We tried it: Do Tom Brady's recovery pajamas live up to their name?


Recovery is all the rage right now. From cryotherapy to far infrared saunas to sleep gadgets to meditation apps, everyone wants to find the best ways to help the body recuperate, heal and rebound. Not surprisingly, I do too. So when Under Armour teamed up with Tom Brady and his TB12 fitness and wellness organization to create athlete recovery sleepwear, I was intrigued. Could something like that help me recover better from a tough workout?

The details

According to Under Armour, the technology works like this: Because the body is a source of energy, similar to a lightbulb, it gives off heat. The print on the inside of these pajamas captures that heat and reflects it back onto the body. These are called far infrared rays, and studies have shown that these rays can improve circulation and muscle regeneration. Under Armour therefore claims that these pajamas promote better sleep and recovery to muscles.

But wouldn't pajamas that reflect heat cause the person wearing them to sweat? Under Armour says no. The print doesn't transfer the far infrared rays back as heat.

But it should be noted: The pajamas are long sleeves and full pants, and some people aren't used to sleeping in heavier clothing, so Under Armour recommends lowering your bedroom temperature to about 65 degrees Fahrenheit, in line with the recommendations from the National Sleep Foundation.

Could the science actually work?

"The most objective evidence of infrared technology for better sleep has come from rat studies, but most of the studies that have been done on people have been in small numbers, and the results have been qualitative and subjective," said Jocelyn Cheng, MD, assistant professor of neurology at NYU Langone Medical Center in New York City. "I don't think that it's a proven technology, which is why it's not FDA-approved. It's possible theoretically, but the exposure and the optimal duration for there to be any benefit is not clear."

The test

With a bit of controversy around whether these PJs could actually work, I was curious to try them. Based on studies Under Armour and its partner, RedWave (an energy company), performed using the technology, in order to reap the benefits, the pajamas needed to be worn for at least two weeks and at least seven hours a night. I opened the package that Under Armour sent me and set out to snooze in them for three weeks straight.

Per usual, I stuck to a hefty weekly workout regimen, which included weight lifting, HIIT classes, some athletic conditioning, running and hiking. The days following HIIT classes and upper-body athletic conditioning, my arms, shoulders, traps and pecs are generally pretty sore. If I had a day with a lot of push-ups, I know I can expect an overall feeling of fatigue in my chest, and I've even felt weak lifting my arms because my shoulders were so taxed.

The first few days I wore the pajamas, I didn't notice too much in terms of reduction in soreness. That day-after pain in my upper body was still in full force.

I did notice a difference a day after going for a run. My runs aren't generally too lengthy, and this wasn't either -- a quick four miles. But I did it in a pair of new shoes, and that often leaves me feeling some pain in my hips and waking up the following day with calves that are a bit more sore than normal. The hip pain still hit, but when I got out of bed the following morning, my calves felt just fine. Was it the pajamas? It could have been, or maybe the shoes I was trying agreed with my stride.

In the second and third week of testing, after a heavy shoulder and lower-body day, I did feel a bit less sore when taking those first few steps out of bed the following days. The aching in my shoulders seemed minimal, and walking around felt pretty OK. Yes, the soreness was still there, but I'd say it wasn't as prevalent. As I continued to wear the PJs, that seemed to remain the case.

What I liked

First and foremost, the feel of these PJs is just what you'd want in sleepwear -- soft with enough room and breathability to feel comfortable lounging and sleeping in for the night. I'd throw them on for hours even before I hopped into bed because they were so comfy. Plus, they're tagless, which I loved. Aside from when I was scratching an itch on my arm or leg, I didn't notice the print on the inside (when scratching, it felt a tad rough on the skin).

What I didn't like

I wasn't waking up from being too hot in the long sleeves and long pants, but I did toss and turn a bit through the night. It wasn't a completely sound sleep.

I also didn't love the fact that I couldn't technically measure the effect the pajamas had on my recovery. Because I'm not a professional athlete and I don't own any high-tech machines or administer blood tests that can check my hormone and energy levels, I was able to measure the pajamas' effect only based on how I felt and my soreness level.

Another setback for the average consumer: the price tag. The sleepwear costs $100 for the top and $100 for the bottom, and for most, $200 is an investment for a pair of pajamas.

Are they worth it?

If you're an athlete always looking for a competitive edge, or you're a person who is aware of and willing to invest time and money into your wellness and recovery methods, then I'd say these pajamas would be worth it. For the average Joe, $200 for pajamas is probably unnecessary. However, they're made well, so while the upfront cost is high, you'll probably get years of wear out of them.