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Sleep disorders are one of the biggest health problems in the world. According to the CDC, sleep deprivation is a health epidemic. About 50-70 million Americans suffer from some kind of sleep disorder, and 30%-40% have had short-term insomnia. Short-term insomnia is diagnosed when a patient struggles to sleep for less than three months.
I have personally had difficulty sleeping, and because I understand the serious health risks associated with it, I set out to find any method that could help me get a full night’s rest. After trying almost everything—except prescription drugs—I decided to test out a Gravity Blanket. Gravity Blankets are a specific brand of weighted blankets that apply force down onto the sleeper, often described as a comforting embrace. The idea is that the “embrace” will soothe the sleeper into a deep slumber by making them feel safe and protected.
The Gravity Blanket has a super soft fleece duvet that covers the blanket with gridded stitches inside. The gridded stitches hold the hypoallergenic beads that give the blanket weight in place. It’s a very simple concept but seems to work very effectively for sleep disorders and anxiety. The Gravity Blanket is one of the most popular brands because it also provides you with temperature control.
Sleep problems may just seem like a bothersome condition, but they can have lethal consequences. Some of the most common include cardiovascular disease, anxiety, diabetes, high blood pressure, and obstructive sleep apnea. Obstructive sleep apnea is particularly dangerous as it often causes the patient to suffocate in their sleep. The other most dangerous result of sleeplessness is car accidents. According to the CDC, tired drivers cause approximately 41,550 accidents each year—1,550 of which are deadly.
How to Improve Sleep
Researchers have examined several different ways to treat sleep problems. Sometimes doctors prescribe medications, but this always runs the risk that you will have severe adverse side effects. Some medications are known to cause sleepwalking, sleep-driving, or even impairment the day after.
Other tips for sleeping better are simpler. Those are designed to change certain behavioral patterns that could be affecting your sleep. For example, your doctor may recommend you avoid alcohol or caffeine if you struggle with insomnia, as both of these may keep you from getting restful sleep. He may also stress the importance of you keeping a regular bedtime schedule. Rising and going to sleep at the same times each day usually helps people snooze better consistently.
Two other common suggestions are to meditate and to make sure you shut off all of your technology at least one hour before bed. Mindfulness-based stress reduction combines yoga and meditation to reduce your stress. It can be very helpful in calming your mind, keeping your thoughts from racing when you’re in bed, and helping you sleep. It’s recommended that you turn off technology because all light affects your melatonin levels. Melatonin is a hormone that is vital for sleep! It’s so effective that many people take melatonin supplements at bedtime. It helps you get a deeper, more restful sleep. But if you take supplements, you should be aware that they can make you feel drowsy the next day. It might be better to start by turning off your phone, TV, and even dimming your house lamps!
I tried most of these with some success. However, I would still find myself waking in the middle of the night and struggling to fall back to sleep or barely sleeping at all! Since I had heard great things about weighted blankets from so many people, I decided to try a Gravity Blanket next.
Most studies show that weighted blankets can greatly improve insomnia symptoms. One particular study found that weighted blankets gave the participants a calmer sleep as well. They moved less and reported that they felt more secure and relaxed.
Nevertheless, studies are still very limited. Most of them have focused on children with disabilities.
So how do weighted blankets help with sleep and anxiety? Weighted blankets provide something called deep pressure touch (DTP), which applies soft pressure to your body, encouraging the production of serotonin and dopamine. Amongst many other things, serotonin and dopamine are responsible for improving your mood and making you feel more at ease. Because it has so many positive effects, DTP is one of the most common techniques used in occupational therapy.
First off, I had to choose what type of blanket I was going to test. There are so many different weighted blankets on the market and most of them have very similar features. After much deliberation, I decided to go with the Gravity Blanket because it was honored as one of 2018’s best inventions by TIME Magazine. You see, it was the first brand to suggest weighted blankets be used for sleep. Prior to this, they were only used for medical patients with mental disorders. However, since their evenly distributed DTP works to increase serotonin and decrease the stress hormone, cortisol, Gravity Blanket recognized weighted blankets could also be used to improve sleep.
Since Gravity Blankets’ innovation, hundreds of other companies have come forward to sell their own versions. However, Gravity Blankets still have some of the best. They sell the heaviest sizes and also have cooling options—although it’s uncertain when this specific item will be back in stock on Amazon. Different sizes are important because your blanket is personalized to your body weight. The right blanket for you should be about 10% of your body weight. Any lighter or heavier and you won’t receive the same benefits. Too heavy and you run the risk of feeling trapped, and too light and your blanket may feel almost the same as a regular comforter. This is also why each blanket is sized 72” x 48”, which provides coverage for only one person. Since the blanket is bodyweight specific, it shouldn’t be shared.
Although I was able to snag the correct blanket size, the only model I could find was made of a microfiber that was very warming. It’s a very soft, high-quality duvet, but would make sleeping under the blanket very difficult if not impossible in the summertime. Like most weighted blankets, the Gravity Blanket is guilty of trapping overwhelming heat. I was really disappointed their cooling version wasn’t available.
Do Gravity Blankets Work?
As I mentioned before, most research gathered on weighted blankets has been positive. One study found that the majority of users enjoy a deeper sleep due to greater tranquility. When they pulled the blanket over them, it calmed their wild thoughts and worries from the day and helped them fall asleep quickly.
Gravity Blankets also seem to ease symptoms of restless leg syndrome. Restless leg syndrome is a disorder that causes your legs to spasm when you lie down. It’s pretty apparent how this could affect one’s sleep. What’s less apparent is how weighted blankets help! They do though, and doctors regularly recommend them to their patients to help them sleep better.
Another pro of the blankets is that they make it easier for you to breathe as you sleep. This might sound odd since a weighted object should weigh down your body. However, the weight actually makes your respiratory system decompress. Because of this, it often helps you breathe more rhythmically and snore less!
Blanket for Anxiety
A lot of data has also been gathered on weighted blankets and anxiety. A study in Occupational Therapy in Mental Health examined 32 adults to see if their anxiety levels changed after using them. By measuring the physical characteristics of anxiety such as pulse rate and blood pressure, the scientists found that 63% of the participants had less anxiety after the study was completed. They concluded that the blankets make you feel like you’re being held, provided a sense of security, and reduced anxiety. The benefits of the blankets seem to always point back to DTP and how it increases the production of “happy” hormones.
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