I’m not sure how much more frustrating it could get than feeling physical pain accompanied by fatigue and loss of sleep. Fibromyalgia can put a real damper on your mood, harming your physical and mental well-being.
It’s even more irritating to discover there is no definite cause or cure. Fibromyalgia is thought to be triggered by a traumatic event, affecting both the brain and the spinal cord in the way they process signals related to pain.
Relief is typically sought out in medications, with exercise and relaxation practices trailing in second and third place. We’re here to offer a new option to get you through the night and kick those silly symptoms to the curb.
A Natural Solution
Cut to the reel of someone sleeping so soundly throughout the evening without the body interrupting. They don’t wake up from muscle pain; they don’t even feel it. Instead, they wake up with energy and are ready to tackle the day. Their attention and focus are improved, and they go about their day as if they don’t have fibromyalgia. What’s their secret? Weighted blankets.
Weighted blankets are pretty much what they sound like – blankets with a weighted filling in the fabric. Doesn’t sound too life-changing, right? Wrong.
Weighted blankets leverage deep touch pressure therapy (DTP) by grounding the body and assisting in hormone regulation.
This grounding effect calms the nervous system, letting the body know it’s safe to relax and wind down. Adding slight weight to the body deactivates physiological stressors related to pain and anxiety.
More specifically, the firm pressure stimulates the production of serotonin and dopamine while lowering the heart rate and calming the breath. If these benefits sound ideal to you, throw one on and see what happens. But I think we have some more convincing to do.
How Are Weighted Blankets Good for Fibromyalgia?
Weighted blankets are often discovered via Google Search for finding natural ways to mitigate anxiety and depression, increase quality of sleep, and alleviate painful muscle conditions impairing sleep and overall well-being.
Even though more research needs to be done, evidence is coming to light showing how weighted blankets assist in easing undesirable symptoms associated with ADHD, restless leg syndrome, autism, severe anxiety, sleep disorders, arthritis, and chronic pain. If you are interested, read our post covering all the benefits of sleeping with a weighted blanket!
Does any of these sound familiar or overlap with fibromyalgia? Let’s dive deeper into some debilitating fibromyalgia symptoms and further discuss how a weighted blanket can be your new favorite therapeutic tool.
1. Lessened Muscle Pain
Arguably the most impactful symptom of fibromyalgia is widespread musculoskeletal pain. This could look like body aches, overall tenderness, and/or muscle stiffness.
Researchers found that fibromyalgia causes the brain and spinal cord to struggle to process painful vs. nonpainful signals, cranking up the experienced pain unintentionally.
This sensation is due to repeated nerve stimulation, and evolving pain processing. As pain signals become overactivated over time, they tend to overreact repeatedly. This results in discomfort over time, developing a muscle memory that doesn’t serve us.
Occupational and massage therapy is a typical go-to treatment to combat pain in fibromyalgia patients. But one, these don’t always come cheap, and two, are not widely available on demand.
Weighted blankets offer deep touch pressure therapy provided by occupational therapists and massage therapists.
In fact, OTs have been using these guys for years, and luckily we can find them in the comfort of our own homes. The continuous pressure delivered throughout the night stills the body while encouraging the muscles to relax. DTP assists in releasing dopamine, a major happy hormone linked to controlling involuntary muscle movement.
Crawling under your weighted blanket mirrors the effects of a baby being swaddled, and we fully support adult swaddling. Tucking yourself in at night transitions the body’s fight or flight reaction into a state of calm, relaxing the mind and muscles.
2. Sounder Sleep
It’s pretty much impossible to sleep well when you’re in pain, and unfortunately, that is all too familiar among those with fibromyalgia.
It’s very common for fibromyalgia to overlap with sleep disorders like restless leg syndrome and sleep apnea. Further, normal daily activities can be disrupted by a lack of sleep, where normal functioning can seem impossible.
Lack of sleep tends to snowball into anxiety and depression quickly, and therefore it’s best to figure out this sleep thing. Improving sleep quality has the potential to reduce pain and fatigue associated with fibromyalgia, so let’s tackle the source.
Remember the mention of those little hormones that are so crucial to managing muscle pain? Well, they’re also vital in lulling us to sleep and maintaining a state of rest.
The weight in the weighted blanket’s deep touch abilities allows for the continuous release of dopamine and serotonin throughout the evening. Dopamine helps control those involuntary muscle movements while serotonin sets up the release of melatonin, our sleep hormone often found in capsules at drug stores.
No need to grab the pill bottle when your weighted blanket is there to hug you all night, securing an uninterrupted night’s sleep.
3. Better Mood/Memory
Not to be repetitive here, but if our hormones are happy and our sleep is uninterrupted, we tend to be more satisfied humans. Circling back to hormone regulation, certain ones heavily affect our mental well-being by improving decision-making and clearing up perspective.
The DTP administered by weighted blankets increases oxytocin, our so-called love hormone, and decreases cortisol, our pesky stress hormone. The mind-body connection is so strong, and monitoring these chemicals can make all the difference. How could you not feel happy while receiving a welcomed hug?
In regards to memory – a lack of sleep is the typical culprit of a foggy mind. It’s vital in helping the brain obtain new information and remember it. Good sleep is part of a healthy lifestyle, and it can be hard to maintain with fibromyalgia.
Additionally, epidemiological studies indicate that poor sleep quality is a risk factor for developing chronic pain among an otherwise healthy population.
These studies also found a lack of sleep impairs the functioning of pathways that serve the body to control and cope with pain. Sleep and memory are interconnected, so throw on your weighted blanket to offer preventative memory loss medicine.
4. Reduced Anxiety
It may or may not be surprising to you that about 20% of those with fibromyalgia also suffer from an anxiety disorder or depression.
While anxiety tends to be listed as a symptom, it is often an overlapping condition. It’s essential to trace back, discovering what exactly triggered us to feel anxious or depressed.
Is it a life circumstance, lack of sleep, the chronic pain? Maybe you fear the potential health uncertainties and onsets of pain. Inconveniently, both anxiety and fibromyalgia struggle with processing serotonin, overstimulating the body. Stress is known to trigger fibromyalgia flare-ups, so understanding how to control the pain is a great place to start.
Weighted blankets can help manage specific anxiety symptoms like rapid heartbeat, body aches and pains, hyperventilating, and sleep deprivation. They calm the nervous system through the grounding effect, calming the sympathetic (stress) and parasympathetic (movement) nervous systems. The pressure releases serotonin and suppresses the fight or flight response causing distress. Not bad for an option that doesn’t require a doctor’s script.
There’s some research to back these claims up. So, while studies are still being conducted to hold the weighted blanket reputation accountable, here’s what we can conclude today:
- The Scandinavian Journal of Occupational Therapy found that weighted blankets improved abilities related to falling asleep, sleeping the whole night, and relaxing during the day.
- A study conducted by the Nordic Journal of Psychiatry concluded a statistically significant association between weighted blanket use and decreased use of common sleep medication.
- The Journal of Alternative Complementary Medicine observed the effects of grounding, or DTP during sleep and found a significant reduction in cortisol. In addition, patients reported symptoms, including sleep dysfunction, pain, and stress, were reduced or eliminated in nearly all subjects.
- This article highlights the effectiveness of DTP via weighted blanket use, showing that 33% of participants demonstrated lowered blood pressure and pulse rate when using the weighted blanket, 63% reported lower anxiety after use, and 78% preferred the weighted blanket as a calming modality.
- The American Journal of Occupational Therapy discovered the beauty of weighted vests, giving participants the gift of reduced sympathetic arousal and non-stimulus-driven electrical occurrences.
These are just a few examples of connecting weighted blankets to reduced pain and arousal. Many findings are transferable regarding reduced cortisol, increased serotonin, and decreased reactivity, all of which apply to lessening pain and improving sleep for those with fibromyalgia.
How to use a weighted blanket for fibromyalgia
While those with fibromyalgia may experience different sensations from your average weighted blanket user, guidelines and recommendations remain the same. So just kick back, relax, and enjoy the benefits of your new on-demand DTP therapist.
All you must do is crawl into bed and slip the weighted blanket on. Just ensure you can put on and take it off independently, and please don’t cover your face or head. Suffocating yourself doesn’t seem too relaxing. Other than that, it’s as simple as it sounds. Here are a few rules of thumb that apply when choosing a weighted blanket:
- Your weighted blanket should weigh 10% of your body weight, give or take a few lbs.
- Pick a size that covers your body and doesn’t hang too far over the bed.
- Choose a fabric with optimal temperature, texture, and breathability for your ideal sleep situation.
- Opt for a filling that avoids any allergy, sensory, or tactile sensitivities.
See? Not too difficult or stressful. If you’d like a more comprehensive guide on how to choose your perfect weighted blanket, we’ve got you covered. But overall, if you follow these basic points, you’re on your way to an epic sleep.
So, there you have it! If you struggle with the debilitating symptoms of fibromyalgia, a weighted blanket may be the perfect option for you.
Weighted blankets offer a natural way to alleviate sleep loss, fatigue, and pain. We hope you give them a good try; we know they’ll make a difference for you.