I sleep with a quilt even in the summer when it’s 85 degrees. I don’t mind my cat or dog or both sleeping on my back. In fact, I love it. And, at the end of yoga, I love a good eye pillow or three on my brows, nose and eyes to help me relax more deeply.
I’m starting to understand why. I’m not just quirky, and it’s not only the warmth, love and lavender helping me feel soothed.
It’s the weight. And how the pressure of that weight makes me feel.
Last week, I was doing a little yoga nidra in my bedroom. My back was on the floor at the end of the yoga session, and I was getting ready for deep rest. It was chilly, but I didn’t want to get out of the chill zone or mess up my already made bed. Instead, I grabbed my heavy meditation cushion, which is the size and shape of a large dog bed, because it was within reach.
I plopped the maroon cushion over my torso and immediately felt fabulous and able to rest deeply. It was as though all my body tension was pushed into the floor beneath me so I no longer had to hold on to it. Divine. Sublime. Delicious.
It felt so good that I decided to take the meditation mat to bed with me. Well, to lay it on top of me to be precise. Then I went to sleep and woke up feeling way more amazing than usual. It was as though I were coming out of a trance.
I didn’t get up a million times, hear every noise in the house or wonder what the cats were up to. The tossing and turning that usually leaves my sheets by my feet didn’t happen either. It was easy bliss. I didn’t mind if it seemed a little strange because when I sleep better, my entire world is better, cheery and upbeat.
So I went with it, kept putting this heavy weight on me. In fact, I wondered if it wouldn’t be better if I slept with two, three or four meditation mats on top of me. Maybe, I thought, I could make a mattress sandwich and sleep over one and under another. As long as I could breathe, I think I’d love the feeling.
I mentioned it to a good friend I know who has an acupressure mat that we’ve joked sounds like a torture device. It puts pressure on the back when she leans into and she swears it’s wonderful. I knew she was safe to speak with about my new sleep discovery.
“I’ve been smothering myself at night,” I said and told her about how my meditation mat as blanket is giving me uber energy. “It feels like the first time I can let go of body tension—even tension I didn’t know I was holding on to. It’s like the end of yoga, only there’s no moving.”
She laughed at me, I think because my technique sounded bizarre to her.
“Weighted blankets are a real thing used for soothing,” she said.
“They are?” I said.
“Yes,” she said.
“I guess I should have trusted my instincts more,” I said. Why didn’t I know about this easy way to sleep better and relax?
My friend told me it’s used most for kids who have autism because of how calming the weight can be.
She was right. It is. Weighted blankets are used by occupational therapists to treat people with sensory disorder issues as well as anxiety and autism.
There’s conflicting information about if or how they improve actual hours and sleep. In one study of mostly boys with autism, weighted blankets were said to have no effect on quality of sleep. However, in the same study, “parents judged that the weighted blanket made their child calmer (35% vs 14%) than the unweighted blanket. The investigators concluded that the weighted blankets provided no clinically measurable benefit for sleep measurements in these children, including parental assessments of sleep duration and sleep latency. However, parents and children both reported preferring the weighted blankets.”
To me, the preference by the children and the reports from parents that they were calming, combined with my own experience is proof enough for me.
I don’t have autism, but the study and the benefits of weighted blankets still interest me. I have post-traumatic stress, and appreciate anything that provides tactile relief, soothing and feel-good physical sensations, which help me feel more grounded and relaxed in my body. That can be elusive for a trauma survivor. To have a way to relax and sleep more deeply is no small thing for anyone. It’s downright healing though for a person with traumatic stress. Plus, so many aspects of healing and recovery can be grueling, challenging or confusing; it’s wonderful to have an easy body-care basic to turn in to.
The size and weight of my meditation cushion is great for me because my legs are still free and don’t feel trapped, but it’s still heavy enough to feel. I also like how the cushion is small enough for me to move and lift and adjust. I’m not sure a 30 lb. blanket filled with flax seed would feel the same, better or too much, but it seems worth trying.
Weighted blankets aren’t only used at night. People buy or make weighted shawls, vests or mini blankets to wrap around the shoulders or rest on the lap. I’m going to buy or make some other weighted products to see if I like them as much while working, driving or watching TV as I do while sleeping. There are countless variations available and for sale—see Google or Pinterest. Prices vary and some people are able to get them covered by insurance, depending on who recommends them and where they are purchased.
Maybe you’re like my friend who already heard of this weighted blanket thing. But if you’re just discovering it or being reminded of how good it feels—you’re welcome.
I actually look forward to crawling into and under its weighted support. It’s grounding, tethering and comforting. Immediately.
It feels like getting a fix for a craving I didn’t even know my body had been having for decades. Delicious. Complete. Soothing. Wonderful. Deep.
Author: Christine “Cissy” White
Editor: Evan Yerburgh