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How a heavy comforter could treat insomnia and anxiety - The #1 Luxury Dating Site - The #1 Luxury Dating Site

The millions of Americans who frequently suffer through sleepless nights could benefit from using a heavy comforter, research suggests.

Weighted blankets that have been used for decades in therapy for children with developmental disorders and to calm anxious animals but in the last year, new companies have begun marketing them to sleepless adults.

The blankets, which provide pressure similar to a parent swaddling their child, have been clinically proven to provide users with a better nights’ sleep. 

Several pieces of research break down how these blankets could help combat a growing sleeplessness epidemic as well as in treatment of psychological disorders from anxiety to autism to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). 

Research suggests weighted blankets like the one made by Gravity, shown above, can improve sleep quality and potentially be used in treatment of psychological disorders like anxiety

As some 30 percent of Americans get less sleep each night than doctors recommend, many may be on the hunt for new tricks for a more restful night that don’t require powerful and potentially addictive narcotics. 

A 2015 study by Swedish researchers found that a weighted blanket improved sleep quality in insomniacs, evidenced by both objective and subjective measures.

The study explains that weighted blankets providing a ‘cocooning’ feeling that reduced physical arousal, making it easier to fall asleep and stay asleep.

From a neurological standpoint, the pressure stimulation, called proprioceptive input, has been shown to reduce cortisol and increase serotonin and melatonin in the brain, which decreases heart rate and blood pressure.

Cortisol is a hormone that is released during stressful situations. High cortisol levels have been linked to insomnia, anxiety and depression.

Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that helps regulate the body’s sleep-wake cycles and the internal clock. It is commonly called ‘the happy chemical’ as it’s been linked to wellbeing and happiness.

Melatonin is the primary hormone involved in making the body fall asleep and stay asleep. Many Americans take melatonin supplements to treat insomnia.

The sleeplessness epidemic in America

According to the American Sleep Association (ASA), 50 to 70 million people in the US suffer from sleep disorders. 

An ASA survey identified common sleep problems in American adults:

  1. Trouble falling asleep at least one night per week – 70 percent 
  2. Snoring – 48 percent
  3. Unintentionally falling asleep during the day at least once in the preceding month – 38 percent 
  4. Short-term insomnia – 30 percent 
  5. Obstructive sleep apnea in men – 24 to 31 percent
  6. Obstructive sleep apnea in women – 9 to 21 percent 
  7. Long-term insomnia – 10 percent 
  8. Nodding off or falling asleep while driving at least once in the preceding month – 5 percent  

Objectively, when participants in the Swedish study used the weighted blanket, they had a calmer night’s sleep, with fewer nighttime movements.

Subjectively, participants reported that using the blanket provided them with a more comfortable, better quality, and more secure sleep.

According to the American Sleep Association (ASA), 50 to 70 million people in the US suffer from sleep disorders. 

The most common specific sleep disorder is insomnia, with 30 percent of adults reporting short term issues and 10 percent report chronic insomnia.

Seventy percent of adults report having trouble falling asleep at least one night per week. 

Not getting enough sleep – seven to nine hours for adults as recommended by the ASA – can decrease productivity during the day and lead to long-term health problems such as diabetes, obesity, and even heart disease.

Additionally, 40 million adults in the US suffer from some form of anxiety which can have similar effects on a person’s health.

A similar study by the University of Massachusetts Amherst published in 2008 tested the effectiveness of a 30lb weighted blanket among 32 participants. 

The data revealed that 63 percent of participants reported lower anxiety after use and 78 percent preferred it as a calming mechanism.

The blanket also lowered electrodermal activity (EDA), the amount of electricity on the skin, by 33 percent. In other studies lower EDA has been linked to higher quality sleep.

Occupational therapist Dr Tina Champagne began using weighted blankets in treatment of adults with mental-health disorders in 1999.

According to Dr Champagne’s website, using a weighted blanket gives patients a way to soothe themselves and stay grounded. 

Among the handful of companies selling the weighted blankets, one called Gravity launched a Kickstarter fundraising campaign for its model in April of last year.  

The campaign, which ended Tuesday, raised $4,729,263, making it one of the top 20 most successful Kickstarters of all time.

The company claimed that the blankets, which are weighted by small plastic pellets, could treat a variety of psychological ailments from insomnia to anxiety to PTSD.

Shortly after the campaign launched, the brand came under fire from sleep experts who said the evidence to support the medical claims was scant.

Additionally, the language violated Kickstarter’s policy and went against FDA recommendations.

The section in question read: ‘The science behind Gravity reveals that it can be used to treat a variety of ailments, including insomnia, post-traumatic stress disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, as well as circumstantial stress and prolonged anxiety.’

The company amended the description to say that the blanket could be used to help relieve the ailments rather than to ‘treat’ them and later deleted the section altogether. 


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