Sleep – a physiological state of rest during which the nervous system is relatively inactive, the eyes are closed / postural muscles relaxed, and consciousness is suspended.
Ask anyone who struggles with depression, anxiety or PTSD about their sleep quality and they’ll likely disclose a litany of issues:
Insomnia – difficulty with falling or staying a sleep
Nightmares – frightening & unpleasant dreams
Sleep terrors – episodes of screaming, intense fear and flailing while still asleep – often are paired with sleepwalking, interacting without conscious awareness
Fatigue – a nearly constant state of weariness that develops over time and reduces your energy, motivation and concentration
Sleep disturbances and mental health issues go hand in hand.
The processes that occur during sleep are similar to those a phone or computer goes through when you power it off to restart. When we are asleep our brain codes memories – basically moving experiences from short to long term storage and freeing up space for new experiences to be stored the next day.
When we don’t get enough sleep (or the right type of sleep), then our brains become overloaded with old data. This leads to slower processing – just like that old overloaded desktop! In sleep deficit we are more prone to confusion, brain fog, + getting stuck in thought loops. We have less psychic energy to commit to our sympathetic (fight/flight) and parasympathetic (emotion regulation) nervous systems.
Of course if you aren’t sleeping well, it makes a lot of sense that you then struggle to control your anxiety during the day or find pleasurable activities no longer appealing (hello depression!).
As a highly sensitive person (HSP), I I have a fairly reactive nervous system. It takes very little stimuli to catch my attention plus it takes my body a long time to down regulate from awake to sleep states. Sleep has always been a struggle for me. I remember being 5 years old and laying in bed for hours at night telling myself stories to try to get to sleep. The slightest of noises and I was wide eyed and fully awake.
I received my first weighted blanked for Christmas 3 years ago. Let me tell you – it was a game changer immediately for me! The first night I got the most amazing deep night of sleep I had ever had. And then it just kept happing, night after night after night.
The feeling of being encompassed in weigh is incredibly soothing. The pressure allows my hyper alert system to feel safe enough that it can down regulate. I fall asleep quicker (15 minutes vs 2.5 hours), enter deeper sleep states & it helps me easily get back to sleep after a mid-night run to the bathroom.
Last week, I snagged my original blanket on the edge of the bed releasing a cascade of tiny glass beads. This was the second time I had ripped it recently and this one was beyond patching. Even with Prime, it took a couple of days for my replacement to arrive. Those nights were awful!! I was immediately reminded of the horrific sleep quality I had lived with for years.
Most retailers recommend choosing a blanket that is between 8-12% of your body weight. My initial blanket 12%, I actually ordered up to 13.5% (22lb) on my replacement and have to admit it’s probably a tiny bit too heavy. You want it to be enough that you feel the benefit of the pressure, but not so much that you feel smother or claustrophobic underneath it.
Bonus – recently weighted blankets have become mainstream & way more affordable (like 40% of what they cost a couple years ago)! Target, Wal-mart, Bed Bath & Beyond all stock them in store, there are plenty of places to find them online or if you’d like to support small check out Etsy for hand crafted ones.
Chronic sleep disturbances are a common problem of 21st century life. Weighted blankets are one of my favorite holistic approaches to symptom management. I recommend it to all my new clients during our intake process. When you can regulate your sleep, it is so much easier to gain control of your emotions and build a values centered life.
Do you have a weighted blanket? How has it helped your sleep patterns? What other non RX approaches do y’all use to improve sleep quality? Drop your tips in the comment section below!
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