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Weighted blankets may lead to more melatonin, the sleep hornone

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The weighted blanket has rising in popularity Over the past few years, manufacturers and users have touted its benefits, including helping with sleep and anxiety problems. It suggests an explanation mechanism.

Using weighted blankets can increase melatonin. sleep-promoting hormone generated by the brain – released, research Reveal. Melatonin reduces alertness and makes sleep more appealing. During the day, light entering the eye signals the brain’s “master circadian clock” (an area of ​​the brain called the suprachiasmatic nucleus) to trigger melatonin production by the pineal gland, a pea-sized organ in the brain. block. After the sun sets, the suprachiasmatic nucleus releases its hold on the pineal gland and melatonin prepares the body for sleep. Your core body temperature drops and you feel drowsy.

“I’ve met many pediatricians and occupational therapists who have told me about the magical effects of weighted blankets, but I’m not sure if it works as a placebo or what it does,” study authors said. . christian benedict, Associate Professor of Pharmacology, Uppsala University, Sweden. “That’s one of the reasons he decided to do this research.”

In this study, 26 young men and women without sleep disorders or other medical conditions were asked to sleep on a weighted blanket on one night and a lighter blanket on another night in the laboratory. None of the participants had experience using Weighted and lightweight blankets represented her 12.2% and her 2.4% of each person’s body weight, respectively.

The researchers took saliva samples every 20 minutes between 10:00 pm and 11:00 pm to measure changes in hormone levels. On average, the rise in melatonin was 32% greater the night participants slept on weighted blankets.

“Physical sensations, including gentle pressure on the skin, can activate areas of the brain that can affect the release of melatonin,” Benedict said. We believe that a similar mechanism could explain the melatonin elevation observed in

Weighted blankets, in addition to traditional padding, have weights such as metal chains or glass beads sewn into them to apply even and deep pressure to the body. occupational therapist In the 1990s, we discovered that weighted vests and blankets had a calming effect on children and adolescents with developmental and sensory disabilities.they were later used in adults mental health settings As a humane alternative to restraint and isolation, which are known to cause physical and psychological harm to patients.

The concept of deep pressure stimulation goes back even further and was specifically studied by American scientists in the 1980s. temple grandinhas autism, hug machine as a way to ease her anxiety. It worked by gently squeezing her with her padded board. Other examples include swaddles for babies and anxiety vests for dogs, both of which are used to soothe as well as hugs.

Applying gentle pressure to large areas of the body activates the autonomic nervous system, which regulates heart rate, digestion, breathing rate, and other functions. In particular, deep pressure stimulation Associated with decreased sympathetic excitation, or fight-or-flight response, and increased parasympathetic excitation, or rest and digestion response.

Research suggests that deep pressure stimulation, especially from weighted blankets, may improve sleep.2020, Håkan OlaussonA neuroscientist at Linköping University in Sweden and his colleague conducted a randomized controlled trial. trial A weighted blanket was provided nightly for 2 weeks in 120 patients with psychiatric disorders. Patients reported less severe insomnia, less fatigue during the day, and better sleep maintenance throughout the night when sleeping on weighted blankets compared to light blankets.

2015 study Thirty-three people with chronic insomnia tested the weighted blanket and reported that they slept longer, felt calmer, and felt refreshed in the morning. and, study Two children with autism spectrum disorder showed improved sleep quality with weighted blankets.

“The use of weighted blankets has increased dramatically over the last few years, but most studies have limited sample sizes.” Carla KosinskiOccupational Therapist, co-author ofweighted blanket guide“We can’t draw any big conclusions right away” about the latest study, she said, but the observed increase in melatonin “provides another piece of the puzzle.”

“This is a very interesting study, but it is not clear that melatonin increases with weighted blankets, so it would be great to see it replicated in a second cohort.

Benedict supported the need for larger trials, including “exploring whether the observed effects of weighted blankets on melatonin persist over time.”

Although an increase in melatonin was observed in this study, no difference was observed in how long participants slept or how drowsy they felt with the use of the weighted blanket. We measured oxytocin, a hormone that Oxytocin is known to induce feelings of euphoria and calmness, but no increase was seen in the weighted blanket condition.

Users like Amy Walker Baker say weighted blankets have helped with their health issues.

“I feel like I’m in a safe cocoon,” said Baker, 50, of Bay Minette, Alabama. A car accident in 2016 severely injured her and haunted her nightmares as a result of her post-traumatic stress disorder. “It took me a few nights to get used to it. [the weight], but once I did, I actually slept. It’s been over a year! It felt like a victory,” she said.

DeAndra Chapman, 38, of Stockton, Alabama, was gifted a weighted blanket by her husband to ease her anxiety and restlessness at night. “A weighted blanket helps you sleep because it’s like you’re always being hugged,” she said. increase.”

Keri Leach, 55, of Westerville, Ohio, uses weighted blankets for insomnia. “My problem was waking up in the middle of the night and not being able to go back to sleep. It helped,” she said. “It’s hard to use in the summer because it gets hot.”

According to Kosinski, weighted blankets are used not only by people with sleep disorders, but also by people with autism, anxiety, arthritis, chronic pain, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. She adds that they do very well for some people and not at all for others. Don’t use it on anyone who can’t remove it, Kosinski says.

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