Do you remember the days when young mothers used to swaddle their newborn babies? Modern day mothers spurn that practice of wrapping a small baby tightly in blankets, saying a baby should feel free and not constrained.
Yet there’s a very good reason to swaddle a baby.
Actually, there’s a good reason for all of us to be swaddled — well, not exactly wrapped up tightly in a blanket, but weighted down, so to speak. Wrapping a baby tightly in a blanket can make a baby feel secure and help them to sleep.
Can you guess why being swaddled or sleeping under a heavy blanket can be so comforting?
Heavy or weighted blankets induce restful sleep by mimicking the sensation of being hugged or embraced.
That’s right. Heavy blankets create a psychological effect of feeling safe and comforted.
The science behind why sleeping under a heavy blanket benefits sleep and overall mental health is something called deep pressure touch stimulation (DPTS).
While being touched lightly can cause a sudden knee-jerk reaction and increase tension in the body, heavy, deliberate touch has the opposite effect — think of therapy that involves firm pressure, holding and stroking.
The pressure from DPTS works by activating pressure points across your body. This relaxes the nervous system by increasing serotonin and melatonin levels while decreasing cortisol levels.
Pressure on the body helps generate serotonin which then converts to melatonin, the chemical that tells your system it’s time to rest. Research into DPTS shows that deep pressure stimulation promote deeper sleep and reduce stress and anxiety and so contribute to better mental health.
We all know the horrible effects of sleep deprivation – after a few nights of struggling to fall asleep, restless tossing and turning, I’m usually a candidate for the nearest mental institution.
Reasons for failing to have a good night’s sleep are more than I care to list here. Suffice it to say, anything that would help me to get a good night’s sleep is worth a try.
Heavy or weighted blankets are often used by occupational therapists, especially with children, but anybody can use them at home.
You might be wondering about the difference between heavy and weighted blankets.
Weighted blankets are used in a clinical setting and they have pellets sewn into quilted pockets to evenly distribute weight. Heavy blankets have a high down or wool content. Any heavy woollen blanket will also do the trick.
In case you are wondering about the actual weight…. You need a blanket that weighs between six and 12 kilograms – generally you want it to be about 10 per cent of your body weight.
Does it work? It does for me. I didn’t know about the science behind the comfort of a heavy blanket, but won’t part with my recently discovered, rather heavy old quilt, that I can tell you. It is heaven, pure heaven and now I know why.