Why you should care
Because it’s heavy and warm and hugs you to sleep.
Insomnia sucks. It interferes with your physical and mental health and can feel like an impossible situation. Trust me, an intermittent sufferer who, for seemingly endless bouts, wakes up multiple times a night with that terrible can’t-shut-off-my-brain thing. Insomniacs will try anything to get some sleep: herbal remedies, meditation, pills, sometimes a glass of wine. But what if the answer could be as simple as a piece of bedding?
Recently my mom gave me a gift: a plain-looking, seemingly quilted, excessively heavy “weighted blanket.” She’d read that these blankets help calm people with anxiety or insomnia. They’re also used to help autistic kids, sufferers of OCD, those with sensory disorders and even veterans with PTSD.
Mine is 15 pounds and just heavy enough to make me feel like I’m wrapped in a semi-tight cocoon for the night.
Filled with tiny beads — think bean bag filling in a rectangular quilted blanket — they’re available in different weights depending on your size. Mine is 15 pounds and just heavy enough to make me feel like I’m wrapped in a semi-tight cocoon for the night. (Pro tip: Put the blanket on top of your quilt or duvet cover, not between it and the sheets.) It’s based on the theory of deep touch therapy, which suggests that pressurized touch helps relax us at a minimum. At a maximum? It releases serotonin in our brains. You can buy the blankets online from a handful of small businesses, mostly mom-and-pop operations like Mosaic, SensaCalm and individuals on Etsy.
They aren’t exactly cheap, coming in at around $100 a pop, depending on the size. The hefty pricetag pushed Christiana Junge, a special-education teacher in Iowa, to make her own blankets for her autistic students. She noticed the pressure helped keep them calm and happy in class.
Laura LeMond, the founder of Mosaic Weighted Blankets, says she sells between 500 and 1,000 blankets a month. Born a preemie, she’s suffered from panic attacks and sensory issues. As a teen, she first started placing heavy books on her feet to help her sleep. Later she sewed her own weighted pouches — fabric filled with pellets — to place on her body, “like in the dentist’s chair when they give you that weighted vest.” She realized there was something to it but admits she’s “not a scientist.” She just wanted to help others like herself.
The research, though, is thin. One 2014 British study of 73 autistic children found that the blankets had no discernible effect on their sleep. But the parents and kids liked the blankets anyway, the study notes. A more recent 2015 study published in the Journal of Sleep and Medicine found that weighted blankets did indeed have a positive effect on the sleep patterns of adults with insomnia.
So does it work for me? Absolutely. I’m obsessed and I’ve been sleeping much better. It makes my bed cozy, though it does get a bit warm by morning with all the layers. But who cares — it’s like being hugged by a blanket. Even if it’s a placebo effect, I don’t mind. At least I’m sleeping.