A happy sleeping man under a blanket with weights on the ends.

Trying A Weighted Blanket For MS Symptoms

Getting a successful night of sleep is something that can be difficult for someone with a chronic illness like Multiple Sclerosis. From having trouble getting comfortable to bouts of painsomnia, to even being tortured by our own thoughts, there are many issues that plague our attempts at sleeping or even simply resting. I’m always on the lookout for new tips and even products that will aid me in getting the rest I so desperately need. With that in mind, I finally gave in and purchased a weighted blanket, in hopes it would increase my chance of a sound sleep. Though skeptical at first, I’ve been pleasantly surprised in the ways it has helped me.

Temple Grandin and the squeeze machine

Maybe you’ve heard of the concept of using a weighted blanket before. If you have, you may have especially heard about it with regards to helping those with autism. That’s because Dr. Temple Grandin, herself on the autism spectrum, discovered the benefits of applying deep touch pressure as a way to induce a calming effect. After observing that cattle were calmer while waiting for veterinary assistance while standing in a specialized chute that would squeeze them, she began to consider the same effects on humans (herself included). She also noted that there are calming sensations when most humans are hugged or swaddled and animals are often calm when petted. As many autistic people can be overly sensitive to being touched, she developed a device called the “squeeze machine” (also known as a “hug box”) that would allow her to apply pressure without a human’s touch. Her squeeze machine has proven very effective for those with autism and other sensory disorders. However, her research also noted that there is a calming effect on those without such conditions as well. (if you are interested, you can read some more about Grandin’s squeeze machine here).

Weighted blankets for MS

It’s this concept of deep touch pressure that Grandin really helped to discover that is where weighted blankets come in to play. This basically mimics her squeeze machine, but utilizing a blanket, often weighted with glass or ceramic beads inside it, as a way of applying a consistent and slight pressure around a large part of the body. We’re essentially using a weighted blanket to provide this deep touch pressure that made her squeeze machine so effective. It’s thought that this type of pressure helps increase our levels of the hormones oxytocin, serotonin, and melatonin, all of which aid us in feeling more calm and peaceful. While experiences can vary person to person, weighted blankets have been beneficial to people with numerous conditions as a way to lower their anxiety and experience calm that allows them to sleep.

Finding the right blanket

To find a suitable blanket, a person should choose one that is around 10% of their body weight. There are numerous online purveyors (I got mine from Amazon) with a wide variety of styles. Be warned: they can be somewhat expensive; however, if you shop around, you can often find a deal. It’s best to consult each blanket’s recommendations when it comes to size and weight to purchase.

My experience

Despite hearing plenty of anecdotal evidence and also knowing a bit about Temple Grandin’s research, I was still somewhat skeptical when acquiring a weighted blanket. That, coupled with high price tags, made me wait until I found just the right deal (I’m also a big guy and so required a heavier blanket than most people). After using one for a couple months now, I really wish I had gotten one sooner. I’ve tried to monitor my sleep since getting it, marking down when I awake in the middle of the night, as well as how I feel each morning. I did so before it arrived as well.

Sleeping longer and falling asleep faster

I have definitely slept longer periods through the night. I have also fallen asleep much faster, in fact, that may be one of the more remarkable aspects of my experience. Going to bed, my mind would often be racing with not-so-great thoughts. Using the blanket seems to have helped with that and I’ve fallen asleep faster (shout out to my roommate, who I’ve enlisted to check on me to help determine this). When I do wake up, which is still once or twice a night, it seems easier to fall back asleep, too.

Weight without the added heat

Another great aspect of the weighted blanket is that it provides me the weight but without the added heat a large number of blankets would create. Temperature can have such a big impact with MS, so being able to get this weight and pressure without additional heat has been very beneficial. Getting some additional sleep has been very helpful to me, both with fatigue and cognitively. With anything MS-related, experiences will vary person to person, but I’m pretty happy with my purchase and thought I’d pass along my experience!

As always, thanks so much for reading and feel free to share!

Devin

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