Sleep disorders are a growing issue within the United States. Between 50 and 70 million adults sleep disorders that make it difficult for them to get a full night’s rest, according to the American Sleep Association. Many suffer from sleep disorders, and about 30 percent of American adults say they have some form of insomnia.
Thanks to this and a variety of other findings, the CDC has named lack of sleep an American health epidemic.
This health epidemic is well-founded in research based on the documented problems associated with lack of sleep. In some cases, the associated problems are fatal. Common health risks include:
Serious Illnesses and Diseases: It’s responsible for a variety of health and wellness issues not limited to diabetes, cardiovascular disease, compromised immune system, memory issues, anxiety and depression, weight gain, high blood pressure, and so much more.
Drowsy Driving: Fatigued drivers cause an inordinate amount of accidents each year. They’re responsible for 1,550 fatal and 40,000 nonfatal accidents each year. For this reason, lack of sleep is one of the most dangerous health concerns.
Obstructive Sleep Apnea: The American Sleep Association also reports that 25 million U.S. adults have obstructive sleep apnea, an illness that causes snoring and can cause asphyxiation while you sleep. Your air passages can become more obstructed over time, and those who suffer from this illness could go to sleep and never wake up.
Sleep deprivation is growing all over the United States, and the resulting problems plague millions. There are many researched solutions for combatting sleep disorders, and weighted blankets may be among the best.
A weighted blanket is a simple concept made popular by companies. It’s a simple blanket with weights or beads, usually plastic or magnetic, sewn into it. The weights are evenly distributed so that when wrapped in the covering, the user is comfortable and experiences a sensation like a hug.
There have been several studies surrounding the effectiveness of weighted blankets on combating common sleep disorders. Here are some of the most notable findings:
- Reduces Anxiety
In a study published in the journal Occupational Therapy in Mental Health, researchers evaluated the effectiveness of using a 30-pound weighted blanket on 32 adults. In order to define the effectiveness of the blankets after use, researchers asked participants questions to evaluate their mental dexterity.
They also measured blood pressure, pulse oximetry, pulse rate, and the effectiveness of electrodermal activity (EDA). In other words, they measured for physical manifestations of stress and anxiety. Their findings revealed that 63 percent had lower anxiety after using the blanket.Researchers believe that the blanket is a form of therapy that simulates safety and security when in use, not unlike the innocence and peace a baby experiences when being swaddled.
- Calms the Mind
The same study revealed that 78 percent of participants preferred to use the weighted blanket for its calming qualities. They reported that it was easier to let go of mental stressors and succumb to sleep when using the blanket.One contributor to the New Yorker, Jia Tolentino, shared her experience with using weighted blankets to calm her mind and sleep better. After being kept up by thoughts of work, social media stresses, news reports, politics, and more, she finally researched weighted blankets and borrowed a prototype from a startup company.
When it arrived, she asked her boyfriend to throw “twenty pounds of blanket on top of me,” Tolentino says. “I couldn’t move or see anything, which felt wonderful. That night I slept so deeply that I woke up unnerved.”
Her experience is similar to many who have tried these blankets and loved them for their ability to erase the stresses of the day and promote a restful night.
- Reduces Restless Leg Syndrome
Restless leg syndrome affects approximately 10 percent of the population. It typically begins in the mid 30’s and lasts the rest of the patient’s life. It involves muscle spasms in your legs, especially when you lie down. It prevents people from falling asleep and staying asleep.
Since the invention of weight blankets, doctors have been recommending them to patients with restless leg syndrome to help them sleep better and wake well rested. This, along with reducing salt intake in a patient’s diet, have proven effective at reducing restlessness and helping patients get much-needed sleep.
- Makes Breathing Easier
You might think that laying a heavy blanket on top of you would compress your breathing and make it difficult to stay asleep, but the opposite seems to be the case. The extra pounds surrounding your body seem to relax your respiratory system and even out your breathing so you can sleep better.As a result of easier breathing, many mild snorers without obstructive sleep apnea find relief. It could be the solution to your partner’s mild snoring problem, although it probably won’t work for heavy snorers.
This being said, researchers are hesitant to recommend weighted blankets to those with obstructive sleep apnea, asthmatics, and those with respiratory problems. There’s little research as to why this is the case, but the concern is that damaged lungs might have a difficult time breathing under the extra weight, just as obesity makes it more difficult to manage respiratory conditions.
- Combats General Insomnia
Overall, studies point towards improvement in insomnia conditions for those who suffer greatly from it. One Swedish study, in particular, published in the Journal of Sleep Medicine & Disorders, showed the positive effect of weighted blankets on insomnia.
“The weighted chain blanket used in the present study had a positive impact on sleep, both objectively and subjectively, where a number of physiological and behavioral measures were improved during weighted blanket use,” the study authors wrote. “When the participants used the weighted blanket, they had a calmer night’s sleep, with a decrease in movements. Subjectively, they believed that using the blanket provided them with a more comfortable, better quality, and more secure sleep.”Researchers here are assuming that even if weighted blankets are a placebo to combat insomnia, it’s a very effective one.
“In conclusion, a weighted blanket may aid in reducing insomnia through increased tactile and proprioceptive inputs, may provide an innovative, nonpharmacological approach and complementary tool to improve,” study authors wrote.
For those suffering from insomnia and other sleep-related problems, weighted blankets provide a positive solution. While there are still mild risks that should be explored with each case before the use of a weighted blankets, many healthcare professionals are recommending them as a means to combat sleep problems all over America.