Menopause and Insomnia: Weighted blankets – do they really help with sleep and anxiety?
At anywhere from $70 to $250 and up, a weighted blanket might seem like a hefty investment.
Ever since the Gravity blanket raised nearly $5M on Kickstarter, weighted blankets have been flying (well, maybe not “flying” – they’re heavy) off shelves as people test them out for their lauded ability to aid sleep and reduce tossing and turning.
For women dealing with menopause, weighted blankets may be a great addition to your “symptom relief toolkit.” Let’s talk about what they are, what they do, and how they do it.
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What are weighted blankets?
Pretty much exactly as they sound, weighted blankets are blankets filled with materials such as plastic or glass beads or fabrics, and layers of polyfill or other soft materials for comfort. The blankets are usually “quilted” with sewn squares to keep the weights from roaming and redistributing unevenly.
These blankets can weigh from 5 to 30 pounds, though the recommended weight is 10 percent of the user’s body weight (so, a 15-pound blanket for a 150-pound person).
While that might sound restrictive, it isn’t. The weight allows the sleeper to roll over easily but reduces the restless tossing and turning that interrupts quality sleep.
How do weighted blankets work?
More research has yet to be done to determine exactly why weighted blankets are effective for many people. So if you decide to give weighted blankets a try, remember that the effects have not been scientifically proven, and that results vary.
Weighted blankets, according to some, replicates touch, and touch can be very good for us. The Deep Pressure Stimulation (DPS) or Deep Pressure Touch (DPT) of weighted blankets can feel like a hug, and hugs release oxytocin and serotonin, making us feel good and lessening sensations of pain.
Blankets like the gravity blanket may also increase production of melatonin, which many find aids with sleep, and weighted blankets (counterintuitively enough) are sometimes used for hot flashes.
Weighted blankets provide a sensation of “grounding” or “earthing” with a moderate weight pushing the body down. This, say some, helps reduce nighttime levels of cortisol (the stress hormone), allowing for more restful sleep.
Why are weighted blankets good for women in menopause?
Assuming they work as advertised, weighted blankets can potentially help with some of the thorniest menopause symptoms such as anxiety, depression, interrupted sleep, attention deficit issues, and premature waking.
Several sources on the Internet claimed they could help reduce the sensation of Restless Leg Syndrome, but I’d be cautious, as most of those making the claim were blanket producers.
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How do I choose the right weighted blanket? What is the best weighted blanket for menopause?
If you decide to give weighted blankets a try, there are several things to keep in mind:
- The fabric. If you experience hot flashes and/or night sweats, you may want to opt for a blanket with cooling fabric. Weighted blankets and night sweats might sound like a bad combo at first glance, but as one of our community said to me, “Weighting Comforts has one called COOLMAX which is true to its name. So helpful with anxiety and insomnia and perfect for those of us with hot flashes.” A couple of reviewers liked the CALMFORTER for the additional anxiety relief of the texture and the ability to choose between two sides with different feel and temperature-regulation properties. For menopause symptoms, a cooling blanket can be an effective weapon against some of the more pesky symptoms.
- Washability. Some come with a removable cover that can be washed. Some of the actual weighted blankets can be washed without worry, but do read the care instructions. Not all the weights may be up to the heat of a conventional dryer.
- The weights. What materials are used? How are the weights distributed? Will they stay put, or will my blanket have bulges a month from now? What about noise? As one woman told me, “I LOVE LOVE LOVE my weighted blanket! ... the only issue I have with it is that they use plastic beads sewn in compartments for the weighting, and it sounds like a beanbag whenever I move it.”
- The cost. If the price keeps you awake at night, you’re pretty much back where you started. Weighted blankets can be expensive, but there are affordable options, or you can check out this handy DIY blog for making your own weighted blanket.
Are weighted blankets safe?
Generally, yes, but there are a few things to be aware of.
People with breathing or circulation issues. I only found a couple of articles that pointed to potential concerns for these people, but if you have asthma, COPD, sleep apnea, or any circulation issue, please talk with your doctor before making the purchase.
Little ones. Weighted blankets are not safe for babies, and while they can be helpful for older children – particularly children with autism or sensory processing concerns – they need to be an appropriate size and weight for the child. To read more about weighted blankets for children with autism, be sure to check out this article from Autism Parenting Magazine.
Pets. Don’t let small pets crawl under the weighted blanket, as they may not be able to get themselves out!
Other than those, the worst “danger” I found was the complaint that they made “getting out of bed even harder.” Which sounds like a pretty positive "complaint," really.
Have you tried a weighted blanket to help with anxiety or poor sleep? We’d love to hear more about how it helped you or didn’t and how you chose the one you use. Share in the comments, join the weighted blankets conversation on our community forums, chat with us on the Gennev Facebook page, or join Midlife & Menopause Solutions, our closed Facebook group!
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