We talked about the alarming insomnia stats more times than we can count, and with a good reason. The increased prevalence over the past two decades has a much deeper impact on the healthcare system then one might think.
It goes beyond sleep itself and affects both prevalence and occurrence of other costly health problems – anything from cardiovascular disease to neurological disorders. In the time span between 1995 and 2005, the connection was “blurry” at best, because of the other lifestyle habits affecting the numbers.
We’re using the word “blurry” intentionally because, in this period, it was much harder to distinguish the nature of the connection, even when large-scale studies were done. With other moving parts, primarily dietary habits, distinguishing between correlation and causation was practically an impossible task.
The connection is getting clearer
With an increasing number of people adopting healthier eating habits, especially in urban areas, and studies conducted in those same areas (like the UCLA sleep center research) the connection between poor sleep habits and the consequences is becoming clearer.
It’s hard to say that there will ever be a way to establish a scientifically precise ratio of causation versus correlation, and that’s not what we’re aiming for here. To address the seriousness of the problem, we have to be somewhat loose with the numbers.
The bottom line here is that increasingly poor sleep habits do play a significant role in at least 5 of the 10 leading causes of death in the US (heart disease, lower respiratory problems, accidents, stroke and diabetes).
Why is this analysis important?
As we said, there are just too many moving parts to establish a direct connection that would pass scientific scrutiny. There are dozens of large studies pointing out that there is a connection, but the point we’re making is other factors (like genetic predisposition) are almost impossible to exclude.
It comes down to common sense – if dietary habits are improving and all other factors equal, the effects (and causes) of sleep deprivation become much more relevant. It all points to the fact that an increase in environmental factors, both primary and secondary, does have an impact on the still-growing insomnia epidemiology stats.
There’s one specific factor among them that we want to address today – stress and anxiety.
Since in that the disorders were declassified in the 1980s, again, it’s difficult to pinpoint precise reciprocity in such a short period of time – this German study is most detailed we found on the topic of anxiety disorder prevalence.
Enter the weighted blanket
This is probably the first time that we’re addressing the concept of weighted blankets and Deep Pressure as a real prospect in addressing insomnia.
What is a weighted blanket?
Simply put, a weighted blanket is any blanket with added weight (typically plastic pellets or glass beads). Its “origins” go back to therapeutic use in children with anxiety related disorders like ADHD.
We refrained from addressing it up to this point because we feel that the jury is still out on how much it can help for sleep. To put it differently, we weren’t sure if it’s a marketing fad because its effects are yet to be proven on a large scale.
Introduction to the public eye
The concept of a weighted blanket gained traction in the public eye with the launch of a product called “Gravity blanket” on Kickstarter a few short years ago. We’re stressing the “short” part because, in terms of scientific data, that’s just what the time span is.
The claims after the launch of the Gravity blanket were that these blankets lower stress hormones and promote relaxation and sleep hormones (like serotonin and melatonin). If you dig a bit deeper, there is a lot fine print to the claims and there are yet to be proven.
Most of the data available at this point, like these sleep and anxiety stats on thesleepstudies.com, does indicate that there is a positive correlation. However, research like this is empirical and limited at best.
There are some older studies (going back to the 1990s) that also indicate a connection between pressure stimulation and anxiety-related disorders.
If you look at the available data more closely, you’d notice that most scientific studies conducted up to this point explored the connection between insomnia and diagnosed anxiety disorders.
It’s also worth noting that the studies points to both objective and subjective measures and make no definitive conclusions about the claims pertaining to the hormones we mentioned.
Taking a leap from empirical findings and limited body of scientific data is not something we’re willing to do. The years ahead will hopefully add to the research of the effects in general population. It’s only then that reliable conclusions can be made.
The bottom line is that, at this point, the info available is not enough to make definitive claims.
We’re waiting for tangible evidence
We’re fairly certain that the growing popularity of the product will spark research, but until then, we’ll remain conservative about the long-term effects of a weighted blanket on insomnia.
Since the companies making the products often include claims about the blankets lowering stress hormones and promoting Melatonin, this is the connection that’s yet to be proven.
We’re keeping a close eye on this one, because if there is a way to address the problem that would not involve more sleep pills, we’re all ears.
Technology is nearly touching every aspect of our lives, and sleep is no different. In this section, some useful apps that could aid you in sleep are presented.
Sleep Cycle is a clever alarm clock app that tracks your sleep patterns and wakes you up during light sleep, making you feel like waking up naturally without any alarm clock. You can refer to this page to learn more about how the app works.
Sleep Time is another interesting app that provides insights into your sleep patterns by tracking your level of movement throughout the night.
If you use an Apple Watch, iPhone, or iPad, this app allows you to track your sleep from those devices. It also provides unique healthkit integration and heart rate analysis.
This app tracks your sleep cycle, improves your bedtime habits, and helps you in waking up better. It uses a sleep tracker and a sleep timer to help you gain better sleep.