Anyone who has suffered with Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS) will know that in spite of its unusual name, it is a plight which can cause serious issues for those suffering with it and even their loved ones. It is known scientifically as Willis-Ekbom disease and is described as a nervous system condition which can cause an irresistible urge to twitch and move your legs. On first glance you might think this is no big deal, but for those who suffer from it severely it can cause a lot of complications and difficulties.
What is restless leg syndrome?
Restless leg syndrome can affect up to 10% of us in our lives at some point, and like all diseases it has varying degrees of severity. You may experience a little from time to time or in severe cases it can affect you every single day.
The complications of this can lead to some terrible plights. Restless Leg Syndrome can be the cause of sleeplessness and insomnia, anxiety and other complications which go along with these conditions. The condition is also even more of an issue among pregnant women, and up to 20% of those who are expecting experience RLS.
The truth is that only you are likely to know exactly how much you are affected by RLS. If you experience it rarely and it isn’t too much of a disruption then you may not need treatment, but if things become a problem there are options and things you can do to try and tackle the issue.
There are unfortunately a huge amount of people out there with horror stories to tell regarding their RLS. Although it isn’t life threatening, if it effects day to day life to the extent where you struggle to sleep then it can be disruptive for you and your whole family. It is rare that you will be medicated, and only in extreme cases will you be prescribed any drugs.
Can weighted blankets really help with RLS? How does it work?
One of the options many people have turned to is a weighted blanket. Some uninformed people have written off weighted blankets as a fad due to the fact they have grown so much in popularity. In fact, the reason they have become such a common item in recent years is that people have started to realize the huge benefits they can have.
So how do they help?
To put it very simply, the process that helps us to sleep and causes our body to relax when we use a weighted blanket is DPTS, standing for deep pressure touch stimulation. DPTS has often been described as feeling like an embrace.
A blanket that cuddles you sounds great, but there’s more science going on and much more to it than a simple hug. This therapy is provided by the weights in the blanket, which can be customized to your preferred level of firmness.
As well as helping to soothe any ailments and stiffness experienced in your body, there is a scientific effect happening within our brain which have led to DPTS being used along with medications and other sleep treatments that people look for to treat restless leg syndrome. This can even tackle the problem at source, helping with the problems that may have contributed to your issue with RLS in the first place such as anxiety.
Your body’s normal reaction to the pressure being created when you use a weighted blanket is to produce more Serotonin. We all have Serotonin to different levels in our brain and when released it can make you feel much more relaxed and help you to drift off to sleep.
This is a very simplified explanation of what is going on, but is enough for you to start to understand why there is science backing up what many people are reporting, weighted blankets can be a great help for RLS.
Unfortunately, there isn’t a quick fix solution for those suffering with RLS. The fact that it can stem from multiple causes and is different for everyone means that a little experimentation is often needed with treatment. Weighted blankets are a method which can be combined with others such as supplements, therapies and meditation.
Will any old ‘heavier’ blanket do?
Though there may be some benefit to more pressure, a heavy blanket and a ‘weighted’ blanket aren’t the same thing. Weighted blankets are often patched to make sure that the weight is evenly distributed, and in these patches you will find glass beads or pellets, some even have rice and other materials inside providing the actual weight.
It is vital that they are evenly spread and often they have an extra sensory benefit due to the textures, something that many people looking to buy weighted blankets will be very specific about.
How to choose a weighted blanket that works for you
One of the areas in which you have a choice to make is the actual weight of the blanket. The pressure being applied to you will be minimal so there is no real risk involved if you get a weight that is too high, but generally you will want something that applies a gentle but noticeable pressure, giving the benefits of a massaging, comforting feel in the process.
Generally, the rule of thumb is that for every 10 pounds you weigh, you can add one pound to the weight your blanket should be. For example, if you weigh 200 lbs, a blanket around the 20 lb mark is going to be suitable. For kids, you should add 1 or 2 lbs of weight on top of this, so if your child weighs 70 lbs, something along the lines of an 8 lb blanket will probably be your best bet.
This isn’t an exact science but having some rule of thumb is very helpful if you are in the market to buy a weighted blanket for the very first time.
It is definitely worth mentioning that these blankets aren’t just for when it is time to sleep! It is natural that blankets and sleeping are associated in our minds, but restless leg syndrome doesn’t wait for you to go to bed before it starts to flare up and this can happen at any time.
A weighted blanket can be worn at various times and a look through some reviews will show you that many people are putting theirs over their legs throughout the day. If you are relaxing and watching television or even sat at a desk trying to work, the benefits are clear. Some are even made with breathable materials so that you don’t get overheated in the process of trying to treat your RLS.
In spite of all of the clear positives, there are still some skeptics out there. The science that we have already discussed definitely backs up the claim that RLS can be helped by a weighted blanket, but the thing we all tend to trust is other peoples’ experiences.
Fortunately, we live in an age where those experiences can be shared, and you don’t have to look far to find many people singing the praises of various models of weighted blanket.
What others have said about weighted blankets and RLS
Just like any product, there are those which are made well and those which are made badly. A quick look at consumer reviews will give you some idea of which are more likely to leave you satisfied. Weighted blankets require quite intricate construction and for this reason they aren’t the cheapest product to buy, so you will want to do some research before you purchase yours.
What has struck me when looking through reviews is how people pay testament to the amazing benefits these products can have for people’s sleep routines. Clearly there are people who suffer from restless leg syndrome and other ailments who have seen their weighted blanket as a godsend.
Many of the products on amazon have five star reviews, and those that don’t are often hovering around the four star mark, so you can see how pleased many people are with their purchase. Some reviewers have described weighted blankets as “changing our lives” due to the fact that insomnia caused by RLS had become such an issue.
This can impact every area of your life and finding a product which can go some way to helping is vital.
Weighted blankets aren’t a miracle cure which are going to instantly work for everyone. It should be clear from reading the above that there may be a bit of trial and error involved in getting the right routine or even medications to treat RLS.
Of course, doctors should be consulted to see whether there is some root cause of your issues that can be treated by medication or other therapies. As therapies go, though, there are so many people singing the praises of the weighted blanket.
Combined with meditation, supplements and other wholesome means of aiding sleep, or sometimes just on their own, these blankets are helping families everywhere with sufferers of RLS to get a good nights sleep and to relax throughout the day.