How to Sleep - Weighted Blankets
A: Hey! I’m Amelia!
C: I’m Cecilia! This is 1800Dreamzz!
A: That’s Dreamzz with two zz’s.
C: We heard a lot of you have trouble sleeping.
A: Apparently 2 out of 3 of Americans report at least one night a week with poor sleep.
C: And that’s without the help of COVID-19 affecting bedtime. The pandemic has messed up our sleep for a number of reasons.
A: Life changes surrounding the pandemic, anxiety surrounding the pandemic.
C: The list goes on. And we see you!
A: Sleep is so unbelievably important to your overall health, so Cecilia and I have developed this series called How to Sleep.
C: We are digging into your biggest sleep questions each week.
A: If you find this information valuable, share this episode with a friend and leave us a review!
C: And if you’ve got a little extra dollars this month, you can drop them in our virtual tip jar at Buy Me a Coffee or become a monthly donor on our Patreon.
A: All of these are linked in the show notes!
C: So what are we talking about on today’s episode of How to Sleep?
A: Today, Cecilia, we are talking about weighted blankets!
C: Gotta love a good weighted blanket! Do you have one, Amelia?
A: *riff riff* what about you, Cecilia?
C: *riff riff*. So what are weighted blankets?
A: I couldn’t resist giving you a tiny bit of history
C: No, of course you couldn’t.
A: People have been using blankets for a long time! According to Wikipedia, the term arose from the generalization of a specific fabric called Blanket fabric, a heavily napped woolen weave pioneered by Thomas Blanket (Blanquette), a Flemish weaver who lived in Bristol, England, in the 14th century.
C: Mr. Blanket’s blankets! A pioneer of his time. *riff riff* So we’ve been using Mr Blanket’s trademarked blankets for a long time. What is the allure of the weighted blanket?
A: Good question! Are you familiar with deep pressure stimulation?
C: *riff riff* What is the connection to weighted blankets?
A: Okay, so, now for the science portion of the podcast. we are very familiar with fight, flight, or freeze - this is our body’s stress response to external stimuli.
C: FIGHT! FLIGHT! FREEEZE!
A: Go Thundercats! Now, let’s say you were being chased by a lion, your body will stop digesting food, the reproductive organs will go on pause, and your body will kick it into high gear. Your pupils dilate so you can see better, your hearing will get clearer, your heart rate goes up, and your adrenaline will spike to get you to run.
C: Not to be confused with being chased by a lion in dreams, where the lion actually represents you. We did “being chased in dreams” in October of 2020 as part of our Halloween series! We talk about how the fight, flight, or freeze response comes up in dreams!
A: Yes we did! Go check it out! Now we experience fight, flight, or freeze every day, whether that’s with driving, paying your bills, going through, oh I don’t know, a carwash...
C: Are you afraid of car washes?
A: Yeah I’m absolutely terrified. Thinking about it makes me nervous.
C: *riff riff*
A: So fight, flight, or freeze is the response from your SNS, your Sympathetic Nervous System and it’s what will save you from the lion, BUT it’s not what is going to calm you down.
C: Seriously? That is interesting!
A: Nope! So it works ensemble or together with the Parasympathetic Nervous System, the PNS, the so-called “Rest and Digest” - which is a space where I feel like I frequently habit.
C: *riff riff*
A: The PNS helps “Blood pressure, breathing rate and hormone flow return to normal levels as the body settles into homeostasis, or equilibrium, once more.” This is from an article by Live Science - is that live or live?
C: That’s super cool that the two work in tandem to make us feel better. I’m guessing that weighted blankets have to do with “rest and digest”?
A: Correct! We live in a fast paced society and there are a lot of stressors, and when we’re in this constant fight, flight, or freeze mode, we tend to get crabby and irritable.
C: Girl, I know about that *riff riff*
A: Well so the weighted blanket helps calm people down by activating the parasympathetic nervous system.
C: The PNS! What is it about the weight that helps calm people down?
A: So this is where the deep pressure stimulation comes in - we love feeling hugged or like we’re in the womb. We’re in a tight, tight little space. Are you familiar with Dr. Temple Grandin?
C: *riff riff* tell me more about her.
A: She’s an American scientist who studies animal behavior. As a child, she noticed that the cows on her aunt's farm would go in these cow chutes, effectively “cow hug machines,” to be innoculated, and then they would emerge calmer than when they entered.
C: Can you imagine if we all got vaccinated with the COVID-19 vaccine in cow hug machines?
A: Here’s another Amelia fear - I am terrified of shots and needles - so I would absolutely love a cow hug machine when getting vaccinated.
C: *riff riff* So how did this affect Temple’s research?
A: So Temple was born in 1947, and did not speak until she was three and a half. It’s around that time that she was diagnosed with autism and the doctors suggested having her institutionalized. I feel like that was an answer for a lot of problems during that time.
C: *riff riff*
A: So there she was, little Temple, who wanted the feelings associated with hugs, but she struggled with hugs and touch due to her hypersensitivity.
C: So the cow hug machine must have been a major breakthrough?
A: Yes! So I’m going to read the beginning of her abstract from her research, “Calming effects of deep touch pressure in patients with autistic disorder, college students, and animals” published in 1992: “Many people with autistic disorder have problems with oversensitivity to both touch and sound. The author (an autistic person) developed a device that delivers deep touch pressure to help her learn to tolerate touching and to reduce anxiety and nervousness. The "squeeze machine" applies lateral, inwardly directed pressure to both lateral aspects of a person's entire body, by compressing the user between two foam-padded panels.”
C: *riff riff* That is so awesome! So weighted blankets apply the idea of deep touch therapy to calm you down.
C: So when do weighted blankets come into play?
A: There once was a fella named Keith.
C: This is how all good country songs start.
A: And he had a beanie baby.
C: This gets better.
A: Picture it, the year is 1997. Clinton and Gore start their second term,
C: Heaven’s Gate happens.
A: Some of the top grossing movies are Titanic, Men in Black, The 5th Element.
C: And the top songs include Un-break My Heart by Toni Braxton and Mmmbop by Hansen. This is a very nostalgic rabbit hole. So what happened with Keith?
A: Keith Zivalich is driving when his daughter puts a Beanie Baby over his shoulder for comfort. He said in an interview, “I noticed how the little beanie baby was hugging my shoulder and was staying put right there as I drove. The first thing that came to my mind was, what if you had a blanket that was full with these little beads? And the whole blanket would feel like it was hugging you.”
C: And so the first weighted blanket was born! Do you know which Beanie Baby it was?
A: It was Pugsly! The pug!
C: *riff riff*
A: He called it the Magic Beanie Blanket. I should say he did get a cease and desist letter from the Ty Beanie Baby company to not call it the Beanie Blanket at some point.
C: Don’t let the Ty Beanie Baby mafia come after you, they will cut you.
A: I just picture the little Princess Diana bear with a knife.
C: They have an agenda.
A: Well so did Keith. He did change the name by the way to the Magic Bean Blanket. According to an article by Mental Floss, “The enveloping pressure of the blanket stimulates the release of neurochemicals like serotonin and dopamine, which help alleviate stress. The therapeutic aspect has made the blanket especially popular among children with anxiety and autism-related sensory disorders.”
C: So it’s like Temple’s hug machine but with a blanket.
A: Correct! And honestly it seems like anyone could benefit from the use of a weighted blanket. I read a lot of different places that people with sleep disorders like insomnia were able to sleep better with a weighted blanket, partly because they weren’t kicking and all over the place.
C: You said you talked to somebody who said they had super vivid dreams after using a weighted blanket. Is there anything to that?
A: According to one weighted blanket manufacturer, Bearaby, “weighted blankets are known to cause you to dream more. This is because they tend to ease people into REM sleep—the deepest, most restful stage of sleep where dreams take place. And studies show that dreams are good for us. Rubin Naiman, a sleep and dream expert at the Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine, says, “Good dreaming contributes to our psychological well-being by supporting healthy memory, warding off depression, and expanding our ordinary limited consciousness into broader, spiritual realms.” So, don’t sleep on the power of dreamy sleep.”
C: Is there anyone who shouldn’t use a weighted blanket?
A: Healthline says: weighted blankets shouldn’t be used for toddlers under 2 years old, as it may increase the risk of suffocation. Always consult your pediatrician before trying a weighted blanket.” C: *riff riff* Toddler sleep just sucks, there are a lot of alternatives.
A: They go on to say that “A weighted blanket may also be unsuitable for people with certain conditions, including ‘obstructive sleep apnea, which causes disrupted breathing during sleep; asthma, which can cause difficulty breathing at night; claustrophobia, which the tightness of a weighted blanket may trigger.’
C: Those poor people with anxiety and claustrophobia who would probably benefit from a weighted blanket or hug machine.
A: I know!
C: So assuming I’ve got a clean bill of health and a green light to get a weighted blanket, what should I consider when purchasing one?
The first thing to consider is the weight of hte blanket. Healthline goes on to say
As a general rule, a weighted blanket should be 5 to 10 percent of your body weight. The weighted blanket should also fit snugly to the size of the bed.
Adults can use medium-large weighted blankets ranging from 12 to 30 pounds.
For a 20- to 70-pound child, a small weighted blanket should weigh from 3 to 8 pounds.
For a 30- to 130-pound child, a medium weighted blanket should weigh from 5 to 15 pounds.
Older adults may want to use small or medium weighted blankets ranging from 5 to 8 pounds.
C: *riff riff* What are the price ranges?
A: The cheapest I saw was at Target for $25, typically range from $100-$300
C: *riff riff* What sizes are available?
A: There are a ton! Just like with anything though, actually look and see what size you’re buying. Some weighted blankets cover just your body, and some are for the size of your bed.
C: *riff riff* What are weighted blankets made out of?
A: Some are made from tiny glass beads that are the size of grains of sand and some are made from plastic pellets. Some have a knitted look to them instead of the traditional comforter.
C: Are there any that aren’t terrible for the environment?
A: Yes! There are! Please, keep an eye out for products that are ethically produced, look at where they’re made, what they’re made from.
C: What other things should I keep in mind?
A: What type of sleeper are you? Do you run hot and need a little more breathability? Do you want one with a removable cover so you can wash it?
C: Yeah that is something I would be concerned about!!
A: Also look at the distribution of the weight. Like you don’t want the weight to be distributed unevenly while you sleep and wonder why there why your feet feel like they’ve got 18 lbs of plastic pellets and nothing by your face.
C: *riff riff* What about pets and weighted blankets?
A: According to Chewy.com, “Similar to the weighted blanket recommendation for us humans, any blanket or weighted product your pet sleeps beneath should be less than 10 percent of their body weight. So, for example, a 10-pound cat shouldn’t be under more than one pound, and a 20-pound pup should only curl up under a blanket that’s two pounds or less.”
C: *riff riff* So maybe not for our own cats or dog.
A: Dottie is 14 lbs, I would be terrified to use one with her. The article also says, “Additionally, in cats, small dogs, older dogs or dogs with underlying respiratory conditions, the weighted blanket may be too heavy and can cause respiratory distress.”
C: Oooh, poor little buddies!
A: And depending on what your weighted blanket is made out of, if your pet likes to chew, the particular insides of your weighted blanket may pose a risk for choking.
C: *riff riff* Are there weighted blankets for pets?
A: There are! There are several vet/pet-approved weighted blankets, as well as other deep pressure stimulation products like the thundershirt.
C & A: *riff riff*
A: Well, that’s all we have for today!
C: We hope you enjoyed this episode from our How to Sleep series!
A: Our next installment talks about Presidents Day Mattress sales! We’re not personally trying to sell you a mattress, but we want to talk about the history and give you some insight into mattress sale trends.
C: In the meantime, check out our most recent dream episode on children in dreams, and stay tuned for next week’s episode on Valentine’s Day symbols in dreams!
A: I’m gonna dress up like a big baby and wear cupid wings and eat all the chocolate for that episode.
C: I will do the last part of that with you. As always, don’t forget to send your dreams to us at 1800dreamzz.com (with two zz’s!) And check us out on instagram and facebook. Sleep tight!
A: And remember, don’t let the weighted blankets bite! Night night!
Questions I would have:
What are blankets?
How did weighted blankets come about?
How does it claim to give you better sleep?
Is there any science to back up?
What are the price ranges?
What materials are they made from?