Can a Weighted Blanket Help me Sleep Better?
We all know the feeling of not being able to fall asleep at night. Whether it’s restless tossing and turning or the inability to shut your brain off, having trouble getting sleep plays an enormous role in how we feel and function. About one-third of the general population suffers from symptoms of insomnia on a regular basis. The effects of skimping on sleep can be both short-term and long-term, ranging from some crankiness on your morning commute to an increased risk of heart disease. We’re here to help you get your restful nights back, one weighted blanket at a time!
How exactly do weighted blankets help with sleep?
Weighted blankets use simple science to help you sleep soundly by employing deep touch pressure (DTP). When pressure points on our bodies are activated (think: massages or tight hugs), DTP calms the body and increases the production of certain hormones we do want, like serotonin and melatonin, while reducing ones we don’t want, like cortisol. Serotonin is one of our happy hormones, and it also helps to promote sleep and relaxation. All good things to help us get some shut-eye!
Serotonin is also a precursor to melatonin, which most of us are familiar with as our main sleep hormone (fun fact: melatonin’s word origin comes from “hormone of darkness”). Melatonin works on a 24-hour cycle and typically starts being produced in the body in the evening to help you wind down. However, we tend to make less and less melatonin as we age. Other things can also impact our melatonin production, like using blue-light-emitting electronics too close to bedtime or having a post-dinner espresso. The serotonin and melatonin production that comes from the DTP in the weighted blankets work together to help you doze off in no time.
One more benefit of DTP? It activates your parasympathetic nervous system, which is also called your “rest and digest” state. “Rest and digest” is the opposite of your “fight or flight” system, which is that adrenaline-charged, stress-filled state which can be super important, but we don’t want to stay in for too long at any one time. The “fight or flight” state is filled with cortisol, which is our stress hormone that is counterproductive to getting sleep.
However, the parasympathetic nervous system is a good place to be in when we’re ready for bed. When we’re resting and digesting, our body knows that it can hang out in a calm, safe, and relaxed state. Our heart rate decreases, our blood pressure drops, and we have no need to fight or flee from any danger. These two systems oppose each other; your body doesn’t want to be using up all its energy digesting food when you’re dealing with something scary. So, DTP helps you get your resting and digesting on, which is beneficial for falling and staying asleep. Yeah, we’re down with DTP.
What does the research say about weighted blankets and sleep?
Yeah, that all sounds pretty good. But, are there actually studies showing that weighted blankets can help with sleep? (We see you, research junkies). One study found that adults with insomnia who used a weighted blanket for 4 weeks reported improvements in both subjective and objective measures (meaning: they liked using it and the data showed benefits, too). Objectively, the people in the study had less movement during sleep (good news for you toss-and-turners), total sleep time was increased, and the number of times that people woke up after going to sleep was decreased. Subjectively, the study participants felt a sense of security when using the blanket, and reported feeling more refreshed in the morning. Sign us up!
Another study found that 78% of adults preferred using a weighted blanket as a method to calm down, and 63% of them had reduced symptoms of anxiety when using it. Since many people may be losing sleep over anxiety or racing thoughts, this study adds to the evidence that weighted blankets can help with insomnia. It’s common to have a feeling of being “wired and tired” at night, which is when you feel exhausted yet wide awake at the same time. Helping your body to naturally produce more of your relaxation hormones can nudge you into the “rest and digest” state and calm down your mind.
Lastly, there was a study done on college students, who we all know are lacking in the sleep department. The students who used a weighted blanket for a semester showed significant improvements in their overall sleep quality and anxiety levels. As mental health awareness is becoming more prominent on college campuses, this is something we can all get behind.
Will a weighted blanket solve all of my sleep problems?
While our Sleepers and Nappers are very helpful for improving sleep quality, you should still practice good bedtime habits (we’re not miracle workers, after all). Some ways to improve your snoozes even more include:
• Not having alcohol for at least a few hours before bedtime or avoiding it altogether (we know, we’re sorry!)
• Keeping a consistent schedule with when you go to sleep and wake up
• Having a caffeine cut-off time of about 5-6 hours before bedtime
• Using blue light blocking glasses or not using electronics before bed
• Having a regular exercise routine
• Practicing meditation or deep breathing before bed to promote your “rest and digest” state
Did you know?
A brown bat relies on 19.9 hours of sleep a day while a giraffe only needs 1.9!