Weighted blankets, which have long been popular aids to induce calm, could help reduce insomnia, a new study suggests.
Swedish researchers studied 121 patients with depression, bipolar disorder and other psychiatric diagnoses, all of whom had sleep problems. They randomly assigned them to two groups. The first slept with an 18-pound blanket weighted with metal chains, and the second with an identical looking three-pound plastic chain blanket.
The study, in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, used the Insomnia Severity Index, a 28-point questionnaire that measures sleep quality, and participants wore activity sensors on their wrists to measure sleep time, awakenings and daytime activity.
More than 42 percent of those using the heavy blanket scored low enough on the Insomnia Severity Index to be considered in remission from their sleep troubles, compared with 3.6 percent of the controls. The likelihood of having a 50 percent reduction on the scale was nearly 26 times greater in the weighted blanket group.
The weighted blankets did not have a significant effect on total sleep time, but compared with the controls, the users had a significant decrease in wakenings after sleep onset, less daytime sleepiness and fewer symptoms of depression and anxiety.
The senior author, Dr. Mats Adler of the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, acknowledged that this is only one study and doesn’t provide scientific proof that the blankets work.
“I have colleagues using it, and they love it,” he said, “but that’s not proof. This study is an indication that they may work, but more studies should be done.”