According to a recent study released by the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, around 25 percent of Americans experience acute insomnia each year. Meanwhile, according to the Sleep Education Organization, chronic insomnia, which lasts a month or longer and is typically the secondary symptom of another illness altogether, affects about 1 in 10 people. As you can imagine, when this occurs three or more times during a week in severe cases, insomnia can take a massive toll on your daily life and long-term health. Even if you don’t battle with insomnia, or at least don’t believe you do, the National Sleep Foundation says that 45 percent of the population consistently gets “poor or insufficient sleep.”
According to some research and a handful of companies involved, the solution on many of those restless nights could be as simple as having the right blanket on your bed.
If that sounds ridiculous, some research behind weighted blankets is actually intriguing enough to warrant at least an open mind. Weighted blankets have been shown to ease anxiety, increase oxytocin in the brain, and help individuals with sensory processing disorders feel more relaxed. So they have been prescribed to people with anxiety disorders, ADHD, insomnia, restless leg syndrome, and even Fibromyalgia. When it comes to putting you to sleep, they function in the same way that a Thunder Shirt is designed to calm anxious dogs. This is known as deep pressure stimulation, which is achieved by the fact that the blanket itself weighs around 25 pounds with a filler inside that keeps you snug and tight enough to A) promote relaxation and B) keep you from moving so restlessly while asleep.
In a study that measured vital signs of adults using weighted blankets, 63 percent of participants reported feeling less anxiety while they were using the weighted blanket. Researchers also recorded a 33 percent drop in electrodermal activity, which is a response generated by the sweat glands, often in response to stress. Meanwhile, the journal Occupational Therapy in Mental Health reported on a study in which 78 percent of participants using a weighted blanket said that using a 30-pound weighted blanket made them feel calmer as well.
So, studies support that weighted blankets certainly make people more calm and relaxed, but do they make all these people sleep better?
“It’s this notion that having between 7 to 12 percent of your body weight resting on top of you increases serotonin and decreases cortisol. That’s the general premise that we took,” says Mike Grillo, a managing director of one such blanket manufacturer, the Gravity Blanket.
Truthfully, studies are insufficient as to whether or not weighted blankets do in fact put you to sleep. To this point, their effectiveness is based more in theory and anecdotal evidence. But if you believe that the key to getting more sleep and better sleep is simply finding a shortcut to relaxation, then this is at least one more sleep hack to add to your to-do list.