forehead. The strap is adjustable, e.g., using hook and loop fastener(s). In certain embodiments, the adjustment strap (e.g., one or two separate pieces) is attached at the rear or central pillow and extends forward on both sides and is secured with VELCRO® at a front location.

Ear Muffs: Both side pillows can advantageously incorporate built-in earmuffs (passive or electronic). Such ear muffs assist in sealing against or around the person's ears. The pillow section (e.g., the foam itself) is shaped or molded to accommodate the installation of earmuffs. Typically, the design incorporates an opening in the liner (if present) and pillow covering material for each ear to rest within the respective earmuff. When electronic earmuffs (i.e., headphones) are used, the earmuffs can be driven by electronics in or attached to the pillow, or may be separate (e.g., with wired or wireless connections) The electronics may be noise-canceling and/or can provide audio such as white noise, pink noise, or selected audio such as music. Where audio is provided, the audio may be timed (e.g., turns off after a period of time) or can be continuous.

Exemplary Pillow: An exemplary pillow is shown in FIGS. 1-4. In FIG. 1, the acoustical pillow 10 is shown opened with the inner portion of the pillow exposed. The pillow includes a rear or center pillow section 12, a left pillow section 14, and a right pillow section 16. These sections are covered with a fabric covering, where the fabric covering provides hinge connections 18 and 20 between the pillow sections. Recessed in the left pillow section and the right pillow section respectively are ear muffs 22 and 24. To enable the pillow to be wrapped and held around a person's head, the pillow includes an adjustment strap 26 that extends around all three sections with the strap ends able to pass over a person's face. The strap is held in position at least in part by fabric loops 28 and 30. The closure and adjustment of the strap is provided with VELCRO fasteners. One half 32 of the VELCRO fastener is shown, while the other half in not visible in this view. A portion of the strap extends beyond the VELCRO fastener piece 32, providing a grab tab 36 for quick release of the strap. Also attached to the strap is an eye mask 38. When the strap is positioned over the person's face, generally over the person's forehead, the eye mask can be positioned to cover the person's eyes. The pillow also includes a liner (not shown in this view) that attaches to the pillow covering using VELCRO pieces 40, 41, 42, and 43. Of course, a different number of attachment pieces and/or positions and/or fasteners may be used.

Another view of pillow 10 is shown in FIG. 2, with the view from the top (with reference to the top of a user's head with the pillow in normal position). As shown, the pillow includes removable liner 44 that attaches as described above. The strap 26 passes through recessed channels 46 and 48 in the outer surfaces of the left and right sections 14 and 16 of the pillow, and is attached to the rear section 12.

The exemplary pillow 10 is shown from one end in FIG. 3. This view shows the recessed channel or indentation in the outer surface of right section 16, with the strap 26 passing through that channel.

The exemplary pillow 10 is shown in position on a person's head in FIG. 4. The person 50 is shown on their right side on sleeping surface 60. The right pillow section 16 supports the person's head such that the person's spine will be substantially straight. As shown, the strap 26 passes over the person's lower forehead and eyes, such that the eye mask 38 is positioned over the person's eyes.

All patents and other references cited in the specification are indicative of the level of skill of those skilled in the art to which the invention pertains, and are incorporated by reference in their entireties, including any tables and figures, to the same extent as if each reference had been incorporated by reference in its entirety individually.

One skilled in the art would readily appreciate that the present invention is well adapted to obtain the ends and advantages mentioned, as well as those inherent therein. The methods, variances, and compositions described herein as presently representative of preferred embodiments are exemplary and are not intended as limitations on the scope of the invention. Changes therein and other uses will occur to those skilled in the art, which are encompassed within the spirit of the invention, are defined by the scope of the claims.

It will be readily apparent to one skilled in the art that varying substitutions and modifications may be made to the invention disclosed herein without departing from the scope and spirit of the invention. For example, variations can be made the materials from which the present pillows are constructed and to the shapes and sizes of pillow segments. Thus, such additional embodiments are within the scope of the present invention and the following claims.

The invention illustratively described herein suitably may be practiced in the absence of any element or elements, limitation or limitations which is not specifically disclosed herein. Thus, for example, in each instance herein any of the terms “comprising”, “consisting essentially of” and “consisting of” may be replaced with either of the other two terms. The terms and expressions which have been employed are used as terms of description and not of limitation, and there is no intention that in the use of such terms and expressions of excluding any equivalents of the features shown and described or portions thereof, but it is recognized that various modifications are possible within the scope of the invention claimed. Thus, it should be understood that although the present invention has been specifically disclosed by preferred embodiments and optional features, modification and variation of the concepts herein disclosed may be resorted to by those skilled in the art, and that such modifications and variations are considered to be within the scope of this invention as defined by the appended claims.

In addition, where features or aspects of the invention are described in terms of Markush groups or other grouping of alternatives, those skilled in the art will recognize that the invention is also thereby described in terms of any individual member or subgroup of members of the Markush group or other group.

Also, unless indicated to the contrary, where various numerical values or value range endpoints are provided for embodiments, additional embodiments are described by taking any 2 different values as the endpoints of a range or by taking two different range endpoints from specified ranges as the endpoints of an additional range. Such ranges are also within the scope of the described invention. Further, specification of a numerical range including values greater than one includes specific description of each integer value within that range.

Thus, additional embodiments are within the scope of the invention and within the following claims.