Do Weighted Blankets Work for Insomnia or Anxiety?
If you just can’t get to sleep most nights, we know what it’s like the next morning! We’ve been there, too. You’re frazzled and so tired!
A night spent seeing 1 am, 2 am, 3 am on the alarm clock - it takes a toll on your nerves. If you felt stressed out BEFORE going to bed, you feel even MORE stressed the next morning.
If you’ve had anxiety or panic attacks, you just want the tension to melt away. We understand that, too. Like most people, you’ve probably been searching for ways to manage your anxiety and improve your sleep.
You’re not alone!
You want to just toss the alarm clock - and you’re not the only one :)
Some people turn to sleep medications, but the side effects of those drugs are intimidating. It’s scary hearing about sleep driving, even sleep eating, after taking those drugs.
Yikes, that’s not for me!
Of course, you need to follow what doctors call “good sleep hygiene” -- regular bedtimes, using the bedroom only for sleep and sex, turning off electronics an hour or more before bedtime, and keeping the lighting, sounds, and temperature conducive to sleep.
You’ve taken the warm bath and meditated and sipped camomile tea. And you still can’t sleep. You’ve even cracked open a dry old textbook -- and you STILL can’t sleep!
So you’re pacing around at 2 am, trying to figure this out. Perhaps that’s when you discovered weighted blankets in an online search, in an insomniac fit of desperation.
What exactly IS a weighted blanket?
It’s a blanket that has little plastic or glass weights sewn inside, and it’s heavier than the usual comforter or down quilt. Weighted blankets typically weigh 15 to 25 pounds (adult size). A child would use a much lighter weighted blanket. The blankets are very soft on the outside, so you feel like you’re snuggling. In fact, that snuggly feeling is the magic of a weighted blanket - as it’s been described as a “hug”, which of course we all love.
Weighted blankets for anxiety and insomnia
Who would have thought of creating this - a blanket with hundreds of little weights tucked inside it? The concept originated to help people with an autism spectrum disorder because they suffer from anxiety symptoms.
For those who’ve benefited from the blankets, there seems a bit of magic in it all. But there is actual science backing up the concept.
Scientists have helped explain the effect that a weighted “anxiety blanket” has on the anxious person. (We won’t get too heavy into the science, don’t worry :))
The weight provides a little extra soothing at bedtime -- a steady “deep pressure stimulation” that can quiet the body’s nervous system, helping to reduce symptoms of anxiety and tension - so you can get a good night’s sleep.
For many years, parents have used weighted blankets to help their little ones avoid anxious upsets. Over time, many more people have discovered that weighted blankets aren’t just a therapy tool for autism and related conditions. The blankets help with all sorts of nervous conditions and especially with people who experience problems sleeping.
In one study, researchers found that people who used a weighted blanket for sleep felt less anxious and had lower blood pressure rates. Among the study subjects, 63 percent said they felt less anxious, and 78 percent preferred the weighted blanket as a “calming modality.” This is good news for people who experience anxiety and panic attacks.
Weighted Blankets For Adults With Anxiety
Using a weighted blanket for anxiety has become a natural alternative for growing numbers of people who simply want a good night’s sleep despite the hassles of everyday life and are seeking a non-medicated method of achieving this.
Just as a Thundershirt helps relieve a dog’s anxiety, a weighted blanket delivers the deep sense of touch that soothes the human nervous system - a comforting “hug”, as some have described the sensation. Many people rely on their weighted blanket for insomnia -- for those nights when they just can’t sleep.
Admittedly, the research of weighted blankets has thus far involved mostly small studies, but they show promising results in helping people with insomnia. A wide range of positive customer testimonials, however, is more evidence that they are proving effective amongst some users.
A 2015 study in the Journal of Sleep Medicine and Disorders has provided the best evidence so far. Of the 31 participants, four out of five participants said they were less likely to wake up during the night, they slept longer, and they felt more refreshed the next morning.
Fantastic -- a calmer night’s sleep!
How to treat anxiety naturally
Firstly, no one should claim that just by using a weighted blanket you will be able to ‘treat’ or ‘cure’ your anxiety or depression. Yes, these tools can help aid these problems but they are not a one-stop solution by any means and should always be used alongside seeking professional treatment from a doctor or therapist.
With that being said, let’s dip a little bit deeper into the science. Researchers explain that the “touch sensation” from a weighted blanket has a biological effect - as it triggers an abundance of positive effects on hormones and brain chemicals governing the nervous system, affecting both mood and stress level.
These include oxytocin, a natural brain chemical/hormone that helps the body relax, also slowing heart rate and reducing blood pressure. Serotonin and dopamine are brain chemicals that also have a calming effect which can help ease stress, anxiety, and depression.
Melatonin is well-known for promoting sleep, and studies show that melatonin levels are higher when using a weighted blanket. In addition, the level of cortisol (the stress hormone) is reduced by a weighted blanket, which has a positive effect on relaxation, blood sugar, digestion, and immunity.
Yes, a little less stress, please!
Under a weighted blanket, you fall asleep faster, stay asleep longer, and feel rested in the morning. All this relaxation… without medication. Sweet….
Reduces anxiety and restlessness
If your anxiety includes a nervous restlessness, slip underneath a weighted blanket. In fact, symptoms of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) have been shown to be helped calmed thanks to the deep touch pressure of a weighted blanket.
This aids both adults and children with ADHD symptoms and helps with their sleep problems as well, research shows.
In one study, 42 children with and without ADHD had their sleep was tracked by sleep testing and parent diaries for four weeks; two weeks involved using a weighted blanket. The ADHD kids found that the weighted blanket reduced the time it took to fall asleep and the number of awakenings during the night. In fact, they slept just as well as the children without ADHD.
Other Uses Of Weighted Blankets
Can Help Ease Panic Disorders
Panic disorder is a major disruption in the lives of many people, as it is anxiety at a higher level.
The panic attacks may be brought on by a traumatic event in the past, or the attacks may come out of nowhere. If you’ve had a panic attack, you will recognize the symptoms -- a racing heart, intense nervousness. You may feel like you’re in great danger of even having a heart attack.
That intense feeling of panic is very upsetting. You won’t die from it, but your nervous system feels like you’re going to die.
Researchers say it triggers the nervous system to react as if the body is in danger. There is a feeling of doom that accompanies a panic attack. Sleeping with a weighted blanket can help soothe the tension in your body, so you sleep more easily.
Soothes PTSD Symptoms
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is another serious problem that can accompany a stressful or traumatic event. Veterans may suffer from PTSD; trauma survivors can also suffer from this disorder.
Various therapies help to ease symptoms of PTSD, including anxiety, depression, and insomnia. A weighted blanket can become your best friend and in some cases helping support reduced anxiety, along with improving blood pressure and pulse rate.
Regular exercise can also help keep anxiety under control
Of course, you must take additional steps - literally - to rein in your anxiety. Walking, cycling, running all will help calm you.
We know exercise can be a pain, but give yourself a little push as it really does help. Even walking around the block after dinner will help you sleep better.
A study published in the journal Frontiers in Psychiatry suggests that regular exercise has multiple benefits, reducing depression, panic disorder, and heart disease - and even improving memory and cognitive ability in people who have dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
Animal studies indicate that exercise has a positive effect on the pathophysiological processes of anxiety. Multiple clinical studies show that exercise reduces anxiety.
Pretty conclusive evidence on exercise!
Exercise is all-natural so just do it! Get moving a few times a week. Think about getting a dog, because you’ll benefit from that connection. And walking your dog is certainly good for your soul. (Cats are good companions, but try walking one!)
Plenty of sleep helps anxiety
You certainly need a good night’s sleep -- and you need it every single night. ZZZs Don’t you love ‘em? Especially when they are so elusive!
The results of sleep deprivation are scary, say the researchers.
Insomnia and poor-quality sleep can lead to heart disease, heart attacks, car accidents, and workplace injuries. When you’re groggy, it’s all too easy to miss that red light or make a wrong move -- and suddenly, you’ve got a major issue on your hands!
If that’s not bad enough, sleep deprivation can trigger abnormal brain activity that leads to anxiety disorder. Research shows that chronic worry increases your risk of insomnia and insufficient sleep - creating a vicious circle that can be relieved by a weighted blanket.
Slip under your weighted blanket, and you can wake up feeling refreshed and less anxious. All those ‘quieting’ hormones and neurotransmitters are doing their job.
So a weighted blanket must certainly be worth a try, don’t you think? Much better than taking that awful sleep medication that has you sleepwalking to the fridge at 2 am!