Wondering what a weighted blanket is, and whether it can help you increase your quality of life? You’re at the right place!
In this guide, we walk you through:
- What a heavy blanket actually is
- How they work and how to use them
- The benefits of using them regularly
- How they can help alleviate various medical conditions
As you’ll come to see, these blankets are highly versatile, and they’re used by people across the world, from all walks of life. Some folks use these them to cope with anxiety or PTSD, and others use them simply to get a better night’s sleep.
Ready? Let’s jump right in!
What is a weighted blanket?
Well, they are pretty self-explanatory - they’re simply duvets that are filled with a material to weigh them down.
Most of them weigh in at 15 pounds or more, and they’re typically filled with plastic pellets, poly pellets or glass beads (less conventional “stuffers” include rice, millet, and lead).
In the past, weighted blankets were predominantly used by occupational therapists as a therapy tool. These days, they have gone “mainstream”, and consumers are now purchasing them to help them cope with insomnia, stress, and other conditions.
How does a sleep-inducing blanket work?
Now that we’ve discussed what exactly they are, let's move on to exploring how they work.
Weighted blankets essentially provide a therapy termed Deep Touch Pressure (DTP) Stimulation. This sounds like a fancy term, but it just refers to any form of deep pressure that’s exerted equally across the body.
If you’ve ever swaddled a baby and watched them drift off peacefully into sleep, well, that’s DTP at work. Swaddling aside, DTP can also be administered through other techniques, including squeezing, stroking, and firm hugs.
Once you receive DTP, your brain releases Serotonin, a “feel good” chemical that contributes to feelings of well-being and happiness.
So, here’s a quick recap:
Using a Hush Blanket = DTP stimulation.
DTP stimulation = Release of Serotonin.
Release of Serotonin, lowering of cortisol = You become happier, calmer, and less anxious.
If you’re wondering how to use a weighted blanket, it’s pretty straightforward. Just drape it over yourself, and go to sleep like you normally would.
Insomnia blanket benefits that will make you a convert
Weighted blankets can help you improve your quality of life in several ways. Read on to find out about the various benefits!
1. Improves quality of sleep
Top on our list of benefits is none other than: improving your quality of sleep!
Insomnia is a huge problem plaguing our nation - that much is obvious.
The numbers don’t lie: approximately 40 million Americans struggle with insomnia, we lose about US$63 billion worth of productivity due to insomnia per year, and insomnia is a major contributing factor to deaths caused by motor vehicle crashes.
Other countries, too, are grappling with the same problem. The average person in Japan, for instance, sleeps less than 6 hours per day, and naps periodically through the day to make up for their sleep deficit.
Now, here’s where the solution comes in.
According to a study published in the Journal of Sleep Medicine & Disorders, weighted blankets may aid in reducing insomnia through altered tactile inputs, providing “an innovative, non-pharmacological approach and complementary tool to improve sleep quality.”
In this study, participants slept for a week in their habitual environment, and then spent two weeks sleeping using a heavy blanket. All in all, researchers found that when participants slept with one, their sleep bout time increased; they also moved around less in their sleep.
When researchers asked the participants to recount their experiences, participants reported that they found it easier to settle down to sleep, had better sleep quality, and woke up feeling more refreshed in the morning.
2. Reduces stress and anxiety
Insomnia aside, anxiety blankets are also a godsend for anyone who routinely experiences large amounts of stress and anxiety.
More specifically, a study published in Occupational Therapy in Mental Health shows that participants who use them experience lower blood pressure, pulse rates and pulse oximetry; these are all signs of reduced stress levels.
When asked to describe the effects of the such a blanket, participants reported feeling less stressed after using it . 63% of participants also stated that they felt less anxious, with 78% indicating that they “preferred the weighted blanket as a calming modality.”
Tips to Battle Insomnia Once and for All
Many of us have experienced the frustrations that come with insomnia. Lying awake in bed at 3am, unable to sleep, knowing that your energy levels and mood will suffer in the morning ahead as a result. While some may take pride in their lack of sleep, the recommended nightly average of sleep that we should be aiming to get is between 7 and 9 hours.
With 6 or less hours of sleep on a regular basis, we can expect to experience accelerated aging, a loss in muscle strength, a decline in sexual performance, as well as an increased likelihood of developing Alzheimer’s later in life. Although there can be many causes of insomnia, in the aftermath of a digital revolution where many find it impossible to ‘switch off’, we are dealing with levels of distractions which would have been unimaginable just decades ago. The good news is that insomnia is treatable, and we have prepared some habits and tips that you can work into your evening for better sleep.
- Having a consistent wind-down routine
A night time routine is essential for maintaining a healthy biorhythmic clock. Apart from going to bed and waking up at the same time every day, it can be helpful to develop comforting nightly rituals to ease yourself into an effortless slumber. Make this enjoyable by incorporating some everyday self-care practices into your routine, such as taking a warm bath or listening to relaxing music. Such activities have been shown to lower blood pressure and relieve anxiety through the release of endorphins which trigger positive sensations in the body.
When the body is more relaxed, we are less likely to experience restlessness and can enjoy a calmer night’s sleep. Our Hush weighted blanket is beneficial for anxiety and stress, and has also been shown to decrease body movement while sleeping, leaving users more refreshed in the morning.
When it comes to the act of sleeping itself, it’s important to know the best time for your body to fall asleep. The science behind this is interesting. It takes the average person approximately 14 minutes to fall asleep, and once this happens, our bodies go through five stages of sleep. These stages range from light sleep (stage 1) to deep sleep (stage 4), and onto Rapid Eye Movement (REM) or ‘dream sleep’, with each cycle taking approximately 90 minutes.
The goal is to wake up at the end of a sleep cycle, as being abruptly woken by an alarm midway through a cycle can leave you feeling tired, groggy, and disoriented. To avoid this, it’s possible to work backwards from the wake-up time of your alarm to calculate exactly when you should be falling asleep. For example, if you need to wake up at 7am, you should be going to bed at 9:46pm, 11:16pm, 12:46am, or 2:16am. There are a number of useful websites and apps, such as Hillarys. which can make the calculation process easier. Incorporating a wind-down routine into your day and maximising the positive effects of sleep through an understanding of sleep cycles can work wonders for combating insomnia and fatigue.
- Having a healthy diet and exercise regime
Diet, exercise, and sleep are widely considered to be the three pillars to good overall health. However, the pillars themselves are interconnected, causing the likelihood of insomnia onset to be highly influenced by diet and exercise, and vice versa. Caffeine has been found to be one of the main culprits behind acute insomnia. As a stimulant, it can make us feel temporarily more alert by increasing the production of adrenaline while blocking out sleep-inducing chemicals in the brain. The stimulant suppresses melatonin, disrupting normal sleep cycles. To fight off insomnia, it is best to avoid coffee from mid-afternoon onwards, perhaps substituting it instead for green tea, a helpful source of sleep-inducing melatonin.
When it comes to solid food, going to bed either too full or too hungry can both prevent and disrupt sleep. After the tossing and turning that often arises from attempting to sleep on an empty stomach, quality of sleep can be further impaired by hunger. Low-level starvation results in the brain being overactive, meaning that the recuperation normally provided by sleep is reduced, as well as a lack of necessary nutrients causing the breakdown of muscle overnight.
As a society, we are increasingly aware of the implications of a poor diet in terms of obesity and type II diabetes, but a poor diet can also be a contributing factor to insomnia and other sleeping disorders. Diets that are high in sugar and heavier, starchier carbohydrates prevent the body entering the deep sleep stage. This can have a drastic impact on health as this is the stage where energy levels are recharged, body tissues are repaired, and extra blood supply reaches the muscles. Instead, we can look towards more complex carbohydrate foods such as grains, cereals and vegetables. These “good” carbs contain the amino acid tryptophan which has been known to boost sleep quality and overall moods. If you’ve ever wondered why your body craves a nap after a large meal, tryptophan is likely the reason. Snacks such as whole grain crackers with peanut butter can provide the right mix of complex carbs, protein and tryptophan to induce a good night’s rest.
While we know that exercise can boost strength and endurance levels, it can also be the key to eliminating chronic insomnia. Research has shown that moderate-intensity activities such as walking can reduce the time taken to fall asleep while also extending the duration of sleep. For those who suffer from insomnia as a result of an out-of-sync body clock, exercise can help in correcting the daily sleep cycle, promoting healthier sleeping habits. If you have trouble sleeping despite getting regular exercise, try changing your workout time to the afternoon or early evening. This may help as the initial increase in body temperature that occurs during exercise is followed by a post-exercise fall in body temperature which will encourage the body to rest.
- Keeping cool
We mentioned that a fall in body temperature following a workout can help promote sleep. Scientists have found that the brain needs to experience a drop in temperature of approximately 2-3°F in order to initiate sleep, which explains why we generally find it easier to fall asleep in a cold room rather than one that is too hot. Cooling the body helps us prepare for non-REM or “deep” sleep. It also prevents overheating, which can cause hyperventilation and a decrease in our body’s oxygen content. Interestingly, rather than recommending that you stick your bed sheets in the freezer, researchers have uncovered some more simple but contradictory ways of reducing our core body temperature. It might sound crazy, but wearing socks and gloves to sleep can charm the blood away from your core and redirect it to the surface, providing cooling in important areas.
If you’re not a fan of the idea of wearing gloves in bed, try having a hot bath or shower instead. The warm water causes blood vessels to dilate, reducing blood pressure. The blood in our body rushes to the surface and heat evacuates the body, causing our body temperature to plummet. When suffering from insomnia, there are a number of simple and pleasurable body hacks which can effectively cool the body, sending it into slumber. Our Hush weighted anxiety blanket is designed to accommodate the body’s need for cooler temperatures, so during summer months the outer shell can be removed, allowing you to sleep with the cool inner blanket.
Apart from taking steps to reduce body temperature, some people may also find it beneficial to adjust the room temperature for an optimal sleep. In general, the ideal room temperature to fall asleep in is between 60 and 68°F. This allows the body temperature to remain below 98.6°F, perfect for a sleep-friendly environment.
- Embracing the darkness
Our bodies are naturally programmed to fall asleep when daylight turns to darkness. While exposure to light during the day stimulates those feelings of alertness and energy that our body requires, artificial light at night time triggers the same physiological responses, blocking the cues which tell our bodies that it’s time to rest. When we produce less of the sleep-inducing hormone melatonin, we are more likely to suffer from both insomnia and depression. There are a number of tricks that can be used to make a bedroom darker, including using incandescent and low-wattage bulbs. Blocking out other artificial light sources such as street lamps and the glow from electronics can further reduce disruption to our body clock.
Science has taught us that technology and electronics send alerting signals to the brain which can keep us awake at night. To prevent this, it is best to avoid screens and electronic devices in the final hour before planning to sleep. Many of our devices also now have a ‘Night Mode’ option which changes the color temperature of device screens to a red tint rather than the standard blue light which causes brain stimulation. Turning off the blue light on your phone during hours of darkness will be less jarring on your eyes, while also helping you to fall asleep.
There are some other simple tricks we can do such as turning off half of the lights in our homes at night. Being more aware of the various artificial light sources which may be impeding proper sleep, and taking steps to eliminate these, will result in a rise of melatonin, inducing the body to sleep.
- Using the bedroom just for sleeping
Many people see their bedroom as a place of comfort or a safe haven to which they can retire after a long day. Because of this, it’s easy to get into a habit of watching endless hours of Netflix, reading, or even worse, eating in your bed. As enjoyable as these all may seem, our bedrooms should only ever be used for two things, and one of them is sleeping.
Scientists have found that by using the bedroom for leisure activities such as browsing social media rather than solely sleeping, we can quickly develop a habit of falling asleep later at night and waking up later in the morning. This creates a significant gap between the earlier time at which we may attempt to sleep on weekdays compared to the later time at weekends, making it more difficult to sleep on weekdays. The solution is simple. By removing anything from your bedroom that is not related to sleep, our brains will create an association between our bedrooms and the act of sleeping. This means leaving all work papers, school books, laptops and devices in another room to eliminate any distractions which may keep you awake at night. Besides, eating in bed is simply bad hygiene.
We know what you’re probably thinking, that this is a lot of information and science to process. However, in reality it’s simple. Incorporating a routine of self-care into your evenings, and securing time away from screens in the presence of a cool, dark bedroom can be the difference between a restless and a restful night’s sleep.
Natural Sleep Remedies You Can Make at Home to Treat Insomnia
All too often we hear of doctors jumping the gun and prescribing sleeping pills to patients who complain of suffering from insomnia or other sleep disorders. While these medications can be helpful in certain situations, they are also known for being heavily addictive, as well as having a number of side effects such as dizziness and headaches. Insomnia sufferers may benefit from trying some natural sleep remedies which are known for their sleep-inducing effects. We’ve made it easy for you, with a list of tips and recipes for making easy, natural sleep remedies at home.
- Snack on tryptophan-heavy foods
Tryptophan is an essential amino acid known for its sleep-inducing effects. It helps raise both serotonin and melatonin levels in the body, coercing our bodies to crave sleep. Unfortunately, our bodies cannot produce tryptophan on their own. The good news is that we can obtain it through eating protein foods, such as meat, almonds, milk, and eggs.
The World Health Organization recommends an average daily intake of approximately 300mg of tryptophan per day. By combining a healthy intake of tryptophan-heavy foods with carbohydrates, an improvement in sleep cycle is more likely. Some easy-to-make snacks include roasted soybeans, canned tuna, peanut or almond butter on toast, and pistachios.
- Increase Your Magnesium Intake
Although magnesium is one of the most common minerals on Earth, up to 80% of us may not be receiving the recommended daily intake. Insomnia is commonly a symptom of a magnesium deficiency. Before we can fall asleep, our bodies and brain must begin to relax. Magnesium plays a role in this by activating the nervous system responsible for calming the body. This means that the mineral plays a role in both helping us to fall asleep, and ensuring that the sleep we do get is of high quality.
The great thing about magnesium is that there is no need for supplements as it is commonly found in a wide variety of foods. If you or your doctor believes that a lack of sleep may be linked to a magnesium deficiency, try incorporating quinoa, spinach, kale, nuts, black beans and brown rice into your weekly meals and snacks. Magnesium is also found in water, so make an effort to consume between 2.7 and 3.7 litres of water per day. A simple cup of milk contains 100mg of tryptophan as well as calcium and magnesium, the perfect, comforting night-time drink.
Magnesium not only helps you get to sleep, but it also helps alleviate anxiety and depression. Those who suffer from anxiety and depression often experience restlessness at night when trying to fall asleep. Magnesium can enhance the effectiveness of standard treatments for such issues, allowing for an improvement in sleep cycles.
- Drinking Chamomile Tea
Chamomile tea is one of the most effective remedies for sleeping disorders, highly regarded for its tranquilizing and sleep-inducing effects. The tea is made from the flower of the chamomile plant which is commonly grown in Europe before being dried at the right temperature.
Chamomile tea is most effective for combating insomnia when consumed thirty minutes before sleep. Easy-to-use tea bags can be purchased from most grocery stores, and you just need to add boiling water and allow the tea to steep for a couple of minutes. If you’re feeling more adventurous and have access to fresh flowers, try making your own tea. Add 3-4 tablespoons of chamomile and a mint spring into a teapot. Add 8oz of boiling water, and leave for 5 minutes. A strainer can be used to separate the flowers from the tea, leaving you with a hot tea ready for sipping.
There are numerous positive effects provided by chamomile, including the promotion of sleep, alleviation of anxiety, and an improvement in mood. However, there are still questions as to how exactly these benefits are produced. One theory is that the chemicals found in chamomile bind themselves to certain neurotransmitters in the brain which are known to promote sleep. This leads to a fall in brain activity which has a sedative effect. The herbal flower is also known to relieve stomach cramps, menstrual disorders, and muscular spasms.
- Upping Your Melatonin Intake
Melatonin is a natural hormone produced within the brain’s pineal gland. At night, following sunset, the pineal gland is activated by the presence of darkness and our body begins to produce melatonin. This means that after approximately 9PM, increased levels of melatonin within our blood stream causes our body to become less alert, a sign that we are ready to sleep.
During daylight hours, or in the presence of artificial lighting, melatonin is not produced. This explains why some of us may find it difficult to sleep during summertime when the sun shines for longer each day, or when indoor lighting is present. Melatonin is found in certain foods, such as nuts, grains, fruits, vegetables and seeds. However, if you are experiencing insomnia or jet lag, melatonin supplements are an option. Because melatonin can be found naturally within food, no prescription is necessary, meaning that melatonin supplements are readily available in most health food stores and drug stores.
If necessary, doctors recommend taking a dose of 1-3mg of melatonin two hours before bedtime. Such a dose can raise melatonin levels in the blood from 1 to 20 times the normal amount, possibly explaining why some sufferers of sleep disorders have referred to it as a “miracle” sleeping aid. Although, we of course recommend that you consult your doctor before taking any supplements. You can also maximise the use of the supplement by following some of our simple pre-sleep tips for helping combat insomnia here from our last blog post(LINK).
- Using lavender
Lavender plants, grown in the Mediterranean, are known for their ability to relieve stress and improve both moods and sleep. As well as helping the body to unwind, allowing us to fall asleep quicker, it has also been found to increase slow-wave sleep. During this stage of sleep, the heartbeat drops to a slow pace and the body’s muscles are given a chance to repair.
There are a number of ways to incorporate lavender into your nighttime routine for better sleep. If you liked the idea of camomile tea, lavender tea is another option. Simply leave lavender petals and some mint leaves to steep in boiling water for 10 minutes before drinking. If you’re not keen on the taste, there are a number of ways to use the lavender aroma to get the same benefits.
One popular method is using lavender essential oils with a diffuser. Using the essential oil format of lavender, the diffuser sprays out a fragrant mist of lavender and water while you’re sleeping. If that’s too complicated, you can try getting creative. Grab some cotton balls and add a couple drops of lavender essential oils before slipping them inside your pillow case. You can also massage the oil into your arms and neck before sleeping for the same effect. Like most of the remedies mentioned here, lavender has the ability to decrease anxiety, as well as treating headaches and sinus infections.
All too many of us are aware of the frustration and exhaustion that accompanies insomnia. The remedies we have described here are mostly plant-based and natural sleep aids, with a wide range of other health benefits. Our Hush Weighted Blanket is also proven to reduce symptoms of stress and anxiety, helping provide a deeper sleep and sense of comfort. Who wouldn’t want that?
Anxiety blanket uses: how they help with medical conditions
Apart from contributing to your general well-being, weighted blankets are also proven to help with certain medical conditions.
If you (or a loved one!) has an autism spectrum disorder, ADHD or PTSD, a weighted blanket might help you and cope with your condition.
Autism Spectrum Disorder
Using DPT to soothe nervous systems of those with autism disorders is by lowering cortisol no means a new technique; this actually dates back to the 1990s.
Here’s the back story: two to three decades ago, autism researcher Dr Temple Grandin noticed that cows who were receiving vaccinations became calm when they were gently squeezed in the machines that were used in the process.
Following this, Dr Grandin came up with the idea of building a similar device for people; she termed this the “Squeeze Machine”.
The machine turned out to be a huge success; individuals with autism who used the squeeze machine came away feeling more relaxed, less anxious, and more receptive to touch.
Now, while you can buy the Squeeze Machine today, it’s both bulky and expensive (TheRafin.com sells it for $4525, exclusive of shipping).
Bearing this in mind, a weighted blanket is a good alternative. Like Squeeze Machines, these blankets use DPT to soothe individuals, but they’re priced much more affordably.
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
A close cousin of the weighted blanket is the weighted vest; this has been shown to help those with ADHD focus better and concentrate on the task at hand.
According to a study published in the South African Journal of Occupational Therapy Evidence, learners diagnosed with ADHD show significant improvements in in-seat behavior while wearing weighted vests.
The study states that “proprioceptive and deep pressure input” provided by the weighted vest improved the participants’ under or over responsivity to sensory information, and this in turn allowed them to attend to their tasks more effectively.
That’s not all - another study in the American Journal of Occupational Therapy also shows that those participants who wear weighted vests are rewarded with improved attention. In this study, 110 children with ADHD who wore weighted vests had a higher ability to stay on task, and processed and responded to stimuli more quickly as well.
At this point, you might be wondering… what’s the difference between a weighted blanket and a weighted vest? Can you use one in place of the other?
While weighted blankets and vests work the same way, weighted blankets are primarily used to applying DPT while one is at rest. In contrast, weighted vests give you the freedom of moving around and going about your daily activities.
In other words: whether you should use a weighted blanket or vest depends on what you’re doing.
If you’re reading quietly or using your laptop, and you want to use DPT to help you concentrate better, draping a weighted blanket over yourself will do the trick. You don’t have to go out of the way to purchase and use a weighted vest!
Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
Mention the term “PTSD”, and most people automatically think of soldiers who have been in combat. But PTSD doesn’t just affect those in the military - it also afflicts ordinary folk who have suffered traumatic experiences such as robberies, car accidents, and other forms of assault.
Now, it’s common for those who have PTSD to constantly feel that they’re in danger. PTSD sufferers know that they’re safe, but their system remains in the “fight or flight” mode; as you can imagine, this is mentally and physically exhausting.
Here’s where weighted blankets come into the picture. Using DPT, weighted blankets can help to quiet a person’s central nervous system, and calm them down.
As mentioned previously, weighted blankets are often used by occupational therapist to help patients in psychiatric care; these can help an individual reduce their anxiety, and regain control of their emotions.
A final word on using weighted blankets
Alright, that’s all we have for you on the topic of weighted blankets. You now know all there is to know about weighted blankets!
Regardless of whether you’re trying to alleviate the symptoms of a particular condition, or you simply want to get a better night’s sleep, you can use a weighted blanket to do just that.
Here at Hush Blankets, we’ve had thousands of people email us and tell us that their lives have been changed after they started using our weighted blankets.
If you want to experience the magic of a weighted blanket for yourself, hop on over to our website where you can purchase the Hush Blanket.
It will cover any mattress size - King/Queen/Twin, and we also had kids options. Use this sizing guide to select the proper weight and size.
Our blankets are backed by a 100 Night Guarantee, so if you don’t fall in love with your blanket, you can return it and we’ll process a full refund (inclusive of your shipping fees).
What are you waiting for? Time to get rid of your stress, ease symptoms of anxiety and insomnia using the Hush Blanket!