Want to Avoid Sleep Meds? A Weighted Blanket Can Help
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one in three adults in the U.S. aren’t getting the sleep they need, making them susceptible to chronic conditions like type 2 diabetes, heart disease, obesity and depression.
Harvard Medical School’s Division of Sleep Medicine says, sleep and mood go hand in hand; one affects the other. For that reason, anxiety increases agitation and makes it harder to sleep. Stress also makes it hard to sleep. “People who are under constant stress or who have abnormally exaggerated responses to stress tend to have sleep problems,” Harvard says.
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How a Weighted Blanket Can Help
In her Healthline blog, “Why This 15-Pound Weighted Blanket Is Part of My Anti-Anxiety Routine,” Jamie Friedlander tells how a weighted blanket, sometimes called a gravity blanket, helped her routinely get a peaceful night of sleep. Normally, Friedlander was one to wake at least 10 times during the night, but the weighted blanket made her feel cuddled and soothed her anxiety, vastly improving her ability to sleep.
And the power of weighted blankets is backed by science. According to an article in PTSD Journal, weighted blankets provide deep pressure touch stimulation (DPTS), which is similar to getting a massage. Says Temple Grandin, Ph.D. in the article, “Deep touch pressure is the type of surface pressure that is exerted in most types of firm touching, holding, stroking, petting of animals or swaddling. Occupational therapists have observed that a very light touch alerts the nervous system, but deep pressure is relaxing and calming.”
“The pressure also helps relax the nervous system. It’s a totally safe and effective non-drug therapy for sleep and relaxation naturally,” says PTSD Journal.
According to an anxiety and sleep guide published by Tuck—an organization designed to improve sleep health and wellness—anxiety and sleep are connected via a self-reinforcing feedback loop. “Feeling rested has been proved to combat anxiety and feeling less anxious leads to sounder sleep,” the guide says, “and the converse is also true: insomnia feeds anxiety and anxiety keeps us up at night.”
“Weighted blankets have been quite the phenomenon over the last year or so,” says Bill Fish, certified sleep science coach and co-founder of Tuck in the Healthline blog, “Pick the Perfect Size Weighted Blanket with This Guide.”
“People are beginning to understand the benefits of using a weighted blanket to set themselves up to get the recommended seven to nine hours of quality sleep on a nightly basis,” Fish says.
According to Healthline, conditions that might benefit from weighted blankets include:
- Restless leg syndrome
- Autism spectrum disorder
- Sensory processing disorder
What You Need to Know About Buying a Weighted Blanket
Once used only by psychiatric professionals, weighted blankets are now pretty easy to find. Both Bed, Bath and Beyond and Amazon sell them, for starters. Experts advise buying a weighted blanket that weighs somewhere around 10 percent of your body weight. Some users say they are surprised by how heavy the blanket actually is, but they soon get used to it.
Weighted blankets are filled with beads, and the material used to make the beads can vary from glass to plastic. If this matters to you, read the fine print on the beads.
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Diana Manos is a Washington, DC-based freelance writer who specializes in healthcare, technology and wellness. She is passionate about patient empowerment, natural healing methods and alternative healthcare.