Sleep Heavy Or Not At All
Updated: Jan 15
Weighted blankets promise to end insomnia, stress or anxiety and continue to gain popularity, but what do the experts say?
Falling asleep is not even an afterthought for most people, but for some, the night is a looming spectre; untamable, restless, bringing only the gift of enduring exhaustion. We christen thee, oh spectre, insomnia.
We know that the general choice for many is to avoid taking sleeping medications in the combat of insomnia, and this is where weight blankets are gaining traction among night owls. Positive reviews galore from the people who have used them, professing things like 'the best investment of my life' and 'I can finally sleep again'
Many of those who started using this blanket commented that when they woke up they were in similar positions (or in the same) in which they fell asleep, eliminating or minimizing the tossing and turning that tends to the cause of our waking during the night.
Heavy blankets, seen as a fad only a few years ago, are now seen as the solution.
A Therapeutic Tool Or A Hyped Up Fad?
Weighted blankets are designed to put pressure on our bodies while we sleep, this sensation reduces stress and anxiety and helps us rest better.
These blankets are filled with glass beads or plastic pellets to add weight. Some also have additional layers of fabric to increase weight. They come in different weights and sizes and can be used by children, adolescents, and adults.
Weighted blankets have grown in popularity in recent years and can be purchased virtually anywhere, from a drugstore to a supermarket. Some people even choose to make their own weighted blankets.
Weighted blankets work in a similar way to an occupational therapy technique called pressure touch therapy. Putting pressure on the body can increase the release of serotonin in the brain. This is the famous "neurotransmitter of happiness" in our brain, as it generates feelings of happiness and calm.
No More Taking The Blankets From Your Children Because "They're All Grown-up"
Many kids with ADHD have a hard time calming down and self-regulating. For some of them, a weighted blanket can be helpful.
Occupational therapists have been using these blankets for a long time to help children with sensory difficulties and anxiety, including children with ADHD and are a great investment, or gift, if you have, or know someone who's child or children have ADHD.
Many of the challenges of ADHD can make it difficult for kids to feel calm. These challenges include:
Calming down after being over-excited
Dealing with stress
Unwinding at night
Many kids with ADHD also have sensory issues. They may seek physical stimulation as a mechanism to calm down (These same children may be overly sensitive and avoid certain types of sensory stimulation).
Other conditions can also cause these challenges. Some commonly coexist with ADHD, as is the case with autism and anxiety. Weighted blankets can help kids with any of these conditions self-regulate and feel more relaxed.
However, the popularity of these blankets have transcended from occupational therapy, and they have become very popular in the global market. It is no longer just a tool to treat behaviour disorders but also as a vital tool against the sleepless spectre; insomnia.
Keep in mind that these blankets should NOT be used on babies or very young infants as their weight can be risky for their health.
Psychology Experts Use Weighted Blankets Too!
A school for children with autism called Manhattan Children's Center located in New York has been using weighted blankets and they say they work to help children sleep better and faster as well as control their moods. Children who use these blankets to take naps, demonstrate to be less restless than when not using them, in addition, they show better performance in tasks that require concentration.
That's great, but I'm a 40-year-old adult, so is this any good for me? Well, I'm glad you asked!
In another study of 32 adult volunteers, 63% reported lower anxiety after lying under a 30-pound blanket for 5 minutes.
The results reveal that the use of the 30 lb weighted blanket, in the lying down position, is safe as evidenced by the vital sign metrics. Data obtained on effectiveness reveal 33% demonstrated lowering in EDA when using the weighted blanket, 63% reported lower anxiety after use, and 78% preferred the weighted blanket as a calming modality.
A second study tested weighted blankets in 30 adults who had been hospitalized for a mental health crisis, and 60% reported lower anxiety after using the blanket.
The State Trait Anxiety Inventory-10 (STAI-10), a self-rating 0–10 anxiety scale, and electrodermal activity (EDA) readings measure effectiveness for anxiety reduction. The STAI-10 and self-ratings indicate 60% had a significant reduction in anxiety using the WB.
Should You Buy A Weighted Blanket For Yourself Or Your Kids?
If you want to try at home, here are key points to buy and use weighted blankets.
Babies and very young children (up to five years old) should not use them for long hours or without adult supervision.
If the child shows discomfort or simply does not like to use it, it is best to remove it and not force it. You can try later if you feel safe.
The correct weight will be determined by each person, in the case of children it should be between 5% and 10% of their weight.
If you have decided to use the blankets with weight, do not forget that the best results will be obtained from combining this technique with good nighttime practices such as a strict bedtime, no use of phones, laptops or anything that emits blue light at least 30 minutes before bed.
If you are buying a blanket for someone with ADHD, then keep in mind that along with the blanket, the support of a specialist to guide you is crucial in helping those with ADHD learn to manage their condition.
I’ve had my weighted blanket (as well as a few other things which have massively improved my sleep - but that's for another article) for about 5 months now — I've definitely seen a reduction in getting up at night and my sleep quality has slowly increased (I no longer need 8 cups of coffee to function) This is the one I've been using. If you want to try it, I’ll link it here.
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