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The Benefits of a Weighted Blanket: Promoting Relaxation and Restful Sleep

Mattress Resources
Read Time: 6 minutes
FAST FACTS
  • Weighted blankets mimic deep pressure stimulation, aiding in relaxation and potentially releasing hormones like serotonin and oxytocin, promoting a sense of calmness and improving mood.
  • These blankets can benefit individuals with various conditions, including anxiety, depression, autism spectrum disorders, and sleep disturbances, by enhancing sleep quality and reducing stress and anxiety symptoms.
  • Choosing a weighted blanket that is around 10% of your body weight can optimize its effectiveness in providing comfort, security, and therapeutic benefits, potentially improving overall sleep health.

Weighted blankets have become popular because of their ability to potentially decrease stress, encourage a sense of calm, and enhance sleep quality. The gentle pressure these blankets exert mimics the feeling of a comforting hug or a snug swaddle, offering a sense of security and relaxation. This article will dive into the various benefits of weighted blankets, including their ability to provide comfort and security, ease stress and anxiety, improve sleep quality, and calm the nervous system. We will also discuss their potential therapeutic benefits for individuals with anxiety, depression, autism spectrum disorders, and other medical conditions.

Weighted Blankets and How They Work

Weighted blankets work by putting gentle pressure on your body, similar to a cozy hug. This pressure technique, called deep pressure stimulation (DPS), helps people feel more relaxed and secure. It’s like a comforting touch that can calm down your body.

The idea for deep pressure therapy, like using weighted blankets, came from Temple Grandin. She was trying to find ways to help kids with autism feel less anxious. Temple created a “hug machine” that gave a gentle squeeze to the body. When she used it, she noticed that it made her patients release oxytocin, a hormone linked to feeling good.

Based on Temple’s research, weighted blankets were invented. They imitate the feeling of the “hug machine” by softly pressing against the body, which can lead to the release of oxytocin.

Using weighted blankets is a type of therapy that can boost levels of chemicals in the brain like dopamine and serotonin. These chemicals are known to make us feel happy and peaceful. That’s why weighted blankets have been helpful for people with conditions like sensory processing disorder, autism, and depression.

How Do They Function?

Weighted blankets use pressure therapy to help us feel better. This technique relies on gentle but firm pressure to make us feel safe and calm. Deep pressure stimulation (DPS) is behind this method. It helps our body make more serotonin, which helps control our mood. Serotonin is like a messenger that sends signals between nerves.

DPS also helps our body produce melatonin, another messenger that helps us sleep better. And at the same time, it seems to lower the stress hormone cortisol. These blankets are helpful for people with mental health issues or feeling restless, like those with dementia. But they’re also used for college students dealing with stress, veterans having trouble sleeping, and people with conditions like multiple sclerosis.

Providing Comfort and Security

Weighted blankets work similarly to a tight swaddle for newborns, creating a sense of coziness and security. Many individuals find that using weighted blankets helps them fall asleep more quickly by promoting a feeling of safety. The added weight of the blanket provides a gentle, comforting pressure that can help alleviate restlessness and promote relaxation.

Easing Stress and Soothing Anxiety

Weighted blankets have shown promise in managing stress, anxiety, and Insomnia symptoms. High levels of stress and anxiety often interfere with sleep, making it a challenge to achieve restful nights. The deep pressure stimulation provided by weighted blankets may help reduce these symptoms, improving sleep for individuals experiencing stressful thoughts and feelings.

One study found that weighted blankets helped decrease insomnia symptoms in individuals with anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). By promoting a sense of calmness and relaxation, weighted blankets can break the cycle of anxiety and sleep disruption.

Improving Sleep Quality

Weighted blankets use deep pressure stimulation, thought to trigger the release of serotonin, a hormone that enhances mood. Moreover, they may lower cortisol, the stress hormone, and increase melatonin production, the hormone that regulates sleep. By balancing these hormonal levels, weighted blankets may contribute to overall improved sleep quality.

Calming the Nervous System

When the nervous system is overactive, it may result in symptoms like anxiety, increased activity, rapid heartbeat, and difficulty breathing, disrupting peaceful sleep. Weighted blankets evenly apply weight and pressure, potentially soothing the fight-or-flight reaction and triggering the parasympathetic nervous system. This can foster relaxation and prime the body for sleep.

See Also: Best Weighted Blankets

Therapeutic Benefits for Anxiety and Depression

Anxiety and depression often coexist with sleep disturbances. The soothing effects of weighted blankets have improved sleep in individuals with these mental health conditions. The deep pressure stimulation provided by the blankets may help alleviate symptoms, leading to better quality sleep and an overall improvement in mood.

Who Can Benefit from Using a Weighted Blanket?

Weighted blankets are recognized for their potential to offer advantages to various sleepers, especially those enduring high stress or specific medical conditions. These blankets can hold therapeutic promise, particularly for individuals coping with autism, anxiety, depression, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

Anxiety and Depression

Many individuals caught in the cycle of anxiety and depression face disrupted sleep, which further intensifies their symptoms. The calming influence of a weighted blanket could potentially enhance sleep quality for those dealing with these mental health challenges. Research indicates that these blankets aided in reducing insomnia symptoms among individuals dealing with anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, and ADHD.

Autism Spectrum Disorders

Through stimulating the sense of touch, a weighted blanket might assist individuals with autism spectrum disorders in concentrating on the blanket’s deep pressure instead of the myriad sensory inputs from their environment. This pressure may offer comfort, enabling relaxation even in overwhelming situations. Although scientific evidence on the objective sleep benefits remains scarce, children with autism often exhibit a preference for using weighted blankets.

Safety Considerations

While weighted blankets are generally considered safe, certain precautions should be taken. Users of these blankets should possess enough strength and physical ability to remove the blanket from themselves if needed to avoid suffocation or entrapment. It’s vital to seek advice from a healthcare professional, particularly for people with specific medical conditions such as circulatory issues or chronic respiratory, asthma, type 2 diabetes, low blood pressure, claustrophobia, or obstructive sleep apnea (OSA).

Weighted blankets designed specifically for children are available. Still, it is essential to note that infants and toddlers should not use weighted blankets due to the risk of becoming trapped underneath them.

Choosing the Right Weighted Blanket

When selecting a weighted blanket, it is recommended to select one that is 10% of your body weight. However, personal preferences should also be taken into consideration. Weighted blankets are also available in a range of weights, typically from 7 pounds to 25 pounds, and come in standard bedding sizes such as twin, full, queen, and king. Some manufacturers also offer child or travel-sized options.

Price Considerations

Weighted blankets typically come at a higher price than standard throw blankets. Their cost can vary between $100 to $300, influenced by factors such as the materials utilized and any additional features included. Higher-priced models may be made with more durable materials and offer better breathability, among other features.

FAQs

Are weighted blankets safe to use?

Weighted blankets, when used properly and by guidelines, are generally safe. Choosing the right weight for your body and following usage recommendations is essential to avoid any discomfort or potential risks, especially for children or individuals with certain health conditions.

How can a weighted blanket improve sleep health?

Weighted blankets utilize deep touch pressure, stimulating serotonin and melatonin release, promoting relaxation and better sleep. This pressure can help individuals with sleep disorders like insomnia or restless leg syndrome by calming the autonomic nervous system.

Can a weighted blanket benefit individuals with autism spectrum disorder?

Yes, many individuals with autism spectrum disorder find comfort in the gentle pressure of a weighted blanket. The deep touch pressure can provide a sense of security and calmness, aiding in relaxation and potentially improving sleep quality.

Do weighted blankets help with chronic pain?

Weighted blankets can offer relief for some individuals experiencing chronic pain. The pressure from the blanket may help alleviate discomfort by soothing the nervous system, potentially reducing pain sensitivity.

What weights are available for weighted blankets?

Weighted blankets come in various weights ranging from light to heavy. A medium-weighted blanket, around 10% of your body weight, is commonly recommended. However, most weighted blankets offer options to choose the weight that best suits your preferences and needs. Some even provide small weighted blankets for more specific uses or for children.

Conclusion

Weighted blankets have gained recognition for their potential to reduce stress, promote calmness, and improve sleep quality. The gentle pressure these blankets provide can offer comfort and security, ease stress and anxiety, improve sleep quality, and calm the nervous system. Furthermore, weighted blankets may provide therapeutic benefits for individuals with anxiety, depression, autism spectrum disorders, and other medical conditions. It is important to consult with a healthcare professional to determine the suitability of weighted blankets for individual circumstances. Individuals can make informed decisions when incorporating weighted blankets into their sleep routines by understanding the potential benefits and safety considerations.

Harrison Wall is Sleep Junkie’s business strategist and sleep analyst. He also authors posts on bedding and mattress accessories. Harrison regularly coordinates with new mattress companies and tests their products to determine what really helps you get better rest and have brighter mornings.

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