1. Prescription of a weighted blanket for sleep problems in patients with psychiatric disorders was shown to help reduce the use of sleep medications except for melatonin.

2. Decrease in the prescription of sleep medications was most often seen in younger patients, those with unipolar depression, anxiety, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Evidence Rating Level: 3 (Fair)

Patients with psychiatric disorders commonly deal with sleep problems. Current management options have typically included psychoeducation, pharmacologic and behavioral interventions. Recently, the use of tactile stimulation, such as the weighted blanket (WB), has gained attention as an intervention for sleep disorders due to its theoretical benefit and safety profile. However, these benefits have not yet been studied. As a result, the objective of the present register-based, observational study was to evaluate whether or not the prescription of a WB could lead to a reduction in sleep medication use.

This population study used a national register of prescriptions in Västra Götaland, Sweden between May 2015-December 2017. A within-individual comparison was used where each individual served as their own control. Patients were included if they were older than 18 years of age and had a registered psychiatric disorder as per ICD-10 codes. Prescriptions for WB were identified as well as common sleep medications including benzodiazepines, antihistamines, melatonin, and mirtazapine. Antipsychotic medications were excluded from the study. The main outcome of the study was pre- and post- index use of sleep medication after prescription of WB.

In this study, 1785 individuals were included. Of these, 66% were prescribed a sleep medication after WB prescription. There was a statistically significant reduction in the prescription rate of benzodiazepines, and antihistamines, and a significant increase in melatonin prescriptions after WB prescriptions. However, this study was limited as its use of administrative data may not have provided an accurate reflection of medication use and patients’ true diagnoses. Nonetheless, this study provided support for the use of WB as an effective intervention for sleep disorders.

Click to read study in: Nordic Journal of Psychiatry

Image: PD

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