Weighted blankets seen to help with treating insomnia, depression

October 5, 2020

Weighted blankets might promote sleep: new research from Sweden reveals that use of a weighted chain blanket on patients diagnosed with insomnia reduced the severity of insomnia, improved sleep, and led to lower levels of daytime sleepiness. The safe and effective method is believed to apply pressure on different parts of the body similar to the sensation of touch, according to Dr. Mats Alder, consultant psychiatrist at the Karolinska Institute.Touch is a basic need and the tactile stimulation provided by the blankets can help foster feelings of calm and comfort.

“There is evidence suggesting that deep pressure stimulation increases parasympathetic arousal of the autonomic nervous system and at the same time reduces sympathetic arousal, which is considered to be the cause of the calming effect,” said Dr. Alder.

The research in Stockholm involved 120 adults of both sexes, who had previously been diagnosed with both clinical insomnia and a psychiatric disorder such as major depressive disorder and generalised anxiety disorder. The participants were randomly assigned to an experimental or a control group; those in the experimental group were given a weighted chain blanket to use for four weeks while sleeping.

At the end of the research period, participants in the experimental group reported “significantly” improved sleep quality, better sleep maintenance, and higher activity levels during the day. They also reported reduced symptoms of fatigue, depression, and anxiety.

Quantitatively, these participants were roughly 26 times more likely to experience a 50% decrease in insomnia severity compared to the control group.They were however almost 20 times more likely to see a remission of their insomnia; remission was seen in 42.2% of the participants in the experimental group compared with 3.6% in the control group.

Participants who later switched from the control blanket to a weighted blanket saw similar improvements to the patients who were initially part of the experimental group. After 12 months, 92% of weighted blanket users were responders, and 78% of patients were in remission.

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