Can a weighted blanket really help with insomnia? That’s what experts and those afflicted with the condition are saying. Weighted blankets aren’t just for autism anymore.
As someone who has struggled with insomnia for the past thirty years, I can tell you there are a lot more consequences to this condition than simply not being able to sleep.
Insomnia is a serious problem, and it affects some 60 million Americans every year.
The obvious symptoms, of course, are fatigue, poor focus, and troubles with memory. But more dangerous effects can include decreased motivation, mood disorders, and an increased likelihood for accidents.
Recent studies, however, are showing that weighted blankets might offer help to those with insomnia. It isn’t the blanket itself that appears to be helping, but rather it’s what these weighted blankets provide – Deep Touch Pressure therapy.
What is Deep Touch Pressure therapy?
You’ve probably heard of Temple Grandin. Despite her lifelong struggles with autism, she went on to earn a Ph.D., became a professor of animal sciences at Colorado State University, and revolutionized the cattle industry.
But she’s also been a leading advocate for the understanding and treatment of autism. So, I’ll let Temple explain in her own words the principle behind Deep Touch Pressure:
Deep touch pressure is the type of surface pressure that is exerted in most types of firm touching, holding, stroking, petting of animals, or swaddling. In contrast, light touch pressure is a more superficial stimulation of the skin, such as tickling, very light touch, or moving hairs on the skin. In animals, the tickle of a fly landing on the skin may cause a cow to kick, but the firm touch of the farmer’s hands quiets her. Occupational therapists have observed that a very light touch alerts the nervous system, but deep pressure is relaxing and calming.
And this where weighted blankets come into play. For years, therapists have used weighted blankets as an effective treatment for children with sensory disorders, and for autism in particular.
How do weighted blankets work?
While many children with autism do not welcome embraces, the psychological need for comforting physical contact remains. Weighted blankets have been shown to calm these children by providing a firm “hug” to relax their nervous systems without the perceived invasiveness of being cradled by another.
Weighted blankets work because the pressure they apply promotes the release of serotonin, which, of course, elevates mood. Furthermore, the body converts serotonin to melatonin, which encourages sleep.
Weighted blankets treat insomnia and more
Because low levels of serotonin have been linked to a host of other disorders – e.g. anxiety, depression, bipolar, post-traumatic stress disorders, etc. – weighted blankets are showing promise as a treatment for more than just autism.
In fact, many sufferers of insomnia and restless leg syndrome have reported improved sleep using weighted blankets. And research suggests weighted blankets may benefit those afflicted by other conditions, too, such as Alzheimer’s, Tourette’s, and cerebral palsy.