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Can a Weighted Blanket help with the symptoms of Fibromyalgia?

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The chronic condition known as fibromyalgia affects tens of thousands of South Africans. 

According to saga.orgthe medical profession, and also the medical aid industry, do not take this condition seriously.

In fact, doctors are fond of telling patients who suffer endless body pain as a result of this condition that they are “imagining it” and that they should “get over it and get lots of sleep and exercise”.

The medical view of the condition hasn’t changed despite the fact that thousands of South Africans experience endless pain and sensitivity all over their bodies, and doctors and specialists alike are happy to deduce that these people have “dreamt” up this illness.

Like many other chronic pain conditions currently, there is no cure for fibromyalgia. Certain pharmaceuticals can help to relieve the symptoms but patients continually report mixed results. The side effects caused by fibromyalgia medication are often just as bad as the pain caused by the condition itself.

 

What is Fibromyalgia?

Mayoclinic.org defines Fibromyalgia is a disorder characterized by widespread musculoskeletal pain accompanied by fatigue, sleep, memory and mood issues. Researchers believe that fibromyalgia amplifies painful sensations by affecting the way your brain processes pain signals.

Symptoms sometimes begin after a physical trauma, surgery, infection or significant psychological stress. In other cases, symptoms gradually accumulate over time with no single triggering event.

Women are more likely to develop fibromyalgia than are men. Many people who have fibromyalgia also have tension headaches, temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorders, irritable bowel syndrome, anxiety and depression.

 

Symptoms of fibromyalgia include:

  • Widespread pain. 
  • Fatigue. 
  • Cognitive difficulties.

 

Fibromyalgia often co-exists with other painful conditions, such as:

  • Irritable bowel syndrome
  • Migraine and other types of headaches
  • Interstitial cystitis or painful bladder syndrome
  • Temporomandibular joint disorders

 

How can a weighted blanket help?

 

An Increase in Serotonin

Researchers believe that by boosting serotonin, fibromyalgia sufferers may experience a reduction in these symptoms. Weighted therapy can help increase the levels of Serotonin and Melatonin overnight. The soothing effect of a weighted blanket can create a more comfortable environment for falling asleep by imitating the feeling of being swaddled tightly in bed. The “relaxed state” results from serotonin production, which is necessary to release melatonin – the sleep hormone.

Researchers also found that deep touch pressure significantly decreases cortisol levels. After applying deep pressure, cortisol levels dropped by 31%.

 

A Reduction in Anxiety & Fatigue

PrettySpecial weighted blankets use Deep Touch Pressure, which trigger the release of neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin, which are the two major feel-good hormones for your brain. Both these beneficial compounds can combat stress, depression, and anxiety. This means it’ll be faster to fall asleep, reduce anxiety, go into a deeper sleep, and move less throughout the night.

 

Help Manage Pain

Understandably, pain takes a tremendous toll on fibromyalgia patients. Prescription medication can cause long-term negative health problems and so many sufferers prefer alternative ways to relieve their pain. This is where a weighted blanket may help. By applying Deep Touch Pressure to the body to increase the release of serotonin, this in turn relaxes the nervous system and then causes a chain reaction in the body that releases an overall sense of calm and peace. Benefits include reduced pain, better sleep, improved focus, lower anxiety levels, and improved social interaction. 

 

An Improvement in Mood

As said previously, the release of dopamine and serotonin not only relaxes the nervous system, but also gives you an emotional pick-me-up after a quick snuggle session, imitating a nice, warm HUG. By the way, both hugs and heavy blankets also trigger the release of oxytocin, a hormone that slows down your heart rate, reduces blood pressure, and promotes feelings of relaxation, improving your mood overall.

If you think a PrettySpecial weighted blanket can help you and would like to try one, please feel free to contact us here or simply drop us an email at info@prettyspecial.co.za

 

Weighted blankets for Bipolar Disorder

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Bipolar disorder, also known as manic depression, is a mental illness that displays extreme high and low moods. Changes in sleep, energy, thinking, and behaviour are also evident. 

Bipolar Disorder is often clouded with misconception as symptoms can rapidly shift from one extreme to the other.  Severe mood swings are the most noticeable symptoms of the disorder which can disrupt the daily functioning of a person or family.

When in a manic state, the person displays restlessness, impulsiveness, confusion, and angers quickly, while the change to a depressive state leaves the person feeling saddened, fatigued, unfocused, and unable to sleep. Causes for bipolar disorder are often genetic, but are also attributed to an imbalance in brain chemistry or stress from traumatic events.

The long-term effects can be maintained with antidepressant medication and psychotherapy.

Although it’s not a definite cure, psychotherapy teaches the person experiencing the disorder to recognise when he or she is having an episode of manic or depressive feelings in order to seek appropriate treatment.

How a weighted blanket can help

The way in which weighted blankets, and weighted therapy in general can help, is similar to the way it helps with depression and anxietyIt has been found that due to the nature of the disorder, weighted blankets may be most appropriate and effective as a sleep aide. Supplementing prescription medication with a PrettySpecial weighted blanket can calm the user with deep touch pressure stimulation, or DTP. The pressure from the weighted blanket relieves muscle tension just as a massage might and also has a calming, reassuring sensation – just like a nice, warm hug from a loved one.

There are ongoing clinical trials on the relationship between clinical depression and bipolar disorder, as well as the role serotonin plays in treating these disorders.

Deep touch pressure triggers the release of neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin, which are the two major feel-good hormones for your brain. Both these beneficial compounds can combat stress, depression, and anxiety, giving you an emotional pick-me-up after a good night’s rest.

Improvement in the quality of sleep can also increase the potential for other forms of treatment and increase the management of symptoms overall.

To find out more or if you would like to order a weighted product, you can go to our Contact page or email us at info@prettyspecial.co.za

Can weighted blankets fight Insomnia?

weighted blankets fro Insomnia

 

Weighted blankets are most commonly used for those with autism or sensory processing disorder, but more and more often today they are being used for those with sleeping disorders, like insomnia, restless leg syndrome or people who would simply like to improve their sleep overall.

 

The calming effect of a weighted blanket can create a more comfortable environment for falling asleep.

This is done by imitating the feeling of being swaddled tightly in bed. The swaddling effect is a close physical connection, providing a sense of warmth and safety, making it easier for the body to relax.

A Study from Journal of Sleep Medicine & Disorders  found that a weighted blanket helped those with insomnia sleep better, due to them feeling more relaxed and settled at bedtime.

 

Psychology Today recently published an article in response to a radio interview being conducted in the USA regarding the benefits of weighted blankets and how it could help fight insomnia. The Psychologist talking on the subject,  Dr.John Cline, Ph.D, is a licensed psychologist, fellow of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, and diplomate of the American Board of Sleep Medicine. He is on the professional staffs of the Sleep Disorders Centers of Connecticut; Behavioral Health Consultants, LLC; and Metta Consulting, LLC.

He referred to the study conducted in 2015 in Sweden where they used blankets that were commercially available and had previously been used with elderly individuals living in nursing homes and with patients who had autism spectrum disorders. The weighted blankets could be used with another quilt either over or under them. 

Like our PrettySpecial 100% full cotton blankets, the study blankets were not thick and did not provide much additional warmth. The blankets were tested in three different weights: 6 kg, 8 kg, or 10 kg. Participants were allowed to choose their preferred weight and the most commonly chosen was the 8 kg version.

Participants had to have an existing complaint of chronic insomnia. If they were taking sleep medication immediately prior to the study they could keep taking it throughout. People with recent onset insomnia, sleep apnea, untreated metabolic disorders, and high blood pressure were excluded. 

There were 31 participants, including 20 women and 11 men. The study was conducted with participants sleeping in their usual setting. There was a week-long pre-test baseline period, a two-week period of nightly use of the weighted blanket, and then a one-week post-test period in their normal setting but without use of the weighted blanket.

 

The results were quite interesting in that, on average, length of sleep was significantly increased by the use of the weighted blanket. Additionally, movement during the night was reduced with the blanket – see our recent article on RLS.

For participants already using sleeping medication, the time to fall asleep and time spent in bed were reduced when using the blanket. Sleep time was reduced and activity level was increased during the post-test period when the blankets were no longer used. 

 

For the 20 participants who liked using the blanket: 

 

1. Wakefulness during the night was reduced and total sleep time was increased. 

2. Quality of sleep was judged to be better when using the weighted blanket. 

3. In general, the blankets had a positive effect on sleep for participants with chronic insomnia, especially when they enjoyed using the blanket and if they were already taking sleeping medication. 

 

In conclusion it was found that weighted blankets were effective in promoting quality and quantity of sleep for participants with mild to moderate insomnia who had some excessive daytime sleepiness. Thus, these blankets could be beneficial in patients with general insomnia and mild sleep problems. Physiological arousal may be reduced by the effectiveness of deep touch pressure and consistent sensory input, as provided by the weighted blanket, which facilitates relaxation into sleep. 

This was seen in a reduction in nocturnal movement of participants while using the blankets. It is important to note that not everyone liked using the blankets. The mid-weight blanket was most often chosen by participants, and the positive effects only occurred while the blankets were used and not after usage had stopped. Weighted blankets may indeed be an effective, complementary, non-pharmacological intervention for patients with chronic insomnia.

 

If you think a PrettySpecial weighted blanket is the right choice for you and would like to try one, please feel free to contact us here.

Or simply drop us an email at info@prettyspecial.co.za

We deliver directly to your door, anywhere in South Africa.