Having trouble falling asleep and staying asleep? These two trendy solutions can help you get the restorative rest you need
Editor’s note: Savvy mattress retailers want to do everything they can to help their customers sleep better, including offering them sound advice and tips. Feel free to share this great guidance from Better Sleep Council spokeswoman Lissa Coffey with your shoppers (with credit given, of course). The BSC is the consumer-education arm of the International Sleep Products Association.
Everyone is talking about it. A quick Amazon search yielded more than 70,000 books with the word “sleep” in the title. Sleep is trendy — dare I say — even sexy now! It’s as if people have finally woken up to the fact that sleep is important.
However, for all the attention sleep is receiving as a valuable part of a healthy lifestyle, are people getting the sleep they need? Not quite. But, as if those midday yawns weren’t enough to tell us, at least now we are more aware that we are desperately lacking quality sleep.
Along with the crush of people getting on the sleep bandwagon, of course, comes all kinds of products created to help consumers get the sleep they know they need. Technology plays a part in this, with numerous apps to track sleep, gadgets to wear on the wrist or the forehead, fancy masks and more. But there are two low-tech sleep tools that have gained traction lately and are worth further investigation.
1. Hemp oil
Hemp oil is extracted from the seeds and stalks of the hemp plant. It is natural and nutritious, with omega-3, omega-6 and linoleic fatty acids, in addition to cannabidiol. It has become popular as a remedy for anxiety and pain, two conditions that keep many of us up at night. Although it comes from the same plant species, hemp is entirely different from cannabis (aka marijuana) because hemp contains almost no tetrahydrocannabinol — or THC — so there are no psychoactive effects. The labels on many products read “0% THC” to prevent confusion. Hemp products have been available for decades. You can find hemp in beauty products, such as lotions and shampoos, fabrics and even shoes.
In a recent study, researchers looked at the effect of hemp oil on anxiety in a simulated public speaking model. They found that anxiety levels of participants with social anxiety disorder were much lower in those who used hemp oil than in those who were given a placebo. They also said hemp oil may help reset sleep patterns when anxiety is the cause of sleep problems.
Another study focused on the relationship between sleep and pain. People who suffer from insomnia often have chronic pain. Nearly 90% of people with chronic pain disorders complain of sleep difficulty, reporting that they can’t find enough relief from pain to get to sleep or remain asleep all night. Hemp oil has been found to create homeostasis, or a stable internal environment in the body, that promotes an analgesic effect, enabling the body to get the rest it needs.
Hemp oil comes in various strengths, so be sure to read the instructions on the label about the proper dosage. When used for sleep, take hemp oil about 30 to 60 minutes before bedtime. Hemp oil also can be used topically and even comes in cream or lotion forms. For those with painful skin conditions or those who suffer from inflammation or joint pain, transdermal application often is a good solution. Be sure to consult with your physician before taking any natural or herbal remedies.
2. Weighted blankets
We know little kids often cuddle with a blankie to get to sleep, and now adults are rediscovering that feeling of security with special blankets made for sleep.
Weighted blankets are like regular blankets, except they are weighted with pellets sewn into compartments that are evenly distributed throughout the fabric so they are heavier, usually between 10 and 30 pounds. Many of the blankets are filled with plastic pellets, and others now on the market are filled with small, smooth glass pebbles. These blankets require fewer weights and they aren’t bulky. The glass also doesn’t make as much noise as the plastic does when shifted, so it is quieter. The blankets are widely available and can be found in a variety of sizes and styles, with a wide range of prices.
How does a weighted blanket help with sleep? The premise is the same as with swaddling a baby. When we feel the weight around us, it’s like getting a hug or being comforted. The nervous system relaxes with this deep touch therapy, and the brain releases more serotonin, the mood-lifting neurotransmitter. We feel a sense of calm.
Weighted blankets seem to be everywhere now, but they’ve been around for a long time. In 2008, Occupational Therapy in Mental Health published a study showing that weighted blankets are a safe and effective therapy for anxiety. A study in 2012 confirmed the findings, saying weighted blankets successfully decreased distress and signs of anxiety in patients. Weighted blankets now are used as therapy to help patients suffering from depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, restless legs syndrome and behaviors related to autism. Women with menopausal symptoms also report finding relief with the use of weighted blankets.
Weighted blankets can help people get to and stay asleep, but they are not for everyone. Those with respiratory, circulatory or temperature-regulation problems, or those recovering from surgery should not use weighted blankets. If you have any medical condition, consult your doctor or occupational therapist before using a weighted blanket.
The blankets come in various weights, and you choose the heaviness based on your own weight. Experts suggest the blanket should be about 10% of your body weight.
While it’s great to think about what you’re sleeping under — it’s always important to consider what you are sleeping on. A mattress still is the foundation of a good night’s sleep. Trends may come and go, but a good mattress always will serve you well, and never go out of style.
Lissa Coffey is a relationship expert, author of several books and broadcast journalist. A spokeswoman for the Better Sleep Council, she stars in several videos that offer sleep and mattress-shopping tips for consumers.