Getting a good night's sleep isn't always easy, especially in these times of constant worrying stream of news. We know of many causes for insomnia, from the blue light our screens emit to bad moods, but what can be done to elevate insomnia and promote better sleep? One recent study has found at least one possible concrete solution: sleeping with a weighted blanket.
According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, the Swedish researchers tested the effectiveness of weighted blankets in 120 adult insomnia patients over the course of 4 weeks as part of a randomized controlled study. They found that 26 of the participants who used weighted blankets were much more likely to experience a 50% decrease or more in their insomnia severity than the rest of the control group and were 20 times more likely to achieve full remission of their sleep condition. Not only did the patients using weighted blankets attain better sleep, but they also reported performing better in their daytime activities and reduced symptoms of fatigue, depression, and anxiety, which often result from sleep deprivation. An open follow-up on the study participants revealed that these positive results endured for 12 months.
It isn't the first time weighted blankets prove to be beneficial for sleep quality. A similar study, conducted in 2015, concluded the use of these blankets had a "positive impact on sleep, both objectively and subjectively, where a number of physiological and behavioral measures were improved during weighted blanket use." Back then, the researchers concluded that weighted blankets were an effective non-pharmacological tool to improve sleep quality.
Why do weighted blankets have this effect on us? "A suggested explanation for the calming and sleep-pro, promoting effect is the pressure that the chain blanket applies on different points on the body, stimulating the sensation of touch and the sense of muscles and joints, similar to acupressure and massage," explained Mats Alder MD, consulting psychiatrist in the department of clinical neuroscience at the Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm, and one of the lead researchers on the study. In other words, the pressure of weighted blankets puts your autonomic nervous system into “rest” mode, which reduces anxiety symptoms like quickened heart rate or breathing.
This soothing effect may be news to some of us. Still, as it turns out, weighted blankets have long been known to the medical community and in use as a form of therapy to treat other conditions like Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), for example. Another clinical use of weighted blankets was to soothe kids with autism or behavioral disturbances, according to Cristina Cusin, MD, an assistant professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. "It is one of the sensory tools commonly used in psychiatric units".
If you’re intrigued by these possible effects of the weighted blanket and contemplate getting one, you should know that the previously mentioned 2015 study recommends curling up under one that’s 10% of your body weight for the best result. We wish you all calm and restful nights.
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