Imagine this: a solution for better sleep and less anxiety that simultaneously feels like you’re getting a really great hug. This magical device exists, and it’s a weighted blanket.
I first heard about the seemingly miraculous effects of weighted blankets on the Instagram stories of one of my favorite mental health advocates, Jen Gotch. She raved about how the blanket changed her sleep patterns for the better and eased her anxiety. At the time, I was in the thick of an anxiety-ridden semester of school and often stayed up late worrying, so I was understandably intrigued. I decided to do some research of my own and found that effects the blankets have aren’t just a placebo. They’re backed by the theory that they simulate all-over deep pressure touch, or DTP. The benefits of DTP for someone who is stressed (probably all of us) are plentiful. For one, it causes the body to release serotonin (the happiness hormone) and decrease cortisol (the stress hormone) while calming the nervous system overall. The blankets can also help you fall asleep and stay asleep, according to this study.
After hearing about all of these benefits, I decided to to bite the bullet and purchase a weighted blanket in hopes that I would lower my anxiety and finally have a restful night of sleep. I found the right one for me by following two general rules of thumb: to buy a blanket that is 10% of your body weight (plus a couple of pounds) and is smaller than your bed so that it doesn’t hang off. After sleeping with my blanket for a month, I’m excited to tell you about all of the amazing (and weird) things that happened to me.
My wake-up anxiety was (mostly) gone.
After a stressful day, I would always wake up the next morning with my heart racing and my anxiety through the roof. Of course, this was not the ideal way to start off a new day, and it was actually pretty scary. After I started using a weighted blanket, this sensation only happens to me every once in a while. However, when I do wake up feeling anxious, laying under the blanket for a few minutes feels very calming and similar to a hug!
I fell asleep right away, no overthinking and worrying.
I’ve never fallen asleep quicker in my life. I used to take anywhere from fifteen minutes to an hour to fall asleep, and now I am typically out within 10 minutes. If I’m finishing up emails or other work on my laptop in bed and I have the blanket over my legs it starts to make me feel more and more sleepy, so falling asleep is easier (but this can be dangerous if you need to stay awake)!
I became a pro napper.
Try as I might, I’ve never been great at taking naps. It’s hard for me to fall asleep in anything but pitch black lighting, so falling asleep to nap is hard for me and staying asleep is even harder. However, napping with a weighted blanket is amazing for me. I can fall asleep quickly and feel well rested when I wake up— it’s like a natural sleeping pill that wears off whenever you want it to.
My dreams were VIVID.
Because weighted blankets send you into deeper sleep, I experienced some weirdly vivid dreams. As someone who almost never remembers their dreams, this was new to me and kind of fun! The dreams I had were so realistic that I once dreamt that my neighbor asked me to come over and I agreed, and then when I woke up I actually checked my texts to see what time I was supposed to meet her, only to realize that it was a dream! I credit such vivid dreams to the fact that weighted blankets have been shown to put the user into deeper REM sleep, and REM is the sleep stage in which dreams take place.
I needed an alarm (or two).
Another way my sleeping patterns have changed is that I started to need an alarm to wake up when I hadn’t before. I used to wake up after seven or eight hours of sleeping, but with the blanket I could sleep forever (I found this out the hard way, by oversleeping!). One downfall to the weighted blanket, however, is that it makes it super easy to fall back asleep in the mornings and even harder to get out of bed. I definitely recommend setting multiple alarms if you aren’t usually one to hop right up in the morning.
I felt more well-rested.
This is probably my favorite thing about the weighted blanket: I’ve been consistently waking up feeling like I actually slept well. Instead of tossing and turning at night, the blanket weighs me down enough that I stay still and peaceful. If I wake up, which I do naturally almost every night, I don’t stay awake for long and I can easily get back to getting Z’s. Being tired even after a full night of sleep has to be one of the most frustrating feelings ever, so eliminating this has been a godsend.