One of the first things new parents learn is the power of a good swaddle. A soft blanket wrapped snuggly around a baby's body can mimic the womb and help soothe infants and promote deep, healthy sleep. Which is a godsend to exhausted parents. But, truth be told, they could probably use a good swaddle themselves. That’s because we never outgrow the power of a good squeeze.
There’s just something about a squeeze. We hug when we’re happy, we hug when we’re sad. That sensation of being held tight triggers something deep in our nervous system that signals safety. That’s what makes weighted blankets such a magical addition to a bedroom.
Many people find that the deep, sustained pressure provided by a weighted blanket instills them with a sense of calm and contentment. But since we like to understand the “Whys” lurking behind the “Whats,” we asked our expert friends at Gravity Blankets to explain what makes weighted blankets so darn relaxing. Here’s what we learned:
Weighted blankets are heavy — duh — significantly heavier than most comforters and duvets on the market. Weighing anywhere from five to 35 pounds, they usually owe their mass to plastic pellets, glass beads, ball bearings or other materials in their design. As a result, they deliver firm, consistent pressure that mimics a technique called deep pressure stimulation. Deep touch pressure, as experienced in hugs and massage, activates your body’s parasympathetic nervous system (PSNS), or the system that promotes the “rest and digest” response. When this system is activated, your heart rate goes down, your breathing becomes slow and deep and your body enters a state of relaxation. Shortly after, your mind follows suit.
And the research backs this up. Scientists have found that the extra pressure helps counteract the physiological indicators of stress (increased breathing rate, heart rate, blood pressure, etc.) by signaling your nervous system to slow down, promoting a state of relaxation. A 2015 study done by researchers at the University of Gothenburg, Sweden found that weighted blankets were effective at improving sleep quality in participants with chronic insomnia. Specifically, those who used a weighted blanket said they had an easier time settling down for sleep and felt more refreshed upon waking up in the morning.
On top of that, the gentle pressure weighted blankets apply to the body helps us feel relaxed by stimulating the production of mood-boosting hormones — like serotonin, dopamine and oxytocin — and decreasing cortisol, the stress hormone. Weighted blankets are also thought to stimulate melatonin, the hormone that primes our bodies for sleep.
We’re big believers in working with the senses to calm the mind for sleep. Aroma therapy, white noise, eliminating blue light (or any light with sleep masks) are just a few of our favorite ways to use the eyes, ears, and nose to prepare for bedtime. Weighted blankets can bring in the element of touch to your sleep wellness arsenal. GIve it a try and let us know if you find yourself sleeping like a baby.