Dancing in the Rain: Lessons Learned on my Personal Journey with PD (more at www.PDPlan4Life.com) Copyright 2013-20 Sheryl Jedlinski
By Sheryl Jedlinski
Nearly two-thirds of people with Parkinson’s disease struggle with sleep disturbances that negatively impact their daytime alertness and quality of life. Twenty-three years into my own journey with Parkinson’s, I average only four to five hours of sleep a night, far less than the seven to nine hours recommended to enable healthy adults to function best.
Over the years, I have tried everything from prescription sleep aids, antidepressants, and melatonin to touchless massage, infrared beds, and crystal therapy. Nothing helped my sleep issues. Falling and staying asleep became increasingly difficult. I was considering hypnosis when my husband bought me a weighted blanket that is dramatically changing my life.
It took a couple for weeks for me to embrace the blanket, as the claustrophobic me wanted nothing to do with it. Instead, I pursued a slow desensitization process. The first night, I covered only my legs with the blanket. Each night, thereafter, I pulled the blanket up a little higher to cover more of my body. In a few days, I was completely “under wraps,” waking only once during the night instead of the multiple times to which I was accustomed.
While my sleep disturbances have not disappeared altogether, this weighted blanket is a step in the right direction. Inspired from a therapeutic technique known as deep pressure stimulation, the blanket uses firm, controlled pressure (similar to that of a massage, firm hug, or swaddling) to prepare you for a good night’s sleep.
When shopping for a weighted blanket, choose one that is about 10 to 15 percent of your body weight. The material should be soft, breathable, odorless, hypoallergenic, and machine washable. There are two styles: knitted blankets woven using dense yarn, and duvet covers. The latter uses plastic or glass beads, ball bearings or other heavy fill sewn in between layers of fabric so the weight is distributed evenly across your body.
The weight of the blanket restrains the abnormal, uncontrolled involuntary movements of arms and legs that look like they are fidgeting or writhing. The patient fidgets less and the effects of dyskinesia are felt less.
If you have persistent sleep problems, talk with a doctor who can best determine whether a weighted blanket could be an effective part of a comprehensive treatment approach.
Weighted blankets are not safe for infants and toddlers or others lacking the strength to lift the blanket off themselves to prevent suffocation.