People who have trouble sleeping may find that covering up with a weighted blanket beats counting sheep. As you might guess, a weighted blanket is heavier than its conventional counterpart, a comforter, or a down quilt. They offer deep pressure touch therapy that helps create a restful state of being to help insomniacs reach Slumberland.
Basically, a weighted blanket pushes down on your body towards the center of gravity. This grounding action reduces stress, depression, and anxiety.
Direct pressure has been shown to lower cortisol levels. Cortisol is the steroid hormone that signals the body’s metabolism and immune system response as our onboard alarm system. It controls mood, motivation, and fear. When it comes to drifting off to sleep, less cortisol is “more better” – so to speak.
In addition, deep pressure touch stimulation (DPTS) helps break bad sleep cycles and stimulates the release of dopamine and serotonin. These two neurotransmitters send chemical messages that regulate sleep and other metabolic functions. Dopamine is associated with motivation and reward, while serotonin is involved in processing emotions.
Finally, DPTS also raises levels of melatonin production which is connected to sleep. According to Luis F. Buenaver, Ph.D., C.B.S.M., a sleep expert at Johns Hopkins:
“Your body produces melatonin naturally. It doesn’t make you sleep, but as melatonin levels rise in the evening it puts you into a state of quiet wakefulness that helps promote sleep.”
People who use weighted blankets say they help relieve these medical conditions:
- Attention Deficit Disorder (ADHD)
- Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)
- Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD)
- Stress-related disorders such as PTSD
- Nervous system syndromes
- Addiction to sleeping pills
All human beings share the need to be touched in a loving, caring way. A weighted blanket simulates cuddling during sleep, even if the sleeper has no bedside companion. The feeling of being held or hugged helps relax the nervous system.
Fans who use a weighted blanket claim they help their overly active brains shut off – without drugs.
The heaviest top-of-the-line blankets are made with safety in mind: they are toxin-free and made from the highest quality materials. They typically weigh in between 5 and 25 pounds and come in standard mattress sizes – double, twin, queen, and king.
Occupational therapists advise that a weighted blanket should never exceed 10 percent of the sleeper’s body weight. (Some manufacturers give a recommended range from 5 to 15 percent of the user’s body weight.)
Mosaic Weighted Blankets, for example, informs us:
“The industry standard is that most OT’s and PT’s recommend 10% of body weight plus a couple of pounds. Some people prefer more weight, some people prefer less weight.”
For easy math, multiply your weight by 0.1 – 10 percent. That will tell you how much weight is safe to bear.
NOTE: As a safety precaution, never cover a child with a blanket that weighs more than 15 percent of her or his body weight.
It is also important to make sure that a heavy sleep blanket fits on top of the mattress with no overhang.
You can purchase weighted blankets online through Amazon, eBay, Etsy, and Rocabi Weighted Blankets. Rocabi blankets are assembled with an inner weighted shell and an outer cover.
Or visit a specialty shop for a bigger selection of size, fabric, weight, and other customization – including your own personal monogram.
Weighted blankets are trending now, and how. A Kickstarter campaign for Gravity Blankets raised over $4.7 MILLION in 2017!
But do they really work and are they worth the extra expense? Christina Heiser tested a weighted blanket for NBC News and reported:
“When I slipped under the blanket, I felt like I was wrapped in a cocoon as if the blanket were hugging me…Although it was possible for me to shift onto my side, the blanket was definitely snugger than my regular comforter, and I felt like it encouraged my body to stay still. Normally, I’m pretty restless in bed, and the act of moving around makes my mind wander. But, because I couldn’t physically move as much, I noticed that my thoughts weren’t racing as much either. I was able to just focus on the present, and that made it easier to fall asleep. I didn’t wake up once in the middle of the night, which is very rare for me and after 7 hours of solid sleep, I felt so refreshed that I didn’t even need to stop for my iced coffee on the way to the office.”
That is quite a testimonial.
Karen Moore is an occupational therapist who finds heavy sleep covers very useful in treating psychiatric disorders:
“Weighted blankets are one of our most powerful tools for helping people who are anxious, upset, and possibly on the verge of losing control.”
If you sew, consider making a custom weighted blanket from two regular blankets:
- Cut fabric into squares and pin them to one side of one of the blankets.
- Stitch the fabric pieces and sew them to three sides of the blanket.
- Calculate how much weight to add – about 10% of body weight.
- Place 1/4- to 1/2-pound plastic storage bags of heavy material inside the open-ended blanket pocket and secure the top with velcro.
- Sew the second blanket to the top of the first one with a velcro closure to be able to adjust the weights or remove them for laundering the blanket.
Experts and satisfied slumberers agree as the scientific evidence stacks up: calm your monkey mind, feel as safe as a swaddled baby, and get a good night’s sleep under a heavy blanket.