Many people start the New Year vowing to lose weight. I started mine by instantly gaining 20 pounds.
This was not the result of winning a New Year’s Eve hot dog-eating contest. It happened when my daughter gave me a weighted blanket for Christmas.
Had this gift been received 48 hours earlier, I wouldn’t have known what it was. But there had been a radio show the day before about weighted blankets. The hosts couldn’t decide whether to discuss the purported benefits of the blankets or to ridicule them. So they did both.
The blankets have been used for years in decidedly unfunny ways to help soothe children or adults who suffer from anxiety. The heavy touch provided by the blankets also is thought to help calm autistic children.
The radio jocks didn’t go there, thankfully. However, the blankets now have passed from clinical use to the general population as a calming and comfortable (and trendy) way to nap in your favorite chair or sleep at night.
And as a way to sell more weighted blankets.
The broader, non-medical use has just enough of a New Age-y vibe for wise guy radio jocks to let loose.
I was not thinking about gag lines when this gift was presented. My first thought was what manner of gift, wrapped so nicely in a medium-sized package, would require me to lift with my legs to hoist it up?
My kids know that I am a serious recliner napper, and somewhat on the cold-blooded side. We have a ready supply of throw blankets known forever as “bankies” in our family since the gift giver named her favorite blanket as a toddler.
So, as a serial napper and bankie man, I’m always up for sampling the latest in bankie technology. I just hadn’t contemplated one with 20 pounds of steel pellets sewn in.
Anyone who has ever lugged a not-quite-walking baby for more than five minutes knows how heavy 20 pounds can be. Though weighted blankets do not wriggle, spit up on you or start screeching in public at the worst moment possible, 20 pounds is still 20 pounds.
The goal of quality, full-extension recliner time is relaxation, which can range from pleasantly out of it to a medium-deep slumber to Call-911-I-think-he’s gone.
In any of those states, sometimes an irritating moment of wakefulness signals that more cover is needed. This is the first caution about weighted blankets:
■ Put the thing on first. It’s hard enough to drag a 20-pound blanket over yourself when alert. It’s nearly impossible when semi-comatose.
■ Go to the bathroom before starting your nap. Particularly for those of us of Medicare age, give yourself the gift of time.
■ Put the phone within reach if you intend to answer it. Otherwise, unless you’ve set it to ring at least 15 times, you will not get there in time.
■ Pray there is no fire.
■ Keep food and water close by, just in case. You don’t want to be on the news because you reclined and couldn’t get up.
■ Consider storage. Mine came in a cloth zipper bag that may or may not survive until, say, day after tomorrow. If you have a cedar chest or similar piece of furniture for your bankies, put the weighted blanket on the bottom unless you want to hear muffled screams from the other blankets.
So, yes, the darn thing is heavy. How heavy? Imagine sitting by the side of a swimming pool, into which a devilish child has thrown your grandmother’s heaviest king-sized quilt, which has soaked overnight. Still sitting, you attempt to drag the quilt out of the pool using only your arms instead of a small forklift.
That is a weighted blanket.
After several naps beneath my new bankie, I can report that sleep is quite satisfactory. The sensation is similar to piling on four or five afghans (the blankets, not the freedom fighters). Being full of tiny round things, the weighted blanket does have a slight tendency to slither or pour itself over edges, Slinky-like. Tuck it under yourself and you’re good to sleep, perchance to dream.
There is still much to learn. Future experiments will involve a quantity of large magnets. I may be able to give myself an MRI in a pinch.
Another unanswered question is how to clean it? There is a label and there is printing, but its tiny type clearly was chosen by someone practicing to put the Lord’s Prayer on the head of a pin. I think he’s about ready.
The biggest questions remain. Did I nap better? Maybe, but I doubt it. Immodest as this sounds, it’s tough to improve when a person spends several decades honing his craft to near-Olympic team levels.
Finally, did I feel less anxious? That’s hard to say. Being retired, and with none of our adult kids living in the basement, I’m not that anxious to start with.
Still, it will take several hundred more naps to know for sure. That will be my main New Year’s resolution, to dedicate those hours – in the interest of science, of course.