The popularity of weighted blankets as a way to ease anxiety and support better sleep has risen significantly over the past few years. While their use has been a long-time method appreciated by therapists to treat various health conditions, consumers now have easy access to select the weight and fabric of the one that works best for their needs.
But what exactly is a weighted blanket — and why the rise in use? A weighted blanket is a blanket with a filled lining of material that evenly distributes its weight. It’s used as an at-home therapy that applies deep pressure stimulation to provide comfort and relaxation. Both children (recommended ages 4 and up) and adults can use them, since weighted blankets range in size and weight, generally from 5 lbs. to 30 lbs. An ideal weight is somewhere in between at approximately 15 lbs, which is how much the Eight Sleep Gravity Blanket weighs. The unique makeup of the Gravity Blanket is filled with fine-grade glass beads that provides a soothing weight and a gentle pressure that’s not overwhelming.
Weighted blankets have been medically proven to help reduce stress, improve sleep patterns, and increase focus, alertness, and calmness among both teens and adults. The increased online conversation surrounding its benefits positions the weighted blanket as a modern trend, when historically it’s been used as a therapeutic tool for decades.
Many who’ve experienced the benefits of a weighted blanket compare it to the effects of being embraced by a loved one or the feel of a gentle massage. The applied pressure reduces the activity of the sympathetic nervous system to relax the body and alleviate stress. Research has shown that it reduces anxiety levels and boosts mood for the majority of people and it’s a preferred method of finding a sense of tranquility.
While there’s no concrete link indicating the reason for the increased use of weighted blankets, it’s been speculated that their popularity is the answer to the growing number of adults who experience anxiety. Results from a poll conducted by the American Psychiatric Association showed that 40% of Americans surveyed felt more anxious in 2018 than they did in 2017. That includes the 40 million adults reported to have an anxiety disorder in 2018 and is in addition to research from the American College Health Association that reported 62% of undergraduate students as experiencing “overwhelming anxiety.”
How Do Weighted Blankets Work?
A weighted blanket uses evenly distributed weight to apply gentle pressure to the entire body. This pressure activates the parasympathetic nervous system, which helps calm the body by lowering the heart rate. It also produces oxytocin, the “feel-good” hormone, and serotonin, a hormone that helps to reduce pain. There’s evidence that shows weighted blankets decrease blood pressure, strengthen the immune system, and improve blood circulation.
Weighted blankets can be used when lounging on the couch or going to sleep at night. Spread the blanket over the entirety of the body and allow the feeling of zen to take over. One factor to consider when choosing a particular brand is the fabric the blanket is made of. Due to the weight, it can feel too hot when sleeping if you don’t opt for a lighter material. The Gravity Blanket has a microfiber duvet to keep you cool as you rest.
Everyone experiences the impact of a weighted blanket differently, but the general consensus by experts and consumers alike is that it increases a sense of peace and stillness and works well as a way to initiate self-care and nurturing. This alleviates stress, eases pain, and allows people to achieve a better night’s sleep. A weighted blanket can also help with:
- Lack of focus
- Mood swings
- Fibromyalgia pain
The application of pressure affects the body internally and externally to create an overall greater sense of comfort and well-being.
Using a Weighted Blanket to Benefit Sleep Health
There are various benefits of using a weighted blanket, one of the top being the impact to optimal sleep health. Heightened levels of stress and anxiety are common culprits of sleep deprivation. When this is remedied by the use of a weighted blanket, it puts the mind and body in a better state to fall asleep faster and sleep more deeply. Since the deep pressure increases the production of serotonin, it naturally causes the body to be in a continuous restful state.
When used as part of sleep hygiene best practices, a weighted blanket can have a significant impact on how well you’re able to doze off at night and achieve all sleep cycle stages. However, relying on the effects of a weighted blanket alone isn’t as powerful as a comprehensive plan to change your sleep behavior. Other ways to improve your sleep health include:
- Keep the bedroom cool and dark. When the body temperature is too high, it leads to disruptions in sleep. Additionally, any light that’s visible when you’re trying to sleep can trigger the brain to stay in an alert stage. Lower the thermostat, promote good airflow, and eliminate all sources of light to create a better sleep environment.
- Reduce your screen time. The blue light emitted from your smartphone, tablet, and other electronics interferes with your circadian rhythm. Exactly what is the connection between blue light and sleep? Blue light is available naturally during the day, but when absorbed at night, it tricks your body into thinking it’s supposed to stay awake. Avoid using digital devices at least two hours before going to bed.
- Create a consistent sleep routine. Eight hours per night is the recommended amount of sleep a person should get. The added caveat is it should be consistent as well. Aim for the same bedtime and wake-up time every day to get your body used to a regular sleep-wake cycle.
- Skip afternoon caffeine. While you may rely on a morning cup of coffee to get you going, refrain from drinking caffeinated beverages in the afternoon. Their lingering effects could prevent your ability to fall asleep as quickly come nighttime. Opt for drinking water instead to stay hydrated and healthy.
- Time your naps. A nap can be a beneficial way to make you feel rested during the day, but don’t let it last longer than 30 minutes or you may have difficulty following your regular sleep routine. Schedule naps for the early afternoon since one taken too late can hinder how well you sleep at night.
- Practice meditation. This breathing and mindfulness technique is compatible with the feeling of stillness provided by weighted blankets. Focus on one positive mantra, try guided meditation for sleep, or simply practice measured breathing by inhaling for a count of three, then holding the breath for a count of three, and finally exhaling for a count of three repeatedly.
These are a few of the most common ways to encourage better sleep and create better sleeping conditions, in addition to using a weighted blanket.
Why Choose a Weighted Blanket?
The positive effects of using a weighted blanket are largely universal. It can be used whenever or however much you choose. It’s meant to comfort rather than restrain. If it ever feels too overwhelming, you can easily change your position and have it fit looser or free yourself from it altogether. Use it on the couch when relaxing in the evening or on your bed at night as you go to sleep.
The security that it provides feels nurturing and warm. The deep touch stimulation mimics the feeling of an embrace from a loved one. Per an exit survey in one of the weighted blanket studies presented by Tina Champagne, M.Ed., OTR/L, the majority of participants used it throughout the night and the highest response of people found it most helpful “when trying to fall asleep” and reported that it allowed them to “fall asleep faster/seemed to speed up the process of falling asleep.”
A weighted blanket is self-soothing and leaves a lingering calmness that works to improve your mental and physical health in various ways. It can be used in combination with other sleep accessories and technologies to promote better sleep. When paired with the use of the Eight Sleep Pod, for example, you can customize your sleep environment. Set the mattress to your desired temperature and it will adapt to your sleep phases and biometrics to maintain your temperature preference. A good reason why body temperature is key to good sleep is because finding the right temperature allows you to fall asleep fast and continuously stay asleep without interruption.
The need and desire for a good night’s sleep is nothing new, but the developments and tools used to reach it have evolved over time. If you’re not experiencing an ideal sleep situation, the envelopment of the Gravity Blanket combined with the customization of the Pod can help you achieve a better sleep pattern by providing you with comfort and calm throughout the night.
Sources: https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1300/J004v24n01_05; https://www.nasmhpd.org/sites/default/files/V_2_B_ChampaignWeightedBlanket.pdf; https://time.com/5269371/americans-anxiety-poll/; https://www.ajc.com/news/health-med-fit-science/why-more-teens-are-suffering-from-severe-anxiety-than-ever-before-and-how-parents-can-help/cFlF86X6Qvn9IHqBX75jzK/; https://www.pennmedicine.org/updates/blogs/health-and-wellness/2019/february/weighted-blankets; https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/two-takes-depression/201812/weighted-blankets-and-depression;
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