Do Weighted Blankets Really Ease Sleeplessness?
What is Sleeplessness?
You try to calm your brain - and your body - to get a decent night’s sleep. But all too often, there’s more tossing and turning, and very little snoozing. Sleeplessness, aka, insomnia, is a relentless devil.
If you have these troubles, you have insomnia:
- Difficulty falling asleep
- Difficulty staying asleep
- Difficulty getting back to sleep
- Waking up too early
- Feel tired in the morning
If you’re reading this article, these symptoms likely ring true. When we’re desperate for sleep, most people start researching to find answers. For many, that’s the path to learning about weighted blankets.
Late-night internet searches have brought many insomniacs to these unique blankets. Research suggests that this type of blanket (often referred to as a “gravity blanket” or a “heavy weight blanket”) creates a deep pressure sensation that the body translates into a type of hug.
Just as Thundershirts help soothe a dog’s nerves, so do weighted blankets calm human nerves. There have even been anecdotes of premature babies -- and a nurse placing a small glove on the baby’s chest, to help induce sleep.
What causes sleeplessness?
You may have insomnia due to major life stress -- perhaps death in the family, divorce, job loss/change, moving, illness, pain. Some medications can negatively affect sleep including asthma or allergy, blood pressure, or cold medications.
Your bedroom environment is also a critical factor. Too hot, too cold, too much light, too noisy? Any and all of those factors will affect how easily you get to sleep and stay asleep.
If you travel or change work shifts at times, you can also suffer from sleeplessness. Jet lag is a known cause of insomnia. Likewise, changing to a night shift can have the same jet lag effect on your body. Suddenly, you’re trying to sleep when you’re used to being awake.
Stress and mood disorders also play a role in insomnia. After a difficult workday, you may have trouble calming your mind. If you’re concerned about job security, you’ve likely got anxiety and/or depression stirring your nervous system at night.
How do weighted blankets help to ease sleeplessness?
Scientists involved in sleep medicine have studied these unique blankets to understand how and why they are effective.
The blankets were first developed for children with autism, they were adopted as therapy blankets to help with other sensory processing disorders. These children often have anxiety, and the weighted blanket has been known to soothe that anxiety -- which helps improve their sleep.
Therapists have discovered that these blankets could help with other nervous system disorders, as well as other conditions, including:
- Depression, anxiety
- Panic disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), obsessive-compulsive disorder
- Arthritis and fibromyalgia
- Restless leg syndrome
People with physical or mental health conditions might be helped by using weighted blankets for sleep issues at night, as they will get a better night’s sleep. To learn more about the various benefits check out our blog post on the 20 benefits of weighted blanket therapy.
Here’s why a weighted blanket can help promote better sleep
Sleep researchers are beginning to understand how weighted blankets provide the sleep-inducing effects.
The most revealing study thus far was published in the Journal of Sleep Medicine and Disorders. A group of 31 adults with chronic insomnia took part in the study. For four weeks, they alternated sleeping with and without the weighted blanket.
Their sleep pattern was tracked each time -- sleeping for a week with, then without, the weighted blanket.
Nearly all participants -- 4 out of 5 -- reported they liked the weighted blanket, saying they slept longer and were less likely to wake up during the night. They were able to settle down to sleep more easily when they had the weighted blanket. They reported a calmer night’s sleep. And they felt more refreshed the next morning. (1)
How do weighted blankets work?
These blankets are often referred to as “pressure blankets” or “gravity blankets” because they create a sense of being swaddled or hugged. This type of physical connection provides a sense of safety and warmth that promotes relaxation.
This connection is believed to trigger multiple positive effects on hormones governing the nervous system, helping reduce anxiety and improving both stress and mood levels.
Researchers outline the benefits of weighted blanket for improved sleep:
- The sensation of a hug releases the hormone oxytocin in the body, which provides a feeling of relaxation and ease. Oxytocin is known to slow the heart rate and reduce blood pressure, prompting the body to relax.
- The deep touch pressure stimulation provided by a weighted blanket, also called proprioceptive pressure, helps to stimulate the release of serotonin and dopamine, two brain chemicals that also calm the body and help relieve stress, anxiety, and depression.
- As the body releases serotonin, there is a synergistic effect with melatonin hormones, which are also released. This hormone is well-known to help promote sleep and regulate the sleep cycle.
- The “grounding” effect that a weighted blanket produces helps to reduce nighttime levels of cortisol, the stress hormone. This effect helps to reduce blood sugar and improves digestion as well as immunity.
All these physiological effects are due to the deep touch stimulation provided by this unique blanket. For the person having difficulty getting to sleep - and staying asleep - the result is a calming effect that reduces anxiety and stress, lowers blood pressure, and helps provide the necessary restorative sleep they need.
Choose your weighted blanket carefully
When you start searching to purchase one, you’ll find there is a wide assortment of styles. Some are handmade, others are manufactured -- and all use a variety of weighted materials.
Several layering styles are used in producing these blankets, which will affect the durability and weight distribution. The layering also affects the end result -- your ease in falling asleep. Unless the weights are distributed properly, your body won’t get that special deep pressure effect that’s necessary to stimulate the body’s relaxation response.
If you’re going to make this investment, it’s crucial that you purchase exactly the right weighted blanket. Don’t throw your money away on a blanket that will fall apart with one washing. Or a blanket with weights that shift around, so your blanket ends up in a puddle on the floor.
Here’s an article to help you understand the intricacies of these blankets. You’ll find just what you need to know to make an informed purchase: How to choose a weighted blanket?
Conclusion: Let’s enjoy a good night’s sleep!
If you’ve tossed and turned way too long, we empathize. We’ve all been there. A weighted blanket can help you get the shut-eye you need to live your life fully.
The science has shown that the body responds to the swaddling effect a weighted blanket provides. Just like a baby, you will inherently feel a sense of warmth and safety. This deep pressure effect will stimulate hormones and neurotransmitters to reduce your stress and anxiety, calming you so you sleep more easily.
Just make sure you purchase the best blanket that will produce this effect. Don’t throw your money away on one that’s of poor quality, that isn’t professionally manufactured to meet the highest standards. Your health is too important, and your sleep is a large factor in your overall health and immunity. You can end your sleeplessness with a wonderfully soothing weighted blanket.