Chrissy Teigen loves a Twitter call out. Whether it’s begging for ripe bananas or petitioning Ivanka for empathy, the TV star, chef and mom is unafraid to ask for what she wants. Her latest summons, delivered in a tweet Thursday, was for a solution to an all-too-relatable problem: sleep issues.
“I sleep very tense, with my arms kind of like a vampire but on my side and it is making me very achy. I can’t stop,” she wrote. “Is this what a weighted blanket would help with or do I just need to be swaddled like a baby.”
I sleep very tense, with my arms crossed, opposite hands on shoulders, kind of like a vampire but on my side and it is making me very achy. I can’t stop. Is this what a weighted blanket would help with or do I just need to be swaddled like a baby— christine teigen (@chrissyteigen) May 23, 2019
Responses immediately poured in — with some swearing by weighted blankets and others suggesting she “hug a pillow.” But few seemed to address Teigen’s second question: whether she just needs “to be swaddled like a baby.”
After looking into the new adult sleep swaddle called the Sleep Pod, this writer can tell you that the answer might be yes.
Created by a former Apple designer and sold by a company called Hatch Sleep, the $110 sleep pod is the closest thing to a baby swaddle in adult form that’s on the market. While the images of a woman encased in fabric may seem inspired by Japanese Adult Swaddling, creator Matt Mundt says that, on the contrary, it’s a direct derivative of the weighted blanket.
“It’s a completely new take on the same kind of science,” Mundt tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “Swaddle wasn’t necessarily the intention but it quickly evolved into that.”
Mundt, an engineering and product designer who’s “always had trouble sleeping” dreamed up the idea as a solution to his own issues. But to understand how his sleep pod works, it’s important to look at the product that proceeded it.
While the weighted blanket itself dates back to the 1960s, a feature in the Atlantic traces the modern-day usage in America back to 1999, when an occupational therapist named Tina Champagne began using blankets with weights to help mental health patients self-soothe, stay grounded, and relax.
Following in her footsteps eight years later, a Tennessee woman named Donna Chambers decided to make one for her grandson, then 3, who had just been diagnosed with autism. It proved so successful that Chambers eventually launched her own company, called SensaCalm, and began shipping the blankets nationwide.
What both women — and later, millions of Americans — experienced, was the effect of a firm, consistent touch, known in the science world as DPS (deep pressure stimulation). In a 2016, Harvard researcher Emily Kuehn captured the short-term and long-term benefits of DPS, which include “decreased levels of the stress hormone cortisol and increased levels of the neurotransmitters serotonin and dopamine, which play roles in mood regulation, movement and impulse control.”
Initially explored as a treatment for young people with autism, deep pressure stimulation’s benefits began to catch fire in the mainstream in April 2017, when a Kickstarter promising a perfect weighted blanket to “reduce stress and increase relaxation” went viral. That, combined with increasing nationwide anxiety, created a perfect storm in which sales of weighted blankets, from 2017 to 2018, doubled.
While weighted blankets — as many of Teigen’s fans attested — seem to provide relief for everything from anxiety and insomnia to PTSD, there’s a growing chorus of people who are dissatisfied with the nature of the product. Some argue that it’s too hot, others that its shifting weights make it unwieldy, and prone to fall off the bed at night.
Mundt was one such detractor. “The initial feeling was great, the pressure was calming,” says Mundt of his first weighted blanket. “But I woke up feeling very warm, and realized it really traps heat. Then, if any bit of the blanket was draped off the side of the bed, it would fall off. So I would wake up shivering and half asleep and have to lift this 30 pound blanket off the floor. It was issue after issue.”
Determined to recreate the sensation that he felt from the weighted blanket, and to harness the power of DPS, Mundt set out to create a newer version that would be both breathable and stationary. After a “year of iteration,” trying out different fabrics and forms, he landed on the polyester-spandex swaddle he named the Sleep Pod.
The benefits, as both testimonials and my own experience suggest, are many. I was hesitant about the sleep pod upon first seeing it, but admittedly found it near-instantly helpful. After getting used to wriggling into it each night, I've found the pod to be a calming way to doze off and a less stressful way to wake up. I've had it for nearly two months, and use it most nights. It provides, much like Mundt described, a sensation similar to that of a hug.
Reviewers like it, too. “After trying several weighted blankets that made me too hot and claustrophobic at night, I ordered a sleep pod. I've been sleeping like a baby,” wrote a fan in March 2019. “It's snug enough to give you the same sensation as a weighted blanket but flexible enough that you can move your arms and legs with ease throughout the night. And it’s easy to wash.”
Mundt, whose wife uses it to treat her restless leg syndrome, says the design is meant to envelop you throughout the night. “I’m a tall guy, 6’3. So with weighted blankets, I always had a limb sticking out,” says Mundt. “This covers your whole body, and applies this pressure 360. It’s like a hug.”
Mundt launched the product in early 2019, and is still working on a patent. But interest is increasing. Since Teigen’s post yesterday, he says the website has received an influx of orders. And now, even sleep researchers are interested. Rachel Salas, MD, a sleep specialist at Johns Hopkins, hadn’t heard of the product until speaking with Yahoo Lifestyle, but is now testing it out with her patients.
“We're big believers in the weighted blanket for many of the sleep issues,” Salas tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “Our patients are very interested in not taking medicine. So if people are asking about these weighted blankets, why don't I try this.”
Lisa Medalie, a Behavioral Sleep Medicine Specialist at the University of Chicago, points out that the “gold standard” of treatment for insomnia is Cognitive Behavioral Treatment, which “helps you change actions or thoughts that hurt your ability to sleep well.” But she agrees that Mundt’s product seems like a good one. “The concept is interesting,” Medalie tells Yahoo Lifestyle, noting that she couldn’t recommend it with certainty in the absence of large-scale clinical trials. “Intuitively, the idea of reigniting the sensation of being swaddled could again perhaps derive some benefit.”
Whether or not the sleep pod is the solution to Teigen’s “vampire” like sleeping problem remains to be seen. But if hugging a pillow doesn’t work, it may be worth a try.
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