The study found that the increasingly popular weighted blankets are more than just a new health trend.
These blankets, ranging from $20 to $700, stimulate the production of the sleep hormone responsible for deep, restful sleep.
Swedish researchers found that melatonin levels were up to a third higher at night than those who used a regular blanket.
Weighted blanket sales hit an estimated $600 million in 2021 after getting rave reviews from sleep experts and celebrities like Kourtney Kardashian.
The brain naturally releases melatonin every night to regulate the circadian rhythm.
Heavy blankets are said to put the nervous system into “rest” mode, reducing some anxiety symptoms such as rapid heart rate or breathing.
When you are stressed, your heart beats very fast, which inhibits the production of melatonin.
The success of weighted blankets is driven by experts’ concerns that the popular melatonin supplement increases the risk of Alzheimer’s and dementia later in life.
Researchers at Uppsala University in Sweden followed 26 participants over two nights.
On the first night, the participants slept under a heavy blanket. On the second night they used a regular sheet.
The blankets used in the study, published in the Journal of Sleep Research, were tailored to the participants according to their weight.
Weighted blankets accounted for 12.2% of a person’s total body weight, while regular sheets accounted for 2.2%.
Participants went to bed around 10:00 pm and a saliva sample was collected every 20 minutes until 11:00 pm.
The results showed that by the end of an hour, sleeping under a thick blanket resulted in a 32% increase in melatonin levels.
The pineal gland in the brain naturally releases the hormone. This is a natural reaction to a dark environment that leads to drowsiness, telling the brain that it’s time for bed.
Heavy blankets have long been known to promote restful sleep, but not at the expense of increasing melatonin production, explains Dr. Tracey Marks, a psychologist in Atlanta, Georgia, who was not involved in the study.
She said the blankets activated the human vagus nerve, the longest nerve in the body, running from the stomach to the skull. Deep touch, as she describes it, activates the body’s parasympathetic nervous system.
This system helps to “slow down” the activity of the body, reduces the production of cortisol and increases the secretion of serotonin.
“When you feel the weight of a blanket or it is held tightly, it stimulates the production of serotonin and dopamine in the brain,” Marks said.
She likened the feeling of a weighted blanket to slowing a person’s breathing or splashing water on their face to calm them down. She said: “[أنت] They manipulate your nervous system to calm you down.”
A calmer and less restless person is more likely to fall asleep, and heavy blankets are thought to help fight insomnia and other sleep problems.
The Swedish study offers a new theory. And while studies have shown that blankets relieve anxiety, they can also affect the pineal gland.
Marx said that stimulation of the vagus nerve would not affect the secretion of melatonin by the pineal gland. This means that there is another mechanism that causes a person to experience higher levels of melatonin when wrapped in a heavy blanket.
The Swedish researchers also did not identify a mechanism in the study.
Weighted blankets have become a popular health trend in recent years, but unlike many other items and supplements promoted by influencers and celebrities, they are also backed by doctors.
Marks said she recommends these blankets for people with anxiety to relieve symptoms and promote more restful sleep.
Source: Daily Mail