How a Blanket Can Help Soothe Fibro Pain, Improve Sleep

How a Blanket Can Help Soothe Fibro Pain, Improve Sleep

By Donna Gregory Burch.

Growing up in a drafty farmhouse, my mom would always add an extra blanket or two to my bed during winter. I remember feeling comforted by the weight of the heavy blankets as I drifted off to sleep. Turns out, there’s a physiological reason for why I felt so calm and secure under those blankets. The added weight caused my body to release serotonin, a feel-good hormone that promotes peace and well-being.

As adults, we can trigger this same release of serotonin by using a weighted blanket.

Fibro warrior Abbie Anderson and her husband, Joel. 

“A weighted blanket is just that: a blanket with weights placed inside,” explained Abbie Anderson of Minnesota. “You can find them weighted with various things. I have heard of corn, rice or pebbles. However, the professionally made ones have plastic or glass pellets, which are washable.”

Anderson made her first weighted blanket last year for her son, Tate, who has sensory and anxiety issues. Research has confirmed weighted blankets are effective at relieving anxiety, and they’ve been used to improve the sleep of patients with autism, restless legs, Alzheimer’s and other conditions. According to author and blogger Sue Ingebretson, weighted blankets also can foster better sleep, chronic pain management and cognitive focus among fibromyalgia patients. She sometimes uses a weighted blanket during her coaching sessions with clients.

“The blanket stimulates the skin to release [serotonin], much like how a hug from someone we love does,” Anderson explained. “They are beneficial by helping a person to calm or self-regulate without the use of medications.”

Anderson began using a weighted blanket herself following her fibromyalgia diagnosis last fall. As her symptoms worsened, she made the difficult decision to close her massage business.

Around the same time, she was looking for ways to help improve her son’s sleep, and a pediatric therapist recommended using a weighted blanket. When she couldn’t find one to purchase locally, she enlisted the advice of her mother-in-law, a talented seamstress, and decided to make one on her own.

“It was by accident [that] I used the weighted blanket,” Anderson said. “While my son was using it, it was bedtime, [and] he wanted to read to me. I crawled onto his bed and covered up with his weighted blanket. Within a minute or two, I was yawning [and] sleepy. When we made the first blanket for Tate, he used it for a few months. After we made him his new one, I started using the old one. I really like to use it for sleep, but also I find it very comforting on days where I ache from the weather or if my anxiety is increased for whatever reason. It gives me a sense of calm.”

Anderson is now making weighted blankets for others. She launched her small business, Balanced Blankets, last fall and has a waitlist for her handcrafted blankets. You can check out her Facebook page or email her at abbieanderson@rocketmail.com for more information.

Now it’s your turn: Have you ever used a weighted blanket? Did you experience any benefits? Please share in the comments! 

Featured image is an example of one of Abbie Anderson’s weighted blankets. It has a removable, washable flannel cover and is weighted with plastic pellets.

Donna Gregory Burch was diagnosed with fibromyalgia in 2014 after several years of unexplained pain, fatigue and other symptoms. She was later diagnosed with chronic Lyme disease. Donna covers news, treatments, research and practical tips for living better with fibromyalgia and Lyme on her blog, FedUpwithFatigue.com. You can also find her on Facebook and Twitter. Donna is an award-winning journalist whose work has appeared online and in newspapers and magazines throughout Virginia, Delaware and Pennsylvania. She lives in Delaware with her husband and their many fur babies.

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Authored by: Donna Gregory Burch

There are 8 comments for this article
  1. Lee Renner at 9:46 am

    I have a lot of pain issues. No diagnosis yet, still running around to doctors. I find the weight of a weighted blanket to be very comforting. It is not pressure or pressure points. It really is like a hug that calms my pain and makes my sleep more restful. While they may not be for everyone, many I talk to find them to be helpful. In addition to pain, many with anxiety and restless leg syndrome also find some relief with these blankets. It may be counterintuitive to some, but many find drug free relief with a blanket like this.

  2. Randy Davis at 7:16 pm

    With my fibro I prefer to have a blanket to help me sleep. I like to roll in it and cover up to my chin ……..I just cant get comfortable with a sheet and cover.

  3. donna gregory burch at 2:53 pm

    Thank you, Jean Price! I know using a weighted blanket isn’t for everyone, but maybe it would bring comfort to some. Like you said, I think it’s good to present options, and if someone feels called to try it, that’s great, and if not, that’s fine, too. Since we don’t really have any tried-and-true fibro treatment options that work for everyone, we’re all on our own individual paths, trying to figure out what works.

  4. Jean Price at 5:23 am

    Anna…I sort of thought the same thing at first…how could this extra pressure help when it’s so hard to get comfortable and to relieve all the pressures that are already hurting!! (I don’t have fibromyalgia, yet due to RA and multiple failed spinal surgeries from head to two, I have lots of muscle, myofascial, and tendon pain—along with my joint pain and various neuropathies.). Yet In thinking how this would work…and also considering some of the other helpful things I do, like pronounced tensing then totally relaxing….I believe the sensations from these blankets may be very different than what we’re are imagining! I doubt there is much of a pressure or trapped feeling, but rather a gentle pressure…like the sense of someone laying their hand softly on your shoulder. If nothing more, this can take the brain’s focus to that point…instead of what’s hurting at the same time! And the serotonin release would be an added benefit, for certain! It certainly is a novel idea, one I haven heard of before!

    (Thanks Donna…for another well written and informative article. You challenge our thinking in a good way…and that’s always refreshing, whether we see ourselves trying this therapy or not. Knowing about them ALL is important, I think….to add to our arsenal of possible treatment options! The more that COULD take off a little bit of the pain we have, the better off we just might be!)

  5. Sheryl M Donnell at 5:15 pm

    Anna, I totally understand. When my pain is bad I find even a super lightweight blanket too heavy it is painful to move under that I become almost paralyzed. I get why it may help some disorders but not pain. I can barely move as it is. Adding any weight on top and I wouldn’t be able to ever get out of the bed for my pain.

  6. Denise Bault at 12:55 pm

    I have had fibromyalgia for 13 years and cannot stand the weight of blankets or certain types of clothing! I have heard it is the same for others…don’t see how anyone with fibromyalgia can have a weighted blanket on them.

  7. Anna at 9:10 am

    When I’m having a Fibromyalgia flare u, my body is aches from head to toe all day & all night, however long the flare up lasts this time. I know that one thing they say/and has been proven to help with pain is to stay active, keep moving. Which I’m struggling with to be honest. At night time when it comes to sleeping is where I struggle with the most. I read this article and am confused how the heavy blankets help people’s pain lessen who have fibro. Because when I try to lay down in my bed and sleep, it’s by far the worst pain I experience more then I feel throughout the entire day. It’s like it all builds up during the day and saves the worst of it for my bedtime. I can feel my heart beating everywhere in my body. All of me is hurting and with each pulse Im throbbing & aching. Most nights when I’m having a flare up I have to sleep naked and can only use a sheet to cover myself for warmth, can’t have any other blankets because it’s to heavy and my pain multiplies which I didn’t think was possible.
    Any weight at all is excruciating painful.

  8. Rita KIMBEL at 5:00 am

    This sounds fantastic, I would love to try it. Anything good for you that’s not adding another pill is worth a go. Thank you for sharing this with the pain community.

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