The Definition Of A Weighted Blanket
The name “weighted blankets” is definitely not very creative. But does it need to be? Not exactly. As the name states, it is just that, a blanket that is weighted. A heavy blanket.
You may have read much about weighted blankets on this particular site. This post aims to clarify everything there is to know about weighted blankets; the history, the types, the materials used, you name it.
So what are weighted blankets and why do they exist?
Well, they were originally created to fulfill a particular purpose which was help alleviate anxiety and make it easier for kids with autism to get to sleep. You can read more about that here.
Current Use Of Weighted Blankets
While they are a relatively new phenomenon, they have grown in popularity in the mainstream for a number of reasons. The research surrounding the effect of weighted items on the health of children on the spectrum has been well documented. Due to the calming effect and the use of heavy blankets and vests as a sleeping aid, the demand for them increased beyond their original intended use.
Research has suggested that a high quality weighted blanket can produce the following results:
- Reduced anxiety
- Lowered stress levels
- Less tossing and turning in bed
- Higher quality sleep
How They Work
Weighted blankets make use of a method called “Deep Pressure Stimulation (or Therapy). The weight effectively causes certain chemical reactions in the body that induce a restful state. Research links quality of sleep to the maintenance of melatonin and the body’s regulation of the sleep-wake cycle.
To get the best out of a weighted blanket, you have to adjust the way you think about sleep. Many of us are used to associating sleep with instant comfort – comfort with the ability to move around, toss and turn in bed so that we can naturally sink into our most comfortable position before drifting of into peaceful sleep. The difference is with a weighted blanket you will have to take a few days to adjust to the new sensation of increased pressure when underneath it.
The first thing you will notice when laying under a weighted blanket is the lack of immediate freedom to move. This may be quite daunting at first. This is why it is important to notice the differences in weighted blankets as the come in a range of different materials, and design patterns for good reason.
Weighted Blankets and Hormones
Everything that happens with our bodies usually starts with activity in our brains first. The chemicals natural released by our brain/body called hormones, are secreted by the glands to communicate with organs and tissues in the body to control behavioural activities including digestion, metabolism breathing sensory perception as well as may others. As you might expect sleep is also one of the functions regulated by hormones.
There are three main (or more widely known) hormones that can be directly associated with the sleep process as shown below.
Melatonin is THE sleep hormone. It regulates the sleep wake cycle in other words the circadian rhythm. Melatonin is released by the pineal gland in response to darkness to start a physiological process that slows the body down and gets it ready for sleep.
This process is repeated on a 24 hour cycle, and the amount of melatonin released has been observed to directly line up with the time of day: more is released during the late evening and early morning hours between 11pm and 3am, and then this tapers off to as much as 10 times less by around 8am.
How does a weighted blanket affect melatonin?
The science tells us that melatonin is significantly affected by light, both daylight and unnatural light emissions from devices such as smart phones. But even more accurately, hormones are a product of certain conditions. This means that when the body assumes it is ready to enter a rest state, melatonin is released, and low light is one of those conditions. However it is not the only one. Melatonin is released when the mind is less alert, when the body begins to relax.
These are situations that research has shown a weighted, warm comforter can induce, thereby starting the sleep process soon after getting into bed.
Serotonin is one of the major hormones known to have a major effect on mood. For this reason it is quite aptly known as the “happy” hormone. Research has suggested that there is a link between serotonin levels and depression.
Low serotonin levels are linked to:
- poor memory
- low mood
- They may also lead to the following symptoms:
- Food cravings
- Sleeping problems
- low self-esteem
Serotonin is also thought to play a role in in the sleep wake cycle, though it may play less of a direct role.
Because weighted blankets are designed to calm the mind, they are linked to reducing depression and it has been reported by users that they have felt better over the course of just a week of using one. This has suggested that the reduction in short term depression and anxiety has led to elevated serotonin response in these users, and an improved quality of sleep.
Cortisol can be described as the “stress” hormone as it is at its height in the body when we experience acute stress conditions.
Cortisol in the bloodstream is directly linked to maintaining a process known as Homeostasis in the body – the maintenance of internal balance.
In its simplest sense, cortisol acts as the counter hormone to melatonin. When cortisol levels rise, melatonin levels fall. Cortisol is the hormone that is released early in the morning and provides us with the energy our bodies need to start the day.
Research has shown that the increasing amount of caffeine intake in many societies has led to higher rates of cortisol found in the body late in the evening, meaning that any of us are experiencing stress like conditions on a daily basis.
Lowering stress is important to getting a good night’s sleep and feeling refreshed the next day. A weighted blanket has been described as the feeling of a good heavy hug – which allows the user to unwind effectively and put the body into a restful state.
The overall change in behaviour provided by the weighted blanket should set up more conducive behaviours for better mental and physical health, effectively leading to lower stress and cortisol levels.
Designed For Adults
Our weighted blankets are designed specifically for adults that have been living a certain way, stuck in a cycle of poor to average sleep, and haven’t found an effective way to enjoy sleep more. When poor sleep practices are produced from poor habits, change is needed in order to see how one can make changes to their lives.
They are designed to break the Anxiety-Insomnia Spiral which we become all too familiar with.
Weighted blanket were originally produced or kids so they are often lighter and would not actually provide much pressure to the fully grown adult-sized body. You will often find blankets around 4 kilograms in weight for children. Research dictates that a blanket should be near to 10% of ones’ body weight. We have 7kg and 9kg blankets as most body weights are in this range.
What Are Weighted Blankets Made From?
Because there has been an explosion in weighted blanket demand lately, many variations exist. The majority of which have either 5 or 7 layers. Some may be advertised with having more layers than they actually do which is why you should make sure you have confidence in who you are buying from.
- 2 x Outer cover
- 2 x Polyester
- 2 x Polyester fiber
- 1 x weighty beads
Cotton is the most breathable material and most commonly found in our everyday fabrics. Most of the weighed blankets on the market are cotton-based with interior layers of polyester for some. As cotton is widely available these are very popular.
Bamboo often replaces the outer cotton layer found on most weighted blankets. The bamboo covering is less breathable than cotton but also has more of a luxurious silky texture which may be preferred for some users.
This is the least common type of exterior. Chenille is a very plush fabric that will usually have the highest price tag as they fulfill both the needs of warmth and breathability. Some users have found this material to provide the best sleeping experience and claimed it has the feel most closely associated with a “warm hug”.
Many are sold together with a minky cover. This is an extra top layer with a plush fabric that adds extra warmth for those days that are breezy or chilly. On very cold winter nights, these are recommended, or it is even suggested you can use your regular blanket on top of the weighted one for a warm comfortable rest.
The bead type in your weighted blanket is also very important to your sleeping experience.
There are many different materials that are used for the beads, from food to polypropylene plastic.
This is as common to weighted blankets as the cotton exterior. Additionally cotton or polyester filling is often added to the beaded layer for added texture. One problem with these plastics is that they are not environmentally friendly, and can denature in the wash (after multiple washes.) The best quality is 100% virgin polypropylene, and lower qualities are available.
That’s where the NiteKite comes in.
The NiteKite uses the highest quality glass beads (shatter-proof) to deliver that weighted feeling for multiple reasons:
- Firstly glass luxurious! Lasts as long as you need, at the highest quality and you can easily wash the blanket in a washing machine without degrading the quality of the product.
- Does not take on odor or any other surface, unlike plastic materials.
- feels softer and smoother on the body which increases the quality of sleep or naps
- Environmentally friendly – plastics denature, and are not as easily washed.
One of the least common, but also the cheapest are dried grains, beans or stone fillings used as the weighted filling. As stated they’re usually the cheapest. This is why they can be commonly found in self-made weighted blankets. The problem is as they’re organic matter; they’re not suitable for washing.