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Self Care Sleep

Weighted Blankets: For Better or Worse?

Like many people over the last few years, I invested in weighted blankets for members of my family. I’d read they are particular good for improving sleep and reducing anxiety. Because I had always slept markedly better with heavy quilts, that made sense to me.

I followed the guidelines for buying them: 5-10% of your bodyweight.

Both of my sons – who have trouble sleeping and have cold cold cold bedrooms – loved them. They are toasty warm. First – put off by the cost – I made them heavy quilts. Sleep improved. Anxiety down. Then I bought commercial weighted blankets – first for one, then for another.

Their sleep immediately improved again.

Win!

Non-invasive. Lowered anxiety. Better sleep.

This fall, during the pandemic, I bought one for myself and my husband. It is COLD in our attic bedroom and – like many folks – my sleep quality had gone way down during the pandemic. (The pandemic puppy didn’t help.)

I loved the weight and the luxurious warmth. I noticed a little trouble turning over under the weight, but no big deal. And it did make it harder to make the bed. Although it looked great and was very smooth, you can’t flick and fluff like a regular comforter. But my sleep felt deeper and more restful.

Although my husband asked me if I really liked it (he had his doubts), I was sold.

And then it started . . . .

Like many people working from home, I’ve been feeling creaky. I walk every day – a benefit of the pup – but I was still feeling stiff. In particular, my back was really starting to bother. To the point where it was hard to turn over in my sleep bothering me.

I had really injured my back thirty years ago, and it can be a little tetchy when my posture is bad. I double checked my desk chair. I also became very conscious of how I sat on soft seating – the couch and comfy chair. That can cause me problems.

Despite my care, over the course of a week I found it more and more difficult to move without pain. We looked for new mattresses – and it took me five minutes to lie down to even try one. I could walk okay, but changing position – particularly from sitting to standing – was excruciating. Rolling over in bed or trying to stand was a long, involved, and painful process.

We were in a warm spell and I took off the weighted blanket. I also spent most of the weekend sitting in straightbacked wooden chairs, trying to work on my posture and resting my back and abdominal muscles. We bought a new topper for the mattress.

Hurray! Back was pain free for almost a week.

Then it got cold. Weighted blanket back on the bed. All of a sudden, I couldn’t turn over again.

I was having trouble sitting up. My back and stomach muscles complained loudly every time I moved.

Blanket off again. Back is fine.

Ah.

When used in moderation . . . .

So here is my completely unprofessional take.

Historically, when used therapeutically, most weighted blankets were relatively small – like a baby blanket – and put on top of regular bedding. They did not cover your feet, so didn’t put pressure on ankles, hips, and backs as you roll from side to side.

If you’re thinking about weighted blanket, smaller might be a good place to start.

Many new weighted blankets are full size and go on top of your covers. If you go full size, you may want to go for the lightest of the weighted blankets. Or perhaps just try a heavy quilt.

Most importantly, listen to your body.

Lighter weighted blankets have been great for both my tall, strong sons. They helped them sleep. They kept them warm. They reduced their anxiety.

But for both my husband and for myself – older creakier bodies with a lot more wear and tear on our backs – a weighted blanket brought those benefits, but at a cost. Our backs really started to hurt.

If your back starts to hurt after using a weight blanket, try sleeping a few nights without and see what happens. It might not be that funky work-at-home office chair after all.

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