According to the Sleep Health Foundation, 1 in 3 people experiences at least mild insomnia. For 10 percent of the population, chronic insomnia is a constant struggle. If you have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep, a weighted blanket for sleep may be what you need. We explore what research says about the connection between restful sleep and weighted blankets.
How Important Is Sleep?
Spoiler alert: Very.
Like drinking enough water and getting regular exercise, most people know that sleep is important. However, lack of sleep can affect you in more ways than you might realize. The American Psychological Association (APA) reports that over 70 percent of Americans have some form of sleep disorder. Whether you consistently sleep poorly, or you just miss out on an hour or two, you increase your risk of experiencing negative health effects.
For example, insufficient sleep has been linked to a higher likelihood of being involved a serious or even fatal car accident. The AAA reports that motorists who get between five and six hours of sleep at night have double the car accident risk than those who get at least seven or more hours of shut-eye.
Sleep deprivation has also been linked to a wide range of health conditions and diseases, including heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, and stroke. Too little sleep can also have a negative impact on your memory and your immune system.
And it’s not just adults who suffer from a lack of sleep. The APA also reports that an astounding 69 percent of children “experience one or more sleep problems a few nights or more during the week.”
In short, skimping on sleep most definitely does not do a body good. If you have insomnia or some other kind of sleep disorder, you owe to yourself and your health to take steps toward better sleep. If you’re the parent of a child who struggles with some type of sleep disorder, the good news is there are a variety of ways to overcome bedtime challenges, so your child can get the rest he or she needs to stay healthy.
5 Tips for Getting Better Sleep
When you struggle with insomnia or a sleep disorder, it can often feel like you’re never going to get a good night’s rest again. With a few adjustments, however, you can begin enjoying more restful, restorative sleep. Here are our top five tips for getting the rest you need.
Create a Bedtime Ritual
Most parents are well-acquainted with bedtime rituals or routines. Maybe your child insists on doing a series of specific activities in a certain order before getting into bed. Or maybe you’ve found that giving your child a bath and reading a story at the same time every night is a surefire way to get your little one to sleep right on schedule.
It turns out that bedtime rituals really work — and they work great for adults, too. Adopting a bedtime routine signals your brain that it’s time to sleep and prepares your mind to shut down for the night. Tips for creating your own bedtime ritual include taking a warm (not hot) bath about an hour before bed, listening to soft music prior to sleep and making a to-do list for the next day. Writing down tasks keeps them off your mind so your brain can enjoy some much-needed downtime.
Of course, there will be times when you can’t follow your usual bedtime routine. Emergencies crop up and last-minute errands or projects throw you off schedule. The good thing about following a consistent routine, however, is that occasional deviations are unlikely to derail you entirely.
Evaluate Your Sleep Environment
Is your bedroom a haven, or is it a repository for laundry, kids’ toys and other household odds and ends? If your bedroom is cluttered or filled with loud colors, consider transforming it into a sleep refuge. You don’t need a big budget or a team of decorators to do it. The National Sleep Foundation suggests using cool colors like grays, blues and browns. If you can’t afford new paint, try some new throw pillows or bedding in these shades.
You should also dim your clock and, if possible, banish your cell phone to another room. Research shows that blue light suppresses melatonin, the chemical responsible for regulating sleep. If you don’t like the idea of keeping your phone in another room, try to avoid checking social media or looking at your emails right before bed. Experts say it’s best to stop all phone activity at least half an hour before you’re ready to turn in.
Try Light Exercise Before Bed
While you don’t want to take a lap around the neighborhood or knock out an intense cardio session right before bed, light exercise can actually help you sleep better. Stretching, pilates and low-key yoga exercises can lower your heart rate and your core temperature — both of which help signal your brain it’s time to rest.
If your kids struggle with bedtime, you can even incorporate yoga into your nightly ritual. Try some easy and child-friendly bedtime yoga exercises. You’ll get to spend some quality time with the whole family, and you’ll teach your kids about healthy sleep habits. Bonus: Your kids will actually look forward to bedtime.
Consider Cutting Out Naps
We’ve all heard that power napping is good for us. While short daytime naps can definitely be beneficial, sleep experts say you shouldn’t power nap at the expense of your nightly sleep. If you’re struggling with insomnia, the Mayo Clinic suggests taking a look at your daily schedule — especially if it involves naps. Do you nod off on the sofa for an hour after work? Are you someone who enjoys a leisurely Saturday nap? Even occasional naps can interfere with your nighttime sleep.
It’s a little trickier to manage napping schedules for kids. According to the National Sleep Foundation, infants should nap between five and six times a day, with most children reducing to two naps — one in the morning and one in the afternoon — sometime during the first year. By about 18 months, the majority of children drop their morning nap. From there, around 50 percent of children will no longer need any kind of daytime nap by age four, and 70 percent no longer need a nap at age five.
However, it’s important to remember that toddler-age children need between 12 and 14 hours of sleep every 24-hour period. If your child is sleeping poorly at night, he or she might be napping too often or for too long of a period during the day. Adjusting their daytime nap schedule could help improve their sleep quality at night.
Use a Weighted Blanket
For both children and adults, a weighted blanket may reduce anxiety and ease insomnia. A weighted blanket is made with about 10 percent of a person’s body weight and makes the user feel like they’re receiving a gentle whole-body hug. Studies have shown that people who sleep with weighted blankets feel calmer and more relaxed. While weighted blankets have long been used to treat sensory processing disorder, autism and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, a growing number of people have found that weighted blankets may also help with insomnia and anxiety.
In a 2006 study published in the journal Occupational Therapy in Mental Health, 33 percent of participants had lower “electrodermal activity,” which included lower blood pressure, lower heart and better pulse oximetry. Researchers also found that 63 percent of those who slept with a weighted blanket had less anxiety.
In a separate study published in the Journal of Sleep Medicine & Disorders in 2015, researchers found that participants who used a weighted blanket slept for longer periods of time and felt more refreshed upon waking. Researchers stated, “Overall, we found that when the participants used the weighted blanket, they had a calmer night’s sleep. A weighted blanket may aid in reducing insomnia through altered tactile inputs, thus may provide an innovative, non-pharmacological approach and complementary tool to improve sleep quality.”
At Luna, we make weighted blankets for both children and adults. If you or your child would like to enjoy better sleep, a weighted blanket may be the answer.