While weighted blankets offer many benefits, the one most people are looking to get is to improve sleep. Heavy blankets have mostly been used for those with autism or sensory processing disorder, but more and more often they are being used for those with sleeping disorders, like insomnia or restless leg syndrome, as well as people who simply would like to improve their sleep overall.
In this article, we’ll look at some of the studies behind weighted blankets and what they have to offer for those looking to improve their sleep.
When looking at the science behind weighted blankets, you’ll often find the term deep touch pressure, often abbreviated to DTP.
DTP is simply a term for weight being gently and evenly distributed on the body. Most people have felt deep touch pressure in the form of a hug or massage. If you’ve even felt calmed down by a hug or have had to hug your child for them to sleep, there is science behind why it works!
Why is releasing serotonin important? It's a chemical that's extremely important for feeling calm, sensory processing, mood regulation, and much more.
Releasing more serotonin along with decreasing activity in the nervous system is a great combination for calming down before bed.
This increase in calming feelings is why weighted blankets help insomnia. Often times, simply having more serotonin can help that.
Weighted blankets help improve sleep in a number of ways. Like mentioned above, they provide a calming experience by releasing serotonin and decreasing the activity in the nervous system.
Another reason they help improve sleep is through improving the body’s release of melatonin. Melatonin is a chemical in the body that helps tell us when it’s time to for bed. Melatonin release can get altered through unnatural lighting late at night or irregular sleeping schedules.
Weighted blankets help improve melatonin because they help produce serotonin. Serotonin is a key building block for your body to create melatonin, so increasing serotonin will help your body produce melatonin. This then helps your body become on a more regular sleep schedule.
The last reason weighted blankets help improve sleep is simply for the fact that they are heavier than regular blankets. This extra weight decreases tossing and turning during the night and can be a great way to deal with restless leg syndrome.
A Study from Journal of Sleep Medicine & Disorders (2015) found that a weighted blanket helped those with insomnia sleep better, simply because it helped them feel more settled before bed.
“Objectively, we found that sleep bout time increased, as well as a decrease in movements of the participants, during weighted blanket use. Subjectively, the participants liked sleeping with the blanket, found it easier to settle down to sleep and had an improved sleep, where they felt more refreshed in the morning. Overall, we found that when the participants used the weighted blanket, they had a calmer night’s sleep.”
If you are excited about improving your sleep, then you may be wondering what you need to know about purchasing a weighted blanket.
The first and most important thing is to make sure you get the right weight.
The rule of thumb is 10% of your bodyweight plus a pound or two. So if you are buying a blanket for an 80lb child, you'd want to go with a 10lb blanket. If you are getting a blanket for a 150lb person, then a 16 or 17lb blanket would work best.
Other factors you'll want to consider when looking at blankets is what is used to weigh down the blankets. It can vary from plastic pellets to rice to metal beads.
Another important aspect is if you can wash the blanket at home or will need to take it to a dry cleaner. If you don’t plan on it getting dirty, then you won’t need to worry about this as much. But if it’s going to get a lot of use, then you should find an easy-to-wash blanket.
The last factor to consider is what type of fabric you’d like, which is a personal preference.
If you have any questions about weighted blankets, please let us know in the comments! We are happy to answer them and help you find the best option for your situation.
Casey Ames is the founder of Harkla
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