Therapeutic weighted blankets are currently experiencing a surging popularity due to their help with various struggles including anxiety and insomnia. Although these heavy covers have been around for decades, and have been used in clinical treatments, they are now available more than ever before for anyone to buy in a local store or off the Internet.
Their claims of providing soothing comfort and making it easier to fall and stay asleep may seem extraordinary to people who have problems with an anxiety disorder, general nervousness, and tension, and interrupted sleep patterns. Anecdotal tales of improvements are great, but it is much more exciting when scientific research backs up these weighted blanket claims.
How Weighted Blankets Provide Relief From Anxiety
More people in the United States struggle with anxiety disorders than any other emotional disturbance besides depression. Whether someone has an actual diagnosis or not, weighted blankets have been recommended to help. Similar things are even used on animals who experience separation anxiety or fear during thunderstorms and fireworks displays.
When a blanket with a special heavy filling is crafted at an appropriate weight for a particular person (approximately 10% of a person’s body weight) and is draped over their body, it triggers an effect called deep pressure touch (DPT). This effect is the scientific name for the physical and chemical reactions that occur in our brains when someone hugs as tight or we feel snugly safe as a baby in a caregiver’s arms. DPT releases serotonin, which is one of the brain’s powerful feel-good chemicals.
This neuro-chemical response is of obvious help to people who experience anxiety on a regular basis, especially if it interferes with their ability to enjoy life. DPT is a proven effect and a 100% safe and natural way that people can be soothed by pressure. A weighted blanket is highly effective at providing just the right amount.
Besides DPT boosting serotonin production and helping our parasympathetic nervous systems function properly, snuggling up in a weighted blanket simply feels good. Reviews on popular e-commerce sites are filled with powerful anecdotal evidence of these heavy blankets helping people overcome or function better even after an anxiety diagnosis.
Insomnia — How Weighted Blankets Help Promote Restful Sleep
Anxiety is intrinsically linked to insomnia. People whose minds cannot relax and to constantly feel nervous or tense have real difficulty relaxing and sinking into a restful sleep. They may also struggle to reach the deeper layers of sleep and stay there for long enough to rejuvenate their mind and body for the next day.
It makes sense to say that people who experience less exciting can sleep more easily. The deep pressure touch effect of a weighted blanket has something to do with this as well. When the serotonin is released by the mind, the individual naturally feels better. Serotonin is also converted into melatonin, which is the hormone that creates a sleepy feeling. Melatonin is even offered in supplement form over-the-counter, but a weighted blanket helps people produce their own naturally.
Most of the scientific research done specifically for weighted blankets and insomnia had only a very small sample size. One study in Sweden tracked 30 men and women who had trouble sleeping and found that weighted blankets did help them stay calmer and enjoy deeper sleep than sleeping without one. A similar study with 32 people had much the same results. Research on 42 children and preteens with ADHD showed that weighted blanket use brought their sleep patterns into alignment with neuro-typical kids.
In some studies, no real difference was found. For example, a study with 73 children and teens on the autism spectrum found no significant change in sleep patterns. However, the positive “proof” came from the comments from study participants. Many reported feeling better overall, having less anxiety, and sleeping more deeply than they did without it.
Besides feeling good and releasing serotonin, which converts to melatonin, some scientists suggest that a weighted blanket may help with anxiety and insomnia simply because they are heavy. The weight of the cover encourages the body to stay in position and counteracts any nervous twitches or shifts that can interrupt comfort or sleep. Some suggest they could also help with restless leg syndrome. Whether this is scientifically provable or simply a correlation between calm feelings and a still body is up for debate. Overall, however, weighted blankets simply seem to work.
Choose the Best Weighted Blanket For You
If you have trouble with anxiety, nervous tension, insomnia, or simple restless sleep, a weighted blanket may give you increased levels of relaxation and comfort. In order to do so, it is important to purchase or make one that is an appropriate size and weight for your body. Both children and adults can use weighted blankets as long as they are independently mobile and not infirm in any way. It is important that the person can get out from under the blanket if they need to.
The general rule of thumb to follow when getting your weighted blanket is to look for one that is about 10% of your overall body weight. Some recommend 10% +1 pound for children from three to 10 years old. At first, the blanket may feel too heavy, but if the person does not get used to it quickly, it might be time to return it to the store. Also, avoid any blankets that trail over the edge of the bed, as they would be much more difficult to get out from under if necessary.
Some people decry it weighted blankets as pop science and attribute the benefits people say they feel to the placebo effect. However, scientific knowledge of deep pressure touch, serotonin, and research studies that clinically test these blanket efficacy against anxiety and insomnia are all adding up to something quite interesting. With millions of people across the country and around the world struggling with anxiety disorders and sleep difficulties, the idea that a weighted blanket can help them feel better and live a more normal life seems like an excellent opportunity for a natural, nonchemical, and noninvasive solution.