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The Seductive Confinement of a Weighted Blanket in an Anxious Time [newyorker.com]

 

Late one night last October, I was practicing what I like to call anti-self-care—lying under the covers, scrolling compulsively on my phone, and vaguely hoping that someone would leap through the screen and club me on the forehead—when I came across the Gravity Blanket Kickstarter, which had launched the previous April. Gravity was the brainchild of a handful of guys mostly in their twenties who sought to create sleek, plush weighted blankets, in three gradations of heaviness: fifteen, twenty, or twenty-five-pounds. “Seventy per cent of Americans have trouble falling asleep at least one night a week,” the company’s founder, John Fiorentino, said in the promo video. “Forty million Americans suffer from prolonged anxiety.” The Gravity Blanket promised to increase serotonin and melatonin levels, decrease cortisol (the so-called stress hormone), and put you in a deeper sleep. The company’s original fund-raising goal had been $21,500. Its campaign brought in a hundred and fifty thousand dollars on the first day, and then Gravity started buying paid advertising; within two weeks, the total had surpassed two million dollars. The campaign closed in May, with $4,729,263.

“What’s wrong with everyone,” I muttered to myself, after catching up on this entrepreneurial success story. I closed the window, sent a few dozen texts, ruined some brain cells on Twitter, clicked through several articles on the latest mass shooting, took a melatonin even though it was already two-thirty, and then fought the effects of the melatonin by reading a bunch of urgently depressing long articles until my body finally revolted by collapsing into sleep.

Several weeks later, a tiresome encounter at the doctor’s office drove me to start cleaning up my habits. I deleted Twitter from my phone, cut back on coffee, and restricted myself to reading books before bed. I felt better, but I didn’t feel great. On its Facebook page, Gravity posted a video showing, on one side, a person restlessly freaking out in bed under a comforter (i.e., me since childhood), and, on the other, a perfect sleeper under a Gravity Blanket (the person I could be). Weighted blankets and vests have been used for decades as therapeutic aids for children with developmental disorders, and as tools for calming anxious dogs and cats. In 1999, an occupational therapist named Dr. Tina Champagne began giving weighted blankets to adults in acute mental-health treatment: it was a “grounding technique,” she wrote in a presentation, which facilitated “engagement in the act of nurturing one’s self.” It struck me as not coincidental that Gravity’s Kickstarter success arrived deep into a period when many Americans were beginning their e-mails with reflexive, panicked condolences about the news.

[For more on this story by Jia Tolentino, go to https://www.newyorker.com/cult...t-in-an-anxious-time]

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