My anxiety causes a lot of sleeping issues. I have rituals and a need to do many things before I can actually fall asleep. I am a deep sleeper, except when my anxiety takes hold. If there is a nagging thought, it will not let me sleep. I physically can’t sleep. I wanted a weighted blanket because I envisioned it helping me get me to a more peaceful night’s sleep.
My difficulty in sleeping stems from having a generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) & obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).
Anxiety and sleep are intimately entwined. I often sleep better on days when my anxiety is low. When I’m contemplating several things, I tend to have a hard time falling asleep, or it takes longer to get back to sleep.
Sleep problems can also cause anxiety, too. For me, a bad night’s sleep heightens my anxiety. The next day my mind is like a quiet storm raging under the surface. To control my thoughts, I do way too many OCD habits to calm and control my nerves.
I’ve tried everything to get more restful sleep: a white noise machine, pills, earplugs, and therapy. All are helpful but not enough to help me ultimately. Therapy has helped me manage my anxiety, but it serves as more of a long-term strategy than a daily implementation.
Last winter, I realized there was one thing I hadn’t tried yet: a weighted blanket. I read about their ability to calm nighttime anxious people.
Would this finally be the cure to my sleep problems?
Weighted blankets create deep pressure touch, which is thought to help calm the nervous system of people in states of heightening sensory arousal. This is the theory behind why some children with autism may respond to the use of weighted blankets or vests during moments of sensory overload.
These blankets are quite expensive. The price increases with the weight of the blanket. Most 15-pound blankets I saw online were around $120.
Though the blanket was only 15 pounds, it felt insanely heavy the first time I took it out of the bag. I could barely lift it. The dead weight makes the blanket very difficult to hold unless it’s rolled into a ball. The weighted blanket initially did feel bulky and constrictive. I also had trouble adjusting it and worried I had invested in another failed sleep solution.
I was also initially worried that I would get overheated under the weight of the blanket, but I didn’t at all. Despite its weight, the blanket I purchased was surprisingly cool and breathable.
On the first night of using it, I laid down in bed and struggled to arrange the blanket on top of me because it was so heavy. The first few nights, I used the weighted blanket, I woke up to find it on the ground next to me.
Then, I had a very anxious day. A million deadlines were looming. Worried thoughts seamlessly entered my mind, and I had trouble finding my breath, much less closing my eyes. I knew a horrible night of sleep was ahead of me, and the rituals always seemed to calm my nerves. I consciously decided to lessen the grip on my routine and use the blanket.
I cozied up under my weighted blanket and was surprised when, eight hours later, I woke up still beneath it. I had tossed and turned a handful of times throughout the night, but never kicked the blanket completely off of me.
I woke up feeling well-rested and calm. My neck wasn’t as tight as usual. The thoughts were looming in my mind before bed had vanished and seemed insignificant in the light of day.
Over the next two weeks, I slept with the weighted blanket each night and woke up beneath it each morning. I began to feel a wonderful sense of calm when I’d cozy up underneath it before bed.
I enjoyed the feeling so much I even began using the blanket when reading before bed or surfing the internet. Merely having it rested against me from the waist down was soothing in a way I hadn’t ever experienced.
I’ve used the weighted blanket on and off for the past month and can confidently say it’s a routine I’ll maintain.
It’s not a magical cure for my problems. However, it’s surprisingly effective at helping me achieve better sleep and decreased my need to complete my rituals before bed.