2020 has been an incredibly difficult year, and around the world, people are experiencing record levels of stress. Some researchers have observed that there’s been a spike in sleeplessness—they’re calling it coronasomnia—which is leading to declines in productivity, shorter fuses, and increased health risks. Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like we’ll be out of the woods anytime soon, so here at Fast Company, we’ve been trying to find ways to manage our anxieties. Over the past few weeks, writers and editors here have been testing weighted blankets, which are designed to help people relax.
The Mayo Clinic says that weighted blankets help release the hormones serotonin and dopamine, which can improve our mood, while reducing the stress hormone cortisol. (They function much like a hug, which creates a similar hormonal response.) And for years, therapists have used weighted blankets to help children with sensory issues calm down. Over the past few years, many brands have started to create blankets for adults, with promises that they can help us feel calmer and sleep better. There haven’t been many scientific studies to back up these claims, but a small study recently conducted in Sweden found that people with severe insomnia improved both their sleep quality and sleep time when they slept under 18-pound blankets.
We’ve tested a range of blankets for several weeks. As we tried the various products, we discovered a couple of useful things. First, it can take time for your body to adapt to the weight of a heavy blanket. Video producer Chris Allen, for instance, found lying under a 35-pound blanket overwhelming at first. Brands recommend easing into the experience by just using the blanket on your legs or using it on a couch while watching TV, before trying to sleep under it. Allen followed this advice and eventually felt more comfortable with the weight. But when you do end up sleeping under it, be prepared for your experience of sleep to change. Editor Aimee Rawlins and I slept longer and better under weighted blankets, but interestingly, we both observed that we could vividly remember our dreams the next morning, suggesting that we had experienced more REM sleep.
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