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Weighted blankets could help consumers struggling with insomnia

Study findings suggest that weighted blankets improve overall relaxation

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Photo (c) Tero Vesalainen - Getty Images
The importance of sleep can’t be overstated, but many consumers still unfortunately experience hours of tossing and turning at night. However, a new study found that there could be hope for those who struggle with insomnia. 

According to researchers from the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, using a weighted blanket can be an effective way to improve sleep outcomes and reduce symptoms associated with insomnia

“A suggested explanation for the calming and sleep-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,” said researcher Dr. Mats Alder.

“There is evidence suggesting that deep pressure stimulation increases parasympathetic arousal of the autonomic nervous system and at the same time reduces sympathetic arousal, which is considered to be the cause of the calming effect.” 

Getting better sleep

The researchers had 120 participants involved in the study, all of whom struggled with both insomnia and a psychiatric disorder like bipolar disorder or generalized anxiety disorder. Participants were instructed to sleep with either a regular blanket or a weighted blanket for the four-week study, and the researchers used data from a wearable device and the Insomnia Severity Index (ISI) to assess their sleep outcomes.

The majority of the participants who used a weighted blanket during the study had improved sleep outcomes by the end of the four weeks. Participants were more alert during the day, had fewer anxiety and depression-related symptoms, and experienced significant improvements on their ISI scores. The researchers explained that more than 42 percent of those who slept with the weighted blanket fell into the lowest category on the ISI, which indicates that insomnia isn’t a clinical issue. Conversely, less than four percent of those who slept with an unweighted blanket made it into that lowest category. 

“I was surprised by the large effect size on insomnia by the weighted blanket and pleased by the reduction of levels of both anxiety and depression,” Dr. Adler said. 

The researchers conducted a second part of their study that allowed those in the control group to make the switch to a heavier blanket over the course of one year and see how that changed their sleeping habits. The benefits of the weighted blanket were emphasized, as those who continued using a heavier blanket had consistently better sleep, whereas those who made the switch experienced major improvements to their insomnia symptoms. 

Moving forward, the researchers hope that those with severe insomnia consider adding a weighted blanket to their bedtime routines, as this study has clearly shown the powerful effects it can have on sleeping habits and mental health. 

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