When most people think about weighted blankets, they think of them as a tool to improve sleep. And while this is true, the use of heavy blankets has it's roots firmly planted in occupational therapy where they were first introduced as a way to help those with autism or sensory processing disorders. But, today, more and more often they are being used for those with sleeping disorders, like insomnia or restless leg syndrome, as well as for people who would simply like to improve their quality of sleep overall.
Let's take a look at some of the studies behind weighted blankets and what they have to offer those looking to improve their sleep.
DEEP TOUCH PRESSURE STIMULATION: THE SCIENCE BEHIND WEIGHTED BLANKETS
When looking for information on weighted blankets, you’ll often see the term deep touch pressure stimulation, abbreviated to DTPS.
DTPS, put simply, a term for weight gently and evenly distributed across the body. Most people commonly experience this in the form of a hug or a massage. If you’ve ever felt calmed by a hug or have experienced a child needing someone to stay with them and hold them to fall asleep, there is real science behind why this works!
Serotonin is produced by your body and is essential to feeling calm, aiding in sensory processing, mood regulation, and much more.
An increase of serotonin along with decreased nervous system activity is a magical combination to help wind down and relax before sleep.
This is why many with insomnia benefit from using a weighted blanket.
HOW DO WEIGHTED BLANKETS IMPROVE SLEEP ISSUES?
Weighted blankets help improve sleep in many ways. As mentioned above, they provide a calming experience by releasing serotonin and decreasing activity in the nervous system.
They also stimulate the body’s release of melatonin. Melatonin is a hormone that tells the body that it’s time to for sleep. Melatonin release may be altered by artificial lighting or irregular sleep schedules.
Weighted blankets help your body to produce serotonin. Serotonin is the precursor for the production of melatonin. So now we see how this all works together.
Lastly, weighted blankets are simply heavier than regular blankets. This extra weight decreases gives a feeling of being grounded and reduces tossing and turning during the night.
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.”
CHOOSING THE RIGHT WEIGHTED BLANKET
You may be wondering what you need to know about purchasing a weighted blanket. The first and most important consideration is the right weight.
The general rule of thumb is 10% of your body weight plus a pound or two. For example, if you are purchasing a blanket for an 80lb child, you'd want to go with a 10lb blanket. When the person's body weight falls between recommended blanket weights then it is normally best practice to go up in weight. Example: If you are purchasing a blanket for a 180lb person you would go with a 20lb blanket. If you are uncertain what weight might be best for you, please reach out to Customer Support at firstname.lastname@example.org and we'll do our best to assist you in determining the right weight for you.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR IN A BLANKET
Other factors you'll want to consider when looking at blankets is what is used to create the weight. It can vary from plastic pellets to rice to metal discs. Rice and other organic material will not wash well. Disks and metal beads may have a less forgiving feel that you find distracting, making it harder to enjoy the benefits of relaxation.
Another important aspect is whether the blanket can be easily washed at home. Does it have a removable cover? Do you need a waterproof (also known as a medical grade) blanket?
The last factor to consider is what type of fabric and color 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 you and your unique needs.