Bloody sheep. The idea of counting them to help you drift off to sleep is something that has always struck me as both absurd and inefficient. Should I visualise them jumping over a fence? What sort of field are they in? And where are they going?
Personally, I prefer planning my fantasy royal wedding or working on the plot for my espionage novel as I toss and turn and wriggle and shift, while waiting, with a creeping sense of desperation, for the elusive lull of sleep. Most nights this is an hours-long process and, usually, I wake again before dawn, forcing me to start the entire wretched process all over again.
I have a long history of sleeping terribly. I have also enjoyed (cough) a long history with anxiety. Like up to four in 10 Australian women, I live with the ever-present thrum of anxiety, and over the years I’ve tried drugs, aromatherapy, acupuncture, meditation, breathing exercises and an app that reads me bedtime stories. All have worked to varying degrees but nothing has solved the problem, long-term.
Like up to 4 in 10 Australian women, I live with the ever-present thrum of anxiety.
Here’s where 7kgs of grey blanket come in. Over the past few years, weighted blankets (or “adult security blankets” as some have cynically dismissed them) have emerged as an unlikely insomnia solution. (You’ve probably seen them advertised on your social media feed.) Weighted blankets have been around for decades, mostly used by occupational therapists who work with autistic children.
However, in the past couple of years, they’ve become popular among adult insomniacs. Research is limited, but one study, published in a medical journal, found that the blankets help insomniacs fall asleep faster, and, crucially, stay asleep for longer.
I am nothing if not willing to take on a new challenge, especially if it can be done lying down, so I ordered a 7kg model from Neptune Blanket. (The weight of your blanket should equate to about 10% of your body weight.) When my blanket finally arrived, I promptly dropped it, not quite realising just how damn heavy and awkward the parcel would be. At home, I wrestled the blanket out of the box and hefted it onto my bed.
That night I snuggled down and lay there expectantly. The sleep was going to come tonight! No lying there at 2am still debating if I want peonies when I marry a minor duke from Norfolk.
I lay there pleasantly pinned between the blanket and my bottom sheet, enjoying the sensation of the weight, which is pleasant rather than oppressive (but only just).
And then a wonderful thing happened. My mind started to slow down. The whirling rotation of thoughts, about emails unsent and bills unpaid and messages unanswered and ‘Holy shit I have forgotten to freeze my eggs’ began to slowly subside. The hyper-colour anxiety starts to swirl at a less intense pace. I feel my breathing deepen and then, like magic, I wake up seven hours later stunned but quietly chuffed.
My mind started to slow down. The whirling rotation of thoughts, about emails unsent and bills unpaid and messages unanswered… began to slowly subside.
The next night I crawled under the covers and waited for the same near-miracle to happen. Again, the usual swirling whirligig of thoughts that stop me sleeping were slowly muted. I felt comforted and safe in a way which I haven’t for years, if not decades. Logically, it makes sense; after all, the feeling of being very gently restrained is soothing. As babies we were swaddled. As kids, our parents tucked us incredibly tightly into bed, the sheets practically taut with tension.
After only a few nights, my grey beast of a blanket and I have become quite the couple. My anxiety that I won’t sleep when I go to bed has even started to fade. (Sure, this might all be a psychosomatic situation but who cares? This is a game changer.)
When I had to go away for work, I lay under a normal doona and longed for my Neptune blanket. My only question now is: Do they make a travel size?