Before we talk about how weighted blankets can help you fall asleep quickly or how to select a suitable weighted blanket, let us look in to some of the reasons behind insomnia. Insomnia is a very common sleep disorder that affects millions of people in the US alone. The condition sometimes makes it difficult to fall asleep, causing others to wake up too early, and in some cases finding it hard to stay asleep or getting back to sleep after getting up in the middle of the night. Not getting adequate or restful sleep every night has enormous morbidity: it can cause extreme fatigue the next day, sap up energy, make one extremely irritable, affect work and school performance and leads to a poor quality of life.
Most adults require a minimum of 7-8 hours of sleep each night. For those who have difficulty sleeping there are no good medical treatments. All the available medications are prohibitively expensive, have many side effects and may not always work. Even medications that work initially, may stop working after a few weeks or months. Addiction to prescription sleeping pills is a common problem and most physicians are not willing to prescribe long term sedatives or hypnotics.
How to manage insomnia using a weighted blanket
Weighted or gravity blankets have many health benefits and have been used by therapists for decades to soothe children with anxiety, nightmares, ADHD, autism and other behavioral disorders. These blankets are made heavy with the use of fillers like beads, grains, rice, silicone or fabrics like cotton. The weighted blanket applies pressure on the different body parts while one is lying supine. The pressure generated on the skin, muscle, and joints is similar to what occurs during a massage. The body starts to relax, there is less tension and there is an overall sense of relaxation. It is believed that the weighted blankets stimulate the release of neurochemicals which are responsible for the soothing and calming effects. Therapists do report that weighted blankets quickly calm children because they provide a sensation of being hugged.
These weighted blankets can also be used to manage insomnia in adults. The weighted blanket is selected based on body weight (7-10%) but the maximum weight cannot be more than 25 pounds. There are many reports indicating that when used regularly, weighted blankets provide soothing and restful sleep. It is important to remember that one should also adopt good sleep hygiene practices at the same time, to derive the maximal benefit from weighted blankets.
Good habits to adopt to combat insomnia
- Going to bed and waking up at the same time every day
- Not consuming a heavy meal late in the evening
- Avoiding intense exercise just before bedtime
- Avoid caffeine after 2pm
- Exercising regularly
- Avoiding all distractions from the bedroom such as a TV, mobile phone, or radio
- Avoiding naps in the daytime
Weighted blankets are a natural way to treat insomnia. While the initial cost of the blanket is slightly higher than a conventional blanket, this appliance is far cheaper than most drug treatments and devoid of side effects. The weighted blanket can be used by all members of the family except infants and young children less than 6 years of age.