Sleep can be hard to get at the best of times. But we live in a world in which the best of times are fairly rare. Thankfully, there’s a tool that can help you get a good night’s sleep on the regular – a weighted blanket. It might just be the next big thing to improve sleep health.
What are weighted blankets?
As a concept, weighted blankets are fairly simple. They are blankets that have been quilted with pellets of polyurethane foam or glass to add weight to them.
Weighted blankets have long been a staple of care for autistic disorders, as well as anxiety and stress. But there’s nothing in the rules that says that those are the only people who can use them.
Weighted blankets can be a sleep aid, and it could be helpful for your sleep health.
How do weighted blankets help children with autism sleep?
For a parent of a child with autism, falling asleep and relaxing has been a struggle. Research shows that 40% of children with autism have one or more comorbid diagnosed anxiety disorders. Anxiety disorders can lead to sleep deprivation and dysregulation, other than that, stress and anxiety can cause sleeping problems or worsen existing ones.
Weighted blankets are great for both children and adults with autism. A therapeutic weighted blanket, also known as a sensory blanket, might be what your child needs to help reduce anxiety and help with sleeping problems.
Different special blankets can aid in anxiety reduction and help achieve better nights’ sleep. It could be the sensation that comes with holding or hugging a weighted blanket for autism releases serotonin, a chemical that helps regulate sleep and moods.
Weighted blankets for autism can be particularly helpful for children during times of heightened anxiety, before bedtime, or when they are overwhelmed. A weighted blanket helps children and adults because of its deep pressure.
This pressure is calming to most people with Sensory Processing Disorders. As autism, anxiety, and sensory processing disorders need management throughout an individual’s lifetime, many adults and adolescents find comfort in having a variety of tools available to them.
How can weighted blankets boost sleep health?
Anxiety is one of the most common reasons why people struggle to sleep, which is why calming the mind before sleep is so important. Weighted blankets are known for helping to reduce the symptoms of anxiety and allowing people using them to feel more grounded.
The weight gives them something to focus on other than what is causing them to be stressed. They also offer deep pressure stimulation, thanks to their weight, which can tell your body to release many of the same endorphins you get from a massage or hug.
This helps you to calm down from the day you’ve had, helping you get to sleep easier. And you could get a higher quality sleep than you would otherwise.
By helping you to get more sleep, you are more likely to have less anxiety and be more able to deal with your anxiety during your waking hours.
Be cautious, though. While this all sounds amazing, there’s not a lot of research so far. As Dr. Neomi Shah of Mount Sinai Hospital tells CBS News, “from smaller studies they do seem to help some patients” but more research is necessary to confirm the benefits.
How to choose the right one
Weighted blankets are heavy, so you need to be able to mitigate the amount of heat that you generate while you sleep. While fabrics like cotton are easy to clean, you might want to aim for something that is a bamboo blend if you tend to sweat. That’s because it breathes a lot better than cotton or polyester blends.
Another thing to consider is whether to purchase a cover for the blanket. Depending on the type of filling in your blanket, it might not be safe to put weighted blankets in the washing machine.
It isn’t safe to put this or other types of sleep tech in the dryer either. To help you keep it clean, purchasing a removable cover for your weighted layer might be best.
Weight and sleep health
The weight that you want for the material will change based on how much pressure you want and how much you weigh.
Experts recommend that you purchase a blanket that weighs 10-15 percent of your overall body weight in order to make the weight manageable and comfortable for you. All without being too light to really help with anything.
Weighted blankets do not come in standard sizes like Full, Queen, and King. Instead, they come in a variety of sizes that lean more towards square than a regular sheet set.
The best way to make sure you get a blanket that’s the right size is to figure out how tall you are in inches and find the nearest size to that, even for kids.
Conclusions on weighted blankets for sleep health
By now it’s clear that there can be benefits to adding that heavy layer to the bed. But more research is necessary to see data reflect that on a big scale.
It’s sure to be a growing area of analysis in healthcare given the importance of good sleep.
Have you heard of weighted blankets before? What are your thoughts on them?