I will not fall asleep unless I am nearly smothered by layers of thick, feather-down duvets. It’s not about the warmth that soothes me to sleep, but feeling the gentle weight sitting on my entire body that sends sensations of comfort—knocking me out faster than any dose of melatonin can. What I thought was an opinionated sleeping preference actually has some science to it.
According to a study done by SciMedCentral (Ackerley, et al.) “A weighted blanket may aid in reducing insomnia through altered tactile inputs, thus may provide an innovative, non-pharmacological approach and complementary tool to improve sleep quality.” The additional pressure stimulation, otherwise known as Deep Touch Pressure (DTP) is similar to a hug, decreases the activity levels in the sympathetic nervous system, creating a calming effect.
While previously stated study focused on how weighted blanket therapy helped insomniacs, it also has long term effects for those affected with a variety of mental health disorders, such as ADHD, SPD, and GAD. A report from The American Journal of Occupational Therapy (2015) states that the effects of DTP causes more serotonin to be released from the brain, leading to improved attitude and positive feelings in those with mental health disorders like GAD or clinical depression.
DTP can also be achieved by wearing a weighted vest. Children with ADHD who wore weighted vests were shown to have increased focus and were able to stay on the task at hand. These studies suggest that you should use a weighted blanket or vest that is about 10% of your own body weight. They advise against using weighted blankets with children, especially under the age of three due to a high risk of suffocation.
While weighted vests and blankets can come at a high price—its long term effects may be worth considering the investment. For some people, medication is not the best option, and while therapy is an effective way to improve your mental health, the price of appointments can start to add up. Ultimately, the road to improving your mental health involves staying healthy in all aspects of life—eating healthy, exercising, getting 7-9 hours of sleep— but using the weighted blanket or vest is a small but scientifically effective way to start improving how you feel. So, cocoon yourself inside this sensory healing veil as you fall asleep—you may be more likely to rise and shine.