Heavy blankets can reduce the severity of insomnia
Swedish researchers found that patients with insomnia and psychiatric disorders had greatly improved sleep and had less daytime sleepiness when they slept with a blanket weighing several kilos.
Insomnia is defined as the feeling of having slept poorly due to difficulty falling asleep, one or more nighttime awakenings, and / or waking up too early in the morning. Its treatment depends above all on the observance of hygiene rules and in case of failure, the doctor can advise phytotherapy or prescribe an appropriate medication.
Researchers at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm have been interested in the effects of a method increasingly mentioned in the media: the weighted blanket. As the name suggests, this is not a regular blanket, but rather a blanket whose weight puts pressure on the entire body.
Prepared according to the weight and height of a person, its use would provide a relaxing effect on the joints, muscles and tendons: a "cocoon" effect that favors the reduction of stress. According to this study published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, heavy blankets represent an effective intervention in the treatment of insomnia. Their results indicate that participants who received it for four weeks reported a significant reduction in the severity of their insomnia, better sleep, a higher level of daytime activity (during the day), and a reduction in symptoms of fatigue, depression, and anxiety.
The sense of touch is stimulated
In fact, participants in the "weighted coverage" group were nearly 26 times more likely to experience a half or more decrease in the severity of their insomnia compared to the control group. They were also nearly 20 times more likely to achieve remission of their insomnia, with positive results sustained over a one-year follow-up phase. "A suggested explanation for the calming and stimulating effect of sleep is the pressure applied by the weighted blanket at different points on the body, stimulating the sensation of touch and the sensation of the muscles and joints, such as acupressure and massage." explains Dr. Mats Alder, who conducted the study.
She adds: "There is some evidence to suggest that deep pressure stimulation increases parasympathetic arousal in the autonomic nervous system and at the same time reduces sympathetic arousal, which is believed to be the cause of the calming effect. 120 adults participated in the study ( 68% women, 32% men) who had previously been diagnosed with clinical insomnia and a concomitant psychiatric disorder: depressive disorder, bipolar disorder, attention hyperactivity disorder, or generalized anxiety disorder. Participants were divided into two groups to sleep for four weeks with a weighted blanket or a "control" blanket.
Noticeable remission after a few weeks of use.
Those in the first group tried an 8 kilogram blanket, but ten participants found it too heavy and therefore received a 6 kilogram blanket. The control group participants slept with a 1.5 kilogram weighted blanket. The change in the severity of their insomnia, the primary outcome measure, was assessed using an official score, while a watch-built measurement tool called actigraphy was used to estimate their levels of sleep and daytime activity. The results showed that the impact was positive for almost 60% of users, with a 50% or more decrease in their insomnia score.
Furthermore, remission was 42.2% in the "weighted coverage" group, compared with 3.6% in the control group. After the initial four-week study, all participants, regardless of group, were given the option of wearing the weighted blanket during a 12-month follow-up phase. The researchers proposed four different blankets: two heavy blankets with metal weights (6 kg and 8 kg) and two heavy blankets with balls (6.5 kg and 7 kg). After the initial test, participants were allowed to freely choose their preferred blanket, with most choosing a heavier blanket.
It turns out that the participants who switched from the control blanket to a weighted blanket experienced an effect similar to that of the patients who used the weighted blanket initially. After 12 months, 92% of weighted blanket users reported an improvement in their insomnia and 78% were in remission.
"I was surprised by the magnitude of the effect of the weighted blanket on insomnia, and I was pleased with the reduction in anxiety and depression levels," says Dr. Mats Alder. For the researchers, these conclusions should encourage healthcare providers to study in more detail the impact of bedding and touch on the quality of sleepand, in particular, the effect of heavy blankets.