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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

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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This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The MultipleSclerosis.net team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

Comments

  • lightweaver
    6 months ago

    Weighted blankets are a lifesaver. They take away my leg pain and let me sleep all night!

  • Devin Garlit moderator author
    6 months ago

    Thank you @lightweaver, I very much concur!

  • robin2877
    8 months ago

    I was diagnosed with MS in 2016. I have to say I love my weighted blanket and would not trade it for the world! I got the 20 lb one from Amazon. It DID take some getting used to however. For about the first week I was skeptical, like do I like this? It took some getting used to but once I did I Fell in love with it and it honestly makes me fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer. I feel more rested in the morning waking up. One would think it would be hot but it isn’t at all, the temperature is perfect and stays cool. I sometimes even have my down comforter atop that for more weight and warmth. It really has helped me!

  • Devin Garlit moderator author
    8 months ago

    Thank you @robin2877! I’m always curious to hear from others who have tried it! You are so right, it does feel like those lead bib (which I too have always enjoyed)!

  • robin2877
    8 months ago

    PS I would compare it to the lead bib they put on you at the dentist when they take x rays. which I’ve always enjoyed.. so if you don’t mind that you will probably like the weighted blanket.

  • Kritty
    9 months ago

    My daughter bought me one of those weighted blankets for Christmas. I asked her what the heck is this? (I’d never heard of these prior to her giving it to me) She told me “I researched it, it’s for people who can’t sleep at night and wake up often. The reviews say it’s good for people with MS. It’s supposed to feel like your being hugged and calm you.” I’m optimistic for the most part and I’ll try anything once if I think it could help. She bought me the lighter one, cuz I’m only about 125 lbs now. I told her, “You know I get hot at night and I’m like you, I don’t like anyone touching me because it wakes me up. Since you say it’s supposed to be calming I’ll give it a try.” The first night I put it on my bed I seriously could barely lift it to spread it out. All the while I’m struggling to even spread it out….I’m trying to stay optimistic….I finally got in bed and covered up with this blanket. Hate to say this but I couldn’t sleep all night, I felt like I was suffocating and couldn’t move. Almost like being in a straight jacket. LOL. So…. “I told her no thanks, I hope you can return it cuz that was awful.”
    I believe she bought it at Bed Bath and Beyond. Assessment….the weighted blanket was not for me. However, I’m glad it worked for you Devin. Sweet dreams.

  • Devin Garlit moderator author
    9 months ago

    Thanks for sharing your experience Kritty! They are definitely not for everyone and the specific weight of the blanket can be very important. I had my roommate get under it for just a minute and she felt the same as you.

  • robin2877
    8 months ago

    No doubt it takes some getting used to. I felt the same way, like I could not move but now I love it 🙂

  • Kritty
    9 months ago

    Good morning Devin. You’re welcome. It’s probably because when it comes to sleeping I’m a “do not disturb” person. I used to like the warmth of blankets and cuddling up with my hubby. Now it’s like “Stay on your side, don’t shake the bed and Do Not touch me when I’m sleeping.” I keep my bedroom as cool as possible, shut the heat vents in the winter and have a fan blowing on me in the summer with the vents wide open.
    Once I’m awake I can’t go back to sleep. But that blanket was the strangest experience I’ve ever had with sleep, can’t find the words to explain it. Plus it wore me out just trying to lift it up and roll over or get on and out of the bed. HAHA Have an awesome day!

  • Lupe
    9 months ago

    Hmm this is interesting. When I sleep I will completely cover myself, head and all, with a bedsheet; people think I’m nuts. Been doing this for a long time and I’ve never had sleeping problems. As a kid I thought of it as me “hiding”
    from the boogy man but as an adult it makes me feel relaxed so that’s how I sleep. Is that the same principle? Glad this is helping you.

  • Donna Steigleder moderator
    9 months ago

    @Lupe
    I ordered my grandson a bodysock to use (he’s autistic. It provides an overall calming effect much like what you describe. I wonder how it would work with some of the other skin pain or other pains MS folks have?

  • homegirl99
    9 months ago

    I don’t have a “weighted blanket” per say but I do have a very heavy jean quilt, and yes it is very soothing to sleep under and I do sleep better! I also keep my bedroom very cool!

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