Just When You Thought They Couldn't Re-Invent the Pillow, Along Comes NASA ...

Newfangled pillows may even be able to save a marriage — by waking you when you snore. tab62/Shutterstock

Surely, the last fortress against technology in our home is the good old-fashioned pillow.

It hasn't undergone any radical changes since that ancient Mesopotamian laid his weary head on it nearly 10,000 years ago.

Think about it: what bells and whistles does a pillow need when its sole purpose is to sheathe the overworked and over-addled head — to gently cradle it at the end of the day and soften the countless blows of life?

Much like the modest toilet, it has long served as a simple, private retreat — a tool to help us meditate, and perchance to dream.

An old yellow pillow
Many of us are still hunkering down on old faithful — that comforting, yellowing slab that's been with us since we were kids. LuFeeTheBear/Shutterstock

But the toilet has since betrayed us, embracing heated coils, no-touch posterior dryers and even lights that twinkle when we... tinkle.

And now it seems, the pillow is also following those bright lights — and embracing gadgetry.

Simba, a traditional mattress firm, just unveiled a pillow so crammed with NASA technology, you might wonder if the missing Mars Opportunity rover has also found its way in there.

The tech behind the Simba Hybrid pillow is admittedly more subtle than that. The material covering it, called Outlast, is inspired by the stuff used to protect astronauts from temperature variations.

Come to think of it, if we are going to reinvent the pillow, we might as well talk about face sweats and the never-ending quest for the cool side of the pillow. Having to flip it over throughout the night — so you don't simmer in your own sweat and sleep-slobber — has long been the bane of a good night's sleep.

Simba pillow and other sleep accessories
Simba is just one company that's looking to reinvent the pillow with modern technology. Pat Cornell/Flickr

But Simba's solution goes beyond that skin-deep layer of proprietary Outlast. The pillow does away with the monolithic hunk of foam inside — stuffing it instead with laser-cut foam shreds. The idea is that these shreds keep the air circulating inside the pillow, as you tweak your position in the night.

No pillow-flipping required because the surface never gets warm.

It's actually a surprisingly subtle technological tweak — and it's hard not to imagine even early Mesopotamians appreciating having an always-cool side of the pillow.

So maybe it's not so much the new product itself, but what it represents — an opening for other pillow makers to ratchet up the tech.

Take the Advansa 1 X21 (which is not, in fact, a jet fighter), for instance. It's laden with sensors that gauge body movement, analyze sleep patterns and even measure ambient noise in the bedroom. Of course, it's married to our smartphones. Just like us.

And then there's the ZEEQ, a pillow rigged with no less than eight speakers, a microphone and a gyroscope. There's a battery in there somewhere, too. While the cyber-cushion's claim to fame is lulling people to sleep with music, it's real charm is that it nudges you awake when you start to snore. (NASA has nothing on irritated spouse-inspired technology.)

It's all in the name of getting a good night's sleep — an increasingly precious thing in a world that never turns the light off.

Then again, it could really be about selling us more pillows.

Woman with pillow over her head.
Do we really need a connected pillow to help us disconnect?. Nelli Syrotynska/Shutterstock

But maybe we shouldn't be throwing out that old slobber-stained model just yet. It does still have one very useful feature. That heavy yellow foam core is highly effective at drowning out noise, even of the marketing kind.

Just wrap it around your head, summon your inner Mesopotamian and dream on.

Inset photo of Simba pillow: Pat Cornell/Flickr