WHY DOES SLEEP MATTER?
Adequate sleep is critical to maintain homeostasis; sufficient and consistent sleep is necessary to maintain metabolic, cerebrovascular, and cardiovascular health in addition to mental health, mood, and cognitive function.1 Left unchecked, poor sleep can induce deleterious effects upon physical health, general well-being, and public safety.1(2115) Ultimately, fractured sleeping patterns have been associated with increased mortality.1(2115)
HOW IS SUFFICIENT SLEEP DEFINED?
Ranmar et al1(2115) suggested that healthy sleep requires good quality, the absence of sleep disorders, appropriate regularity/consistency, appropriate timing, and adequate duration. Generally speaking, the average adult requires 7 hours or more per night, while adults of advanced age may require 7-9 hours of sleep per night.1(2115) However, 32.5% of adults have reported failing to achieve targeted sleep duration, on a regular basis.1(2115)
HOW CAN SUFFICIENT SLEEP BE ACHIEVED?
I have written past articles that addressed optimizing sleeping hygiene (see links below) by modification of nutrition, light, temperature, and inclusion of specific supplements and herbs.
Ashwagandha and Sleep
Improving Sleep Quality and Duration with CBD/THC Oil
Improving Sleep Quality and Duration
Inadequate Sleep and Health Outcomes
Cannabis and Sleep
Improving Sleep Quality and Duration
Insomnia/Anxiety/Depression and Botanical Support
Another possible intervention to help individuals fall asleep and/or stay asleep could be through the implementation of weighted blankets.
HOW CAN WEIGHTED BLANKETS FACILITATE SLEEP QUALITY AND DURATION?
Ekholm et al2 suggested that weighted blankets induce deep pressure stimulation (DPS), which can be used for individuals suffering from anxiety and sleep disorders. Evidence has suggested that DPS increases parasympathetic activity, thereby producing a calming effect.2(1568) Increased levels of oxytocin has also been recorded while using weighted blankets; a hormone, which creates sedative effects/anxiolytic effects, in addition to increased pain thresholds.2(1568)
Ekholm et al2(1567) explored the efficacy of weighted blankets on markers of insomnia and associated daytime related symptoms. 120 subjects with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, bipolar disorder, and major depressive disorder were screened, diagnosed, and recruited for said study.2(1567) Subjects were randomized (1:1) to the experimental group (6 kg or 8 kg weighted blankets) or the control group (non-weighted blanket).2(1574) Subjects were kept blind regarding the weights of the blankets; they were only informed that they would be assigned to one of two types of chain blanket.2(1569)
Baseline measures for the experimental and control groups primarily included the Insomnia Severity Index (7-item self-report), Fatigue Symptom Inventory (self-report), and the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale.2(1568) Insomnia Severity Index was deemed the primary outcome measure while the Fatigue Symptom Inventory and Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scales were considered secondary outcome measures.2(1568) Objective measures of sleep and daytime activity were ascertained by using actigraphy (an electronic device, which measures movement while sleeping) at baseline, and the conclusion, of the study.2(1569)
After 4 weeks, Ekholm et al2(1573) concluded that there was a clinically meaningful improvement in primary outcome measures, using the Insomnia Severity Index, within the experimental group when compared to controls; 59% of weighted blanket subjects reported improvements while only 5.4% of control blanket subjects experienced improvements. Weighted blanket subjects also reported improvements in Fatigue Severity Index, and reductions in depression/anxiety (using the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale) when compared to the control group.2(1574) In essence, weighted blanket use was correlated to improved sleep, improved daytime function, and reductions in depression and anxiety.
Adequate and regular sleep is critical to maintain homeostasis; sufficient and consistent sleep is necessary to regulate metabolic, cerebrovascular, and cardiovascular health in addition to mental health, mood, and cognitive function. Left unchecked, poor sleep can induce deleterious effects upon physical health, general well-being, and public safety. However, cheap/safe/effective interventions do exist, which can include the implementation of weighted blankets. It is likely that said blankets, as part of a larger and more robust set of interventions, could support sleep quality and duration. Ultimately, such devices could liberate individuals from sleep deprivation while helping reclaim health and overall quality of life.
1. Ranmar K, Malholtra RK, Carden KA, et al. Sleep is essential to health: an American Academy of Sleep Medicine position statement. J Clin Sleep Med. 2021;17(10):2115-2119. doi: https://doi.org/10.5664/jcsm.9476.
2. Ekholm B, Spulber S, Adler M. A randomized controlled study of weighted chain blankets for insomnia in psychiatric disorders. J Clin Sleep Med. 2020;16(9): doi:10.5664/jcsm.8636.