Weighted blankets (or gravity blankets) have been around for several years, but I’ve resisted buying one for two reasons. First, I’m extraordinarily claustrophobic and I thought I would feel trapped sleeping under one. Second, I’m hot-natured, and I can’t stand to be hot when I sleep. Eventually, I pushed through my reluctance and gave this one from Kalm Koala a try (more on why I chose this particular brand later).
The main reason I persevered with trying a weighted blanket, despite my claustrophobia and hot streak, is their straight up therapeutic effect on anxiety and sleep. I’ve written about my struggles with sleep and anxiety before, and a calming weighted blanket helps me with both. I am all too familiar with the chicken and egg circle of anxiety and sleeplessness… When you’re anxious, you can’t sleep. When you’re tired, it is impossible to fight anxiety. Just one sleepless night can trigger a 30% rise in emotional stress, particularly anxiety. Anxiety at its most basic level is the inability of your brain to get out of fight or flight mode– you aren’t able switch off the adrenaline response and get proper rest. Instead, your brain is active and future-planning instead of relaxing and participating in the present.
Deep sleep (non-REM or ‘slow wave’ sleep) is critical for stabilising and calming an anxiety prone brain. Matthew Walker, the author of the book ‘Why We Sleep’ (he’s the person responsible for scaring me into perfect sleep habits) says this: “We have identified a new function of deep sleep, one that decreases anxiety overnight by re-organizing connections in the brain. Deep sleep seems to be a natural anxiolytic (anxiety inhibitor), so long as we get it each and every night.”
So how do you get deep restful sleep every night? By making quality sleep a priority. For me, cutting back on caffeine (as much as I can) during the day, drinking less/no alcohol in the evening, avoiding screens two hours before bedtime, and by using a weighted blanket to quiet my overactive nervous system at night. When I slide under my Kalm Koala blanket, I immediately feel at ease. My brain has been trained to equate the blanket with sleep. My blanket weighs 6.5 kilos (15 pounds) which is between 7 and 13% of my body weight, the correct percentage. Several friends and family who I’ve asked about weighted blankets have ones that are too hot and far too heavy, so they don’t use them. A 50 pound blanket for an average sized woman is far too much; it’s like sleeping under a German Shepherd! That’s not restful at all. Calculate 10% of your body weight and choose something close. Kalm Koala gives you a calculator here.
My blanket feels like it gives my brain a gentle Shhhhhhhhhhh! If I’m not feeling well, I make an exception to my sleep-only rule and use it during the day. I double the blanket over to be extra heavy, and relax for a few minutes.
Because I have a son with mild sensory issues, I’ve learned a lot about ‘proprioception’, or the awareness of where your body is in time and space. Your brain is in constant dialogue with your muscles, tendons, joints, and even skin to tell it where you are, exactly. Some people are sensory avoiding, some are sensory seeking. My child is forever seeking movement and balance to give his brain feedback about where he is in space. The brilliant thing about this weighted blanket is the gentle deep pressure it provides to his muscles and joints. It gives his brain the proprioceptive information it likes so he can get deep restful sleep. Deep gentle pressure shuts down an active nervous system; this is the reason humans have been swaddling squirmy babies for centuries. I imagine it mimics the sensation of being in the womb. I knew a Kalm Koala blanket would be great for my son and his need for sensory input. Unlike me, he’s always been a fairly good sleeper, but I can see an improvement in his sleep after several months of using a weighted blanket. He REALLY looks forward to sleeping under it, and he especially likes the soft tactile cover.
Who else loves this blanket in my house? Unfortunately, my dog. Pippa is a pointy, furry, luxury-seeking missile that will track down the softest and cosiest surface in the house to lounge on. When I go out, I cover my Kalm Koala blanket with a fleece throw or my duvet, hoping to deter her. She will remove the other blankets to get to this whippet-approved one.
So why did I choose the Kalm Koala over all of the other weighted blankets on the market? First and foremost, it is environmentally friendly and extremely well made. The eco fabric cover is bamboo and cotton. I didn’t expect it to be as dreamy and soft as it is from that description, but it feels glorious. Second, many weighted blankets on the market are made with environmentally-unfriendly plastic beads; Kalm Koala uses glass. Also, the glass beads are in double stitched panels so you don’t ever hear or feel them when you shift around (which would drive me bonkers) as you do with some other weighted blankets. Third (in case it made me feel claustrophobic) I wanted an easy return policy; this brand happened to have that as well. I did a lot of research before I got one, and I honestly couldn’t be happier with it. First I got one for my son. I liked using his so much that I got the bigger one for myself.
I know I’ve said all of this before on here, but research from sleep experts like Matt Walker (TED talk) shows us:
- Avoid alcohol a few hours before going to sleep; alcohol prevents deep brain-enhancing sleep.
- Do not use screens two hours before bedtime; their blue light disrupts your natural circadian rhythm.
- Try to sleep and awaken at the same times, even on weekends. You can’t bank sleep or make up for lost hours.
- Cut down or avoid caffeine altogether (I can’t do this, sorry!).
- Sleep in a cool room to promote deep sleep.
- Aromatherapy and scents can cue our brain for relaxation and sleep.
- Weighted blankets can promote restful deep sleep, especially for those afflicted by anxiety or sensory disorders (raises hand).
This only applies to UK residents (the heaviness of the product doesn’t make shipping to the US economically viable) but if you’d like to try one of these for yourself, I’ve asked the company for a discount code. You’ll get an additional £10 off using the code SEQUINIST at checkout, unless there are better offers on site. Sweet dreams!
Disclosure- this post contains affiliate links.