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When your head hits the pillow it’s rarely a case of “lights out, time to sleep.” Most men and women take time to fall asleep, and for an unfortunate few, it feels like sleep may never come. Racing thoughts, nerves, and daily stress can keep you up at night and make it difficult to finally rest.
There are many reasons for sleep disorders, such as depression, daily stress, and hormone imbalances. Individuals with ADHD and autism diagnoses have also reported difficulty sleeping at night. The underlying cause of your insomnia will determine how you treat it. Your doctor may prescribe medication, talk therapy, or deep touch pressure therapy.
Deep touch pressure therapy uses a weighted blanket to evenly distribute weight across your body while you sleep. The idea behind the blanket is to help increase the natural production of serotonin, which in turn affects melatonin and sleep. Serotonin also regulates mood, and can help remove negative feelings which could be blocking sleep. The University of Maryland Medical Center reports; “Studies suggest that an imbalance of certain neurotransmitters (chemical messengers in the brain) may contribute to anxiety disorders. The neurotransmitters targeted in anxiety disorders are gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), serotonin, dopamine, and epinephrine. Serotonin appears to be specifically important in feelings of well-being, and deficiencies are highly related to anxiety and depression.”
Deep Touch Pressure Therapy
The therapy works by creating the sensation that you are being hugged. This is something that human beings crave, whether they realize it or not. The concept is based loosely on the “hug box” machine, invented by Temple Grandin, which delivered sensory therapy to those diagnosed on the autism spectrum. Grandin herself was one of the first autistic individuals to speak out about her experience.
Weighted blankets are one modern tool which delivers this sensation in a safe environment. A 2004 study proved that using a weighted blanket improved nighttime cortisol production and anxiety in volunteer patients.
This boost of serotonin helps individuals to fall asleep and lower anxiety. This is especially important in cases of children because they require more sleep than adults do. A 2014 study published in the Journal of Neurodevelopmental Disorders writes; “In typical development, sleep disruption is associated with emotional and behavioral problems such as internalizing and externalizing symptoms. Moreover, a growing body of evidence shows that childhood sleep disturbances may widely impact children’s health, behavior, attention, cognition, and school performance.”
Using deep touch pressure therapy with a weighted blanket could improve the outlook on these sleep problems, helping people to relax, de-stress, and enjoy the comfort of the hugging blanket.
ADHD, Autism, and Sleep
Many people experience trouble sleeping at one point in their life, but children with ADHD and autism are more common to have trouble falling asleep and staying asleep. Children on the autism spectrum often deal with sensory issues, which make it tough to sleep without somebody lying next to them, or having other specific elements in their immediate environments. For children with ADHD the reason for sleep problems could relate to the treatment for the disorder, rather than the disorder itself. The University of Nebraska discusses the link between ADHD and sleep disorders, writing “In a study published online Nov. 23 by the journal Pediatrics, the Nebraska researchers found children given the medicines take significantly longer to fall asleep, have poorer quality sleep and sleep for shorter periods.”
Of course, you should never halt the use of a prescription without first speaking to your physician, but you could decrease the severity of sleep problems by taking ADHD medication earlier, rather than close to bedtime. You can also implement weighted blankets as a therapy tool to help focus energy into the pressure on your body, rather than the anxiety of the day. Studies have shown that wearing weighted clothing, such as weighted vests, has helped children diagnosed with ADHD to focus better in the classroom and stay on task.
For those on the autism spectrum, weighted blankets work a little differently, providing a sense of spatial awareness that may not have been there before. Not all autistic children have sensory issues, but it’s a common issue on the spectrum. Some parents find that by using a weighted blanket their child can fall asleep by him or herself, something that may not have happened in the past. Many autistic children require their parents to stay with them or lay with them until they fall asleep. The blanket won’t act as a full-on replacement for Mom and Dad, but it will make sleep without parents more achievable.
Weighted Blankets and Stress
Weighted blankets aren’t just for those with special needs, they can be used by anyone. Weighted blankets make a great tool for anybody who loves a big heavy blanket at night, but gets too hot under a thick duvet. The weighted blanket provides a soft cozy exterior, with a poly-bead lining that extends even weight across the body.
The serotonin response offered by weighted blankets also helps users cope with every day and chronic stress or anxiety. When you feel stressed out, your natural levels of serotonin lower and this can cause depression and other mood related unevenness. Johns Hopkins School of Education comments on the subject, explaining; “Inescapable stress lowers serotonin (a calming neurotransmitter). Low levels of serotonin are linked to aggression, obsessive compulsive behavior and depression. Low serotonin leaves a person overwhelmed with life until ultimately the system shuts down with depression or explodes with aggression”
Reaching sleep becomes difficult when the chemicals in your body are in chaos, and you’re feeling agitated and angry. Weighted blankets can’t fix everything, but they can certainly help to calm you down, stimulate more natural production of serotonin, and help you get a good night’s rest.
If you decide to try a weighted blanket, choose one that is approximately 10% of the ideal body weight for your height and structure, plus one or two pounds.