People will do just about anything to get a full night's sleep without any interruptions. This includes the use of white noise machines, blackout curtains, eye masks, and aromatherapy. It may also involve taking sleep aids such as melatonin and Ambien.
One relatively new tactic for achieving restful sleep is to do it under a weighted blanket. Various studies have shown that these blankets provide something called “deep pressure stimulation.” Deep pressure stimulation makes you feel as if you're wrapped in a firm hug. This pressure has a soothing effect that helps people of all ages rest more easily.
If you’re exhausted and have exhausted all other methods of getting a good night’s sleep, a weighted blanket could be your ticket to Dreamland. This guide will tell you more about weighted blankets and give pointers on choosing the best one for you.
What Is a Weighted Blanket?
A weighted blanket is as it sounds—a blanket with weight added to it. But the amount of weight, type of weight, and type of material for these blankets vary.
Weighted blankets weigh anywhere from 3 to 30 pounds. You should pick one based on the body weight of the person who will use it. The industry consensus is that the blanket’s weight should be 10 percent of the user’s weight, plus 1 to 2 pounds if desired. So, a child weighing 40 pounds should have a 4- to 6-pound weighted blanket. And an adult weighing 200 pounds should use a 20- to 22-pound blanket.
Unlike duvets, weighted blankets contain heavier materials than goose down and cotton fill. Contents may include materials such as poly-pellets, glass beads, shot beads, and rice. Most companies sew squares into the blankets to distribute the weight evenly across the entire blanket. Manufacturers typically make the blankets from soft fabrics like cotton, flannel, and fleece.
Note that some weighted blankets are washable, while others are not. The same goes for drying--depending on the material, some blankets may have to be hung to dry. If these factors are important to you, be sure to check the guidelines on a blanket’s care before you buy it.
What Are the Benefits of a Weighted Blanket?
Therapeutic and psychiatric practices have used weighted blankets for a long time. They help comfort people who have difficulties with self-soothing, including those with autism, ADHD, and anxiety.
More recently, textile manufacturers and bedding brands have begun to realize the importance of weighted blankets as a tool to help people calm down and de-stress. So, they have started to create and sell weighted blankets, too.
Research shows that a weighted blanket can provide many benefits. First of all, the deep pressure stimulation of a weighed blanket aids in the release of serotonin, a chemical that helps people sleep. After they sleep under a weighted blanket, people report getting a better night’s sleep. This means that they stay asleep for longer periods of time. They also have an easier time falling asleep and wake up fewer times during the night.
As mentioned earlier, weighted blankets may ease stress and anxiety. This can remove the thoughts and feelings that keep people from relaxing when they get into bed. Weighted blankets can also be useful for people with sensory processing issues. Since they move around less on someone’s skin, they create less friction and cause fewer unpleasant sensations. Finally, weighted blankets help veterans and others with PTSD to have fewer panic attacks or night terrors. This can increase the amount and quality of sleep they get and, in turn, greatly improve their quality of life.
Why Do Weighted Blankets Work?
Studies have demonstrated that the touch provided by a weighted blanket stimulates the human limbic system. This is the part of the brain that regulates fear and emotion processing. When stimulated, the limbic system can help process negative emotions more effectively. This helps remove unwanted thoughts from the mind when a person is trying to sleep. These studies also show that weighted blankets reduce activity in the part of the nervous system that generates stress. This means that the blankets can actually diminish the amount of stress people feel and experience.
Finally, in addition to serotonin, mental health practitioners believe that a weighted blanket can stimulate the release of dopamine. Both of these are “feel-good” hormones that make people more relaxed and give them an overall sense of well-being. When people feel happier and more at peace, they are better able to fall asleep and stay asleep.
Who Can Benefit From a Weighted Blanket?
How do you know if you're a good candidate for a weighted blanket? Well, any adult who has trouble sleeping could benefit from trying one out. As mentioned earlier, weighted blankets may also help people who suffer from PTSD. Not only can they sleep under them, but they can use them to self-soothe during flashbacks or panic attacks.
Children who are older than 5 and have autism, ADHD, or sensory processing disorders may also benefit from the use of a weighted blanket. So may adults who suffer from anxiety, depression, or other psychological conditions that result in negative emotions, moods, or thoughts.
It’s important to know that weighted blankets are not safe for everyone. Babies, infants, and small children should not sleep under them. Blankets that are too heavy can result in constriction or suffocation. For older children, blankets need to be light enough for them to move and breathe under. Make sure to test that your child can comfortably and easily move and breathe under the blanket before you let them sleep under it.
Finally, if you are an adult with breathing problems, snoring issues, or sleep apnea, you should not use weighted blankets. They can sit heavily on your chest and make it even harder to breathe.
How to Choose the Right Weighted Blanket
There are certainly plenty of weighted blankets on the market to choose from. Keep these considerations in mind when picking a weighted blanket to ensure that you buy the one that will help you the most.
The most important consideration when it comes to a weighted blanket is its weight. Use the “10 percent of body weight” gauge to guarantee that the blanket is both comfortable and effective. If you’d like a little less or a little more pressure, select one that is 1 to 2 pounds lighter or heavier than 10 percent of your weight.
Many factors affect the price of a weighted blanket, including:
Many companies sell weighted twin- and queen-size blankets for adults in the 15- to 20-pound range for around $100-$150, and kid's blankets in the 5- to 7-pound range for $50-$75. Of course, these are just average prices, and you may find online, boutique, or local businesses selling them for less or more than that. Soft, "minky" fabrics typically cost more than cotton blends, and glass filler beads cost more than poly-fill. Frills like embroidery and monograms are often available, at an additional cost. If you desire even more customization, sellers on Etsy and other sites can even create a weighted blanket to your specifications (this may include a less-common size and/or weight).
Insomnia is no joke, and sleep deprivation can lead to a variety of problems. Issues range from a lack of concentration and irritability to job loss, depression, obesity, and even suicide. Better sleep helps you feel better physically, mentally, and emotionally. Protect your health, and the health of those around you, with the use of a weighted blanket. It can really change your life.