Anxiety sure has a knack for showing up right at bedtime, and a noggin fraught with anxiety can make it nearly impossible to fall asleep. Mattress companies would have you believe that all your problems would be solved by changing what you sleep on, but in fact, the answer may just lie in what you’re sleeping under.
Sleeping under a weighted blanket has been shown to help anxiety and insomnia. Doctors and occupational therapists alike have heralded weighted blankets as an effective non-drug therapy for sleep and relaxation.
Deep touch therapy
Weighted blankets are “weighted” with plastic poly pellets that are sewn into compartments, and they usually weigh between 15 to 30 pounds.
They help ease anxiety and combat insomnia by relaxing the nervous system via extra pressure -- a form of deep touch therapy. Studies suggest that when deep pressure points are triggered, they cause the brain to release more of the mood-lifting neurotransmitter, serotonin.
Adults can benefit from the weight of the blanket the same way a baby benefits from being swaddled. Sure, your blanket might be a little bigger than baby’s, but the science is the same. In each scenario, deep touch therapy stimulates touch receptors, transmitting a sense of calm and comfort -- like a warm hug while you’re sleeping.
As a way to alleviate anxiety, weighted blankets are particularly effective. A 2008 study published in Occupational Therapy in Mental Health showed that weighted blankets offer safe, effective therapy for anxiety. These results were later confirmed by a 2012 study published in Australasian Psychiatry, which found that weighted blankets successfully decreased distress and visible signs of anxiety in patients.
But the therapeutic effects of a weighted blanket extend far beyond anxiety. The blankets have been shown to help patients battling depression, PTSD, behaviors related to autism, restless leg syndrome, and even those with menopausal symptoms.
If you have a medical condition, experts recommend consulting a doctor or occupational therapist before using a weighted blanket. You shouldn’t use weighted blankets if you suffer from a respiratory, circulatory, or temperature regulation problem, or are recuperating after a surgery.