- The power of sleep as a recovery and performance-enhancing tool is evolving into wearables, as Tom Brady and Under Armour introduce a new line of high-tech sleepwear.
Tom Brady says he can only work has hard—or perform as well—as his ability to recover. And he considers sleep the best way to recover, exactly why he strives for eight to 10 hours of uninterrupted zzz’s every night.
“We push our bodies so hard and our bodies need time to rejuvenate,” says Brady. “It is something I have been doing for a long time and is really important.”
With such an importance placed on sleep and recovery, it follows that the NFL star’s next signature product from Under Armour, which debuts on Jan. 5 at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, comes in the form of tech-infused sleepwear.
The TB12 Sleepwear line includes full-length shirts and pants—and a short-sleeve and shorts version—with bioceramics printed on the inside. The line, available in both men's and women's sizes, costs between $80 to $100. The print, sourced from natural minerals, activates the body’s natural heat and reflects it back as far infrared energy, a common tool used to reduce inflammation and help the body recover faster. Under Armour says that this bioceramic print improves blood circulation, helping athletes recover while sleeping.
The bioceramic focus started for Under Armour in 2014 after Brady tweaked his calf prior to the season. Using the mineral technology in a gel form, he loved the results so much he challenged Under Armour to find a way to get the technology into clothes. It took Under Armour well over a year to refine the raw, scratchy mineral into a printed wearable form for full coverage. Under Armour worked with Brady and his team for 18 months to balance comfort and performance with the right amount of bioceramic coverage.
“I really care about the function and coverage is very important. I want to be covered from ankles to wrists to neck,” he says. “The sleepwear I wear is so critical to how I recover every night.” And not just the night, as Brady wears his gear for “large portions of the day” as well.
Dr. Alan Schwartz, who runs the sleep disorders center at Johns Hopkins Medicine’s Bayview Medical Center, has placed both an academic and clinical focus on studying sleep since the mid-1980s.
“People spend up to a third of their lives sleeping and it is a sort of natural, biologically driven behavior that we don’t usually take stock of,” says Schwartz. “We are quick to measure blood pressure, pulse and lab tests, but really there is relatively little focus and attention paid to describing sleep patterns and determining if your sleep patterns are adequate to perform activities.”
While Schwartz says he remains neither a proponent nor opponent of sleep-tracking devices, he does say that getting a snapshot of a person’s rest and activity cycles can help to understand personal sleep needs. Scientific research suggests that quality sleep leads to better athletic performance, and to get that quality sleep, Schwartz says exercise, “clean living” (mainly centered around nutrition) and a predictable sleep pattern prove most critical.
“Sleep is certainly an area where there is much more science than there used to be,” says Kevin Haley, Under Armour’s president of innovation. To coincide with the TB12 line, Under Armour has upped its measuring of sleep in its updated Under Armour Record tracking device to analyze sleep performance and provide a sleep score and tools for smart sleep, such as setting sleep schedules and providing for coaching features connected with sleep.
With science backing the importance of the right quantity and quality of sleep—both from a competitive standpoint and from a lifestyle view—Haley says sleep warrants the attention. Quality sleep can increase muscle-building hormones, increase hormones telling you to eat less and improve reaction time.
“All this science is coming to bear in the time out there we scour the globe to make athletes better,” Haley says.
Just as Under Armour’s bioceramic-printed sleepwear uses far infrared energy to promote recovery, the use of far infrared energy for health is also popping up elsewhere, in the form of saunas, heating pads and more. Dr. Michael Hamblin of Harvard Medical School and The Wellman Center for Photomedicine says that as far infrared starts to become more widely accepted and used, more fabrics will be “used as garments and wraps to generate far infrared radiation and attain health benefits from its effects.”
Brady says that for him, bioceramics provides that benefit.
“I definitely feel the difference,” he says. “I have noticed it. I have been fortunate to not have it and now to have it and be able to compare. I know the different injuries you sustain, the bumps and bruises and how well they recover now and how well they recovered four years ago. I’m doing it because I believe in it. I think if it is helpful and functional and makes sense, that is definitely what (product) is about.”