Dear Doctor: My niece gave me a weighted blanket for my birthday. I’ll admit I was skeptical, but I’ve used it for a month. she may be right. Instead of waking up several times a night, I sleep soundly. Is it the power of suggestion or is there a reason this is working?
Dear Reader: Weighted blankets have become more popular in recent years. They were originally developed as therapeutic tools to help people with persistent anxiety conditions, such as autism.
Unlike regular comforters, which are made entirely of cloth, weighted blankets are lined with some sort of heavy material inside. , May contain natural fillers such as grains, beans and sand. These fillers are sewn into pockets or channels and positioned so that their weight is evenly distributed throughout the blanket.
A person lying under a weighted blanket feels a gentle sensation of pressure evenly distributed over the entire body. Occupational therapists call this deep touch pressure. Studies have found that this type of compression activates centers in the brain that monitor involuntary processes such as heart rate, blood pressure, breathing, and digestion. It has long been used for individuals with a wide range of sensory impairments, often to beneficial effects.
Studies investigating weighted blankets over the years have observed a variety of potential benefits. These include relief of insomnia in adults with depression, anxiety and attention deficit disorder. will be Reduces anxiety in some children with mental disorders. Improving sleep in elderly people living in nursing homes. The researchers noted that while using the weighted blanket, study participants fell asleep more easily, woke up less frequently during the night, and felt more calm during the day.
A new study from Sweden may link the use of weighted blankets to increased melatonin production. Melatonin is a hormone that plays an important role in the sleep-wake cycle. Researchers found that a group of 26 young adults with no previous sleep disorders produced more melatonin when they used a weighted blanket at night than when they slept on a conventional blanket. Although it’s a small, short study of just two days, the results take the weighted blanket conversation in an interesting direction.
The accepted guidance for weighted blankets is to choose products that are 10% or less of a person’s total body weight. The specific material used for stuffing is a matter of personal preference. However, weighted blankets are not for everyone. Never use this product if you cannot remove the cover yourself. This includes infants, young children, elderly or infirm adults. It may also not be suitable for people with certain medical conditions, such as type 2 diabetes, asthma, sleep apnea, low blood pressure, and circulatory problems.
Eve Glazier, MD, MBA, is an internist and Associate Professor of Medicine at UCLA Health. Elizabeth Ko, M.D., is an internist and assistant professor of medicine at UCLA Health.