Weighted blankets have been used as sleep and calming aids in special-needs communities for years.
Originally used as a therapeutic tool for autism and sensory disorders, some of the earliest implementations date back to 1999, when the occupational therapist Tina Champagne began using weighted blankets to help some mental-health patients.
The concept of deep pressure stimulation or deep tough stimulation, the hug feeling responsible for relaxing our nervous systems emulated by weighted blankets, has been studied as far back as the 1960s in animals and humans by Dr Temple Grandin.
Weighted blankets are gaining immense popularity worldwide for their touted benefits in helping to relieve stress and promote deeper, more restful sleep.
Though weighted blankets have been shown to treat anxiety, what about the other big sleep disruptor - insomnia?
It may come as some surprise that insomnia, the disorder that causes you to have trouble falling or staying asleep, comes in two variants: primary and secondary. Primary insomnia is sleep problems not connected to any other health condition or problem whereas secondary insomnia is related to health conditions like asthma, depression, arthritis, cancer, or heartburn, and substance abuse like alcohol.
In the first half of 2020, as the world plunged into uncertainty, the terms “insomnia” and “can’t fall asleep” racked up their highest number of searches of all time on Google. In 2011, it was estimated that around 40% of the adult population in Hong Kong, roughly 2.2 million people at the time, suffered bouts of insomnia. In 2016, this leapt to around 50% of the adult population.
In Singapore, prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, a little under 20% of the population were suffering from more severe bouts of insomnia. This number has been estimated to have risen significantly since the beginning of 2020.
Can weighted blankets really treat insomnia?
A 2020 study of 120 subjects in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine (JCSM) found that weighted blankets alleviated insomnia in patients diagnosed with underlying psychiatric disorders. The participants, all of whom had diagnoses of insomnia, also dealt with a range of co-occurring psychiatric disorders including generalised anxiety disorder, ADHD, major depressive disorder, or bipolar disorder.
The Swedish researchers who conducted the study found that weighted blankets were an effective and safe intervention for insomnia in patients. The results of the study saw improved sleep, reduced sleepiness, greater activity levels during daytime hours, as well as a reduction in the severity of insomnia were all identifiable benefits for patients who used a weighted blanket for sleep.
More research is needed to further support these findings, though it is evident that the comfort and touch are basic human needs for a welcoming sleep environment. Psychiatrist Dr. Mats Alder, one of the researches undertaking the study, explains that the significant reduction in depression, fatigue, and anxiety in participants who slept under weighted blankets comes from the deep tough stimulation of the blanket on different body parts has the same positive effect of acupressure and massage.
You can find out more about how weighted blankets work by clicking here.
Choosing the ideal weighted blanket for insomnia
Choosing a weighted blanket can be overwhelming. Let’s face it, since the pandemic in 2020 there is an abundance of sleep aids, some good, and a lot bad. Here’s where to start:
- Heavier is better!
One of the biggest concerns people have before using a weighted blanket is the weight itself. Holding a heavy blanket in our hands can be quite daunting but when laid out across our body the blanket is designed to distribute weight evenly. It’s highly recommended that we allow between 7 and 14 days for our bodies to adjust to the benefits of a weighted blanket, though many will immediately feel the benefit.
A typical guide rule for a weighted blanket is 10% of the user’s body weight. But typically, a slightly yhigher amount of weight is shown to have more beneficial effects. You may find that starting with a single-sized DORMU weighted blanket before stepping up to a double or king-sized is right for you!
- Avoid cheap materials! Weight distribution, breathability, and sustainability, the three pillars of the perfect weighted blanket.
One of the biggest problems with searching for a weighted blanket is the price vs. quality dilemma. Scrolling through Amazon, it’s easy to get enticed by lower prices - unfortunately these lower prices come with compromise. A number of weighted blankets use plastic beads which are not only bad for the environment but often under the weight advertised, meaning that you’re not receiving the intended benefits. At DORMU we used medical-grade glass beads in our cooling weighted blanket, the Cooler, to ensure your blanket lasts a lifetime when cared for but also weighs the correct amount.
We also use lyocell bamboo in the Cooler as it’s thermoregulating meaning your body temperature won’t unnaturally fluctuate throughout the night - keeping you asleep and comfortable. Lyocell bamboo is also produced in a closed-loop. meaning there is no unnecessary water waste as seen in other “sustainable” materials.
Our heavy knitted weighted blanket, the Snuggler, is produced using organic cotton and no unnecessary cheap fillers that can cause uneven distribution of weight. The organic cotton fabric ensures an uncompromising distribution of weight and the ultimate in deep touch stimulation whilst maintaining breathability!
Speaking of breathability, here at DORMU all our blankets are made with the dominant Asian climates in mind. We know how hot and humid the summers get here and our blankets have been stress-tested to ensure their suitability.