Are weighted blankets worth the hype for us bleary-eyed, tired Americans?
FARGO — According to the National Sleep Foundation 60 percent of Americans between 13 and 64 have sleep issues every night or nearly every night. They include snoring, insomnia, waking in the middle of the night and waking unrefreshed. No wonder that line at Starbucks is so long.
I'm one of those bleary-eyed Americans. I find myself aimlessly wandering my house unable to sleep at least three to four days a week. It happens whether I drink too much caffeine or none at all, or whether I watch TV or read a book. It might just be a part of aging. I don't know. I just know it's frustrating.
One of the latest trends to help people get catch a few more z's is the weighted blanket. They've been selling like hotcakes online for about a year, but do they actually work? This week on "The Scoop with Tracy Briggs," I decided to give it a go. Here's what I learned.
What is a weighted blanket?
It’s basically just what it sounds like: It’s a blanket that’s filled with little pellets that make it heavy, kind of like those smocks they put on you when you get an X-ray at the dentist’s office. The blanket I bought costs about $80, but you can spend a lot more or less. It is machine-washable and available at many discount stores like Target or Walmart.
How much should it weigh?
It is recommended that a weighted blanket should be between 10 and 15 percent of your body weight, but it’s also a matter of personal preference. Mine is 15 pounds, but I think I would have almost preferred a heavier blanket. However, the 15-pounder already makes it tough to make the bed. Does this count as a workout?
What is the science behind it?
Research says the weight of the blanket on the body acts almost like a deep pressure massage like getting hugged or cuddled all night. That feeling releases the happiness hormone oxytocin in the body and has been shown to ease anxiety, depression, insomnia, restless leg syndrome and fibromyalgia. Small children and some vulnerable adults, however, should not use weighted blankets.
Doesn’t it get too hot?
No, even though it’s much heavier than a normal blanket. I didn’t find it any hotter than a normal blanket. One of the keys for me, though, was to not let it drop off the bed as the effect of the pressure on the body was lost, and my dog nearly got crushed.
Finally, does it work?
First of all, I can only speak about my problems with insomnia and restlessness and not the other medical issues. I will tell you I kept everything else pretty much the same, including my caffeine intake and watching Netflix before bed. After about a month of sleeping under a weighted blanket, I am definitely sleeping better.
I might wake up in the middle of the night maybe once or twice a week, instead of three or four nights a week. I’ve actually had some nights that I’ve slept uninterrupted from 11 p.m. to 6 a.m. — seven solid hours. That hasn’t happened to me since before kids. So I’d say for me, the weighted blanket seems to be helping.
Watch the latest episode of "The Scoop" to see the weighted blanket in action. (Just ignore the huge scratch on the side of my nose. It's from the dog — seriously, it is. I think she's still mad about getting crushed.)