Do you always feel tired? No matter how early you crawl into bed, you can’t fall asleep at a normal hour? Maybe you can’t seem to stay asleep, and wake up multiple times a night.
If you’ve experienced these symptoms, you’re not alone. According to the CDC, 1 in 3 adults in the US suffer from insomnia.
In recent years, adults have been using weighted blankets for insomnia. Weighted blankets were originally used by occupational therapists to calm sensory meltdowns in children with autism. Now, weighted blankets are available in heavier weights for adults, as insomnia reaches near-epidemic proportions.
No matter how tired you are, your brain won’t allow you to go to sleep. You wake up feeling exhausted, dreading the day ahead of you, only to find yourself in the same predicament the following night.
Sleep is not a luxury. It gives your body fuel to keep going throughout the day. Like food and water, your body cannot survive without sleep.
Sleep deprivation and insomnia can trigger anxiety and depression symptoms, which in turn worsen your insomnia. Anxiety on top of insomnia makes it extra hard when you have a full time job, school work, or kids to take care of.
Many doctors are quick to prescribe sleeping pills, but these pills can have harmful side effects. These pills are also known as “sedative hypnotics,” which are a specific class of drugs to induce and maintain sleep. They are potentially addictive and can cause problems with your memory and attention throughout the day. You may start to sleep walk, and combining sleeping pills with alcohol can be deadly.
Weighted blanketsuse the same effects of swaddling a baby or a hug from a loved one. They put pressure on the body’s sensory receptors, which immediately calms the mind and body.
Designed to weigh 10% of your body weight, weighted therapy blankets gently compress sensory receptors. This Deep Pressure Therapy has a profound effect on the Autonomic Nervous System (ANS).
As a division of the nervous system, the ANS controls unconscious actions, such as breathing, digestion, and heart rate. This system can be further broken down into two sections.
The Sympathetic Nervous System (SNS) is the body’s “fight or flight” response. It releases hormones which increase blood pressure, blood sugar, and breathing. Try to remember the last time you were nervous. Maybe it was before I test or a meeting at work. How did you feel? Your heart was probably pounding. Your palms may have been sweaty, and it may have been hard to think about the task at hand.
That was your Sympathetic Nervous System (SNS) at work.
The second section of the ANS is the Parasympathetic Nervous System (PSNS). This section is the exact opposite of the SNS and is dominant during peaceful, quiet times. The PSNS calms the body down by decreasing blood pressure, heart rate, and breathing.
Now try to remember how you feel when you’re taking a bath, or even before you go to sleep. Your breathing is slower. Your thoughts stop racing, and you feel calmer and at peace.
That is your Parasympathetic Nervous System (PSNS).
When you’re in a state of stress, your body is constantly in a “fight or flight” response, meaning your SNS is dominant. This can make it impossible to calm down and can greatly affect your thinking, concentration, and sleep.
When Deep Pressure Therapy is applied to the body, the Autonomic Nervous System becomes balanced. The body’s “fight or flight” response decreases, while the calming PSNS is activated.
This opposite movement within the Autonomic Nervous System not only calms the body down, but helps regulate your emotions.
In a 2015 study published in the Journal of Sleep Medicine & Disorders, researchers found that sleep time increased during weighted blanket use. Participants also found it easier to fall asleep, and woke up more refreshed in the morning.
But why did this happen?
Weighted blankets and Deep Pressure Therapy increase serotonin by 28% and dopamine by 31%. These “happy hormones” not only boost your mood, but calm your mind when trying to fall asleep. This means that weighted blankets have a positive effect on insomnia.
Researchers also found that the stress hormone, cortisol, decreased by 31%. When cortisol levels are high, the body goes into “fight or flight” mode. This can make it incredibly difficult to fall asleep.
During a 24-hour period, each of us produces hormones that control when we go to sleep and when we wake up. This cycle is called the circadian rhythm and it is controlled by a hormone called melatonin. Produced in the pineal gland in the brain, this hormone is responsible for your body’s internal clock.
In the evening when the sun starts to set, melatonin production naturally rises. It continues to rise though out the night, and slowly drops when the sun comes up again.
Melatonin isn’t the only hormone that fluctuates with our sleep and wake schedules. Cortisol, the body’s natural stress hormone, also plays a role in our internal clock. However, cortisol levels fluctuate on an opposite cycle. Production increases during the day and decreases at before bed.
However, if you are stressed, cortisol levels remain high and melatonin production cannot start until those levels begin to decrease again. These two hormones become misaligned and your begin to experience insomnia.
By using a weighted blanket and applying Deep Pressure, you can realign your cortisol and melatonin levels. This will greatly help you in your fight against insomnia.
If you have any questions about weighted therapy blankets, or want to share how a weighted blanket help your insomnia, please comment below!
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