The NHS has revealed that 1 in 3 adults suffer from poor sleep - and these people are at increased risk of serious medical conditions, including heart disease and diabetes. A good night’s sleep is about more than waking up fresh, It’s just as much about being healthy and being able to live life to the fullest.
The links between anxiety and poor sleep
The evidence is clear: a lack of sleep heightens anxiety, and anxiety hurts your sleep. This vicious cycle is what keeps many people awake at night.
For example, Harvard Health Publishing states that more than 50% of adult patients with generalised anxiety disorder (GAD) experience sleep problems.
Young people with an anxiety disorder also take longer to fall asleep and have lower-quality sleep compared to those without the disorder.
Many people turn to medication as a sleeping aid. However, prescriptions sleeping pills often cause side effects such as dizziness, tingling sensations and drowsiness during the day.
What if you could find a product that could improve your sleep without all these unpleasant side effects?
This is where a gravity blanket for anxiety could help.
What is an anxiety blanket?
An anxiety blanket also known as a weighted blanket, puts gentle pressure on your body to reduce your physiological arousal. Research has shown that this can reduce anxiety and stress to help you sleep.
The benefits of an anxiety blanket for humans
According to Penn Medicine of the University of Pennsylvania, the pressure of a weighted blanket can reduce common symptoms of anxiety, such as a fast heart rate, by switching your autonomic nervous system into resting mode - helping you feel calmer and ready to sleep within just a few minutes.
How to get your body into relaxation and sleep mode;
- Increase melatonin
Melatonin plays an important role in regulating your sleep cycles. Higher levels of this hormone help you feel sleepy as your body prepares for bedtime.
- Increase serotonin
Your nerve cells make this chemical so that it can send signals to your brain, blood platelets and bowels. Serotonin makes you feel happier, calmer and less anxious, which can help you sleep better.
- Reduce cortisol
Cortisol helps to control your blood sugar levels and blood pressure. However, when levels are too high, you may find it more difficult to sleep.
These three processes are essential for a good night’s sleep.
How to make an anti-anxiety blanket that’s right for you
Choose the right weight
You need a weighted blanket that's about 7% to 13% of your body weight. Therefore, the best anxiety blanket for people who weigh under 85kg is a 6.8kg version, while the best option for adults weighing 85kg or more is a 9kg version.
Choose the right size
Choose a smaller (48 inches by 78 inches) anxiety blanket or a larger one (60 inches by 80 inches). The larger option is best suited to double- or king-sized beds, whereas the smaller blanket is perfect for single beds.
If in doubt, have a look at anxiety blanket reviews to compare what people are saying about different products. Remember that not every cheap anxiety blanket sold by other brands will yield the best results. For example, some blankets are made with lower-quality plastic beads, which can get hot and make it harder for you to sleep comfortably.
Making an anxiety blanket comfortable all year round
Koala’s weighted blankets are made with BPA-free, non-toxic glass beads which are hypoallergenic (unlikely to cause an allergic reaction) and more breathable than plastic beads. This helps temperature regulation.
One side of the Koala weighted blanket cover is made from 300-thread-count bamboo for warmer weather, while the other side is made of soft mink for the winter. Therefore, you can sleep comfortably throughout the year.
How to reduce your anxiety and make the most of your weighted blanket
The Anxiety and Depression Association of America has published some excellent guidelines on coping strategies for people who regularly experience anxiety and/or stress.
The following suggestions could help you achieve good results with a heavy anxiety blanket:
Keep your caffeine and alcohol consumption to a minimum.
An anxiety blanket for adults may not give you good results if you have too much caffeine or alcohol in your diet. That’s because these two stimulants can raise anxiety levels and increase the risk of panic attacks, even though alcohol may temporarily reduce anxiety.
Understand what is causing your anxiety.
It could be a stressful work situation, a family issue, money worries or something else. Create a journal and make a note anytime you feel anxious. This can help you to recognise patterns so you can try to get to the root of the problem.
Take deep breaths when you feel anxious
Slowly inhale and exhale. Count from one to ten.
Find a hobby that can distract you.
Listen to one of your favourite albums, try some yoga, go for a walk at a nearby park, or go for a massage.
Maintain a balanced, healthy diet that’s rich in antioxidants
Harvard Health Publishing also found that a diet high in antioxidants can also reduce anxiety levels, referring to a 2010 study that analysed more than 3,100 ingredients. Foods high in antioxidants include vegetables such as spinach, broccoli and kale, berries, beans, fruits such as apples and sweet cherries, walnuts, and spices such as ginger and turmeric.
It might be easier said than done but establishing a consistent sleeping pattern should help you get the full therapeutic effects of a heavy weighted blanket.
If possible, dim the lights at least an hour before you plan to go to bed. A study by the Endocrine Society in 2011 found that volunteers who were exposed to normal room light in the eight hours before bedtime had lower melatonin production than those exposed to dim light. Thus, they tended to sleep better.
Find someone you can talk to about your anxiety
Confide in a family member or friend and let them know that you’re anxious. Try to seek professional help from a doctor or a therapist.
Helping others can give you a new sense of purpose and distract you from your anxiety.
It's no joke! Laughter can help your body release endorphins that make you feel good and combat stress. It also helps switch your mind.
Long walks, cardio, weightlifting and sports can all help you reduce your anxiety by boosting your endorphin production. Anxiety UK states that regular physical activity can improve your sleep, reduce mental fatigue and stress, and give you a natural energy boost during the day.