Weighted blankets have become a topic of conversation at home, work, and maybe even your doctor’s office.
Why so much fuss over weighted blankets?
We’ve put together a guide to some of the most promising (and helpful) benefits of a weighted blanket. Hopefully, this clears things up and encourages you to try this wonderful, warm hug of a purchase that many feel improve sleep quality with an overall calming effect.
Helps You Get a Better Nights Rest
Most people start out looking for a weighted blanket because they’ve heard about the wonderful sleep benefits.
When you choose the optimum weight blanket for sleep, which is 10% of your body weight plus or minus 2-3 pounds, you can experience a better night’s sleep. Weighted blankets may help you fall asleep faster. They also help people who toss and turn all night.
The design of the blanket provides a cozy, gentle pressure—kind of like a warm hug. It’s clinically known as deep touch pressure. This type of pressure may increase the neurotransmitter, serotonin. Serotonin has a calming effect that helps regulate sleep.
The best way you can partner with your weighted blanket to enjoy better quality sleep is to take care of the rest of your sleep hygiene. You can’t expect to get the most out of your blanket if you’re not also paying attention to the basics.
Your Partner in Combating Stress
Anxiety and stress are both common for a growing number of people today. We have stress at work, school, and home. We’re hit with stressors from all sides throughout our busy days (and nights).
When the body experiences stress and anxiety, the sympathetic nervous system goes into overdrive. The body receives the alert signal telling it there’s a threat and it moves into the fight or flight mode. That’s probably a good thing if we’re actually under threat, but unless you work in a dangerous profession or live in a war zone, you’re not likely living in a 24-hour threatening situation.
The problem with anxiety and stress is turning them off, or at least dialing the physical and mental effects down far enough that the body isn’t under constant pressure to fight.
The deep pressure stimulation (DPS) the body receives when wrapped in a weighted blanket can help switch from fight or flight and allow the parasympathetic nervous system to kick in and let the body calm down.
Weighted blankets, with their ability to deliver the feeling of a warm hug, may also encourage the production of oxytocin, a hormone that can reduce stress.
Ready for an Improved Mood?
If you’re dealing with poor sleep, insomnia, stress, and anxiety, you (and friends and family) likely notice a change in your mood or even your mental health. Maybe you’re more angry, frustrated, and irritable. Or you feel sad and depressed.
We’ve already mentioned serotonin due to its effect on sleep, but it also affects mood. Let’s add two hormones, melatonin and cortisol to the mood mix. Both play a role in mood.
Experts believe that weighted blankets increase serotonin and melatonin but decrease the production of cortisol. This is a great benefit for people who suffer from stress and its related mood changes, insomnia, and for children with autism. Using a weighted blanket can help the body feel a sense of peacefulness and calm—both act as ingredients for improved mood.
Helps ADHD Patients Focus
ADHD stands for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. If your child (or you) has ADHD three words likely come to mind: inattentive, hyperactive, and impulsive.
ADHD is a medical disorder but causes emotional and social problems for people diagnosed with it.
Occupational therapists often suggest weighted blankets for kids with ADHD to help them calm down. The weight of the blanket sends proprioceptive input to the brain. When the brain receives this input the result is a calming of the central nervous system, allowing the brain’s natural tendency toward organization of thought processes to work without interference.
The sense of central nervous system organization has a direct impact on the ability of a child with ADHD to focus. This is especially helpful at school where kids must follow directions and interact with their peer group.
Sensory Processing Disorder
Imagine living with a condition where ordinary sounds made you cringe, or the touch of certain textures made your skin burn. If you suffer from sensory processing disorder (SPD) that’s your world.
SPD causes the brain to struggle with receiving and responding to information that comes through the senses—sound, touch, sight, and smell.
Using weighted blankets also benefits people with sensory processing disorder (SPD).
Many families who have children with SPD feel like their child’s weighted blanket acts as a rescue device.
As it does for people with ADHD, the weight of the blanket transmits proprioceptive sensory input. Children with SPD often go into fight or flight mode, which often results in meltdowns. The weighted blanket helps to reduce symptoms of SPD and calm the body down.
Kids with SPD use their weighted blankets in a variety of scenarios including:
- During and after meltdowns.
- Long car rides
- Naptime and bedtime.
- In the classroom and at home doing homework.
Keep in mind, SPD isn’t only a kid’s disorder. Adults with SPD can also benefit from using weighted blankets.
Relief from Restless Leg Syndrome
If you have unpleasant sensations in your legs, accompanied by a constant urge to move them, you may have restless leg syndrome (RLS). People with this neurological disorder commonly experience the symptoms at night, which can cause disruption of sleep.
Many people with RLS say they deal with the feeling of pins and needles in their legs as soon as they lay down to go to sleep. Some claim they feel like they have bugs crawling inside their legs. The only way to relieve the symptoms is to move their legs.
The pressure of a weighted blanket, like a gentle hug around their legs, seems to relieve RLS symptoms. It’s thought that the pressure calms irritated nerves. RLS sufferers may also sleep better with a weighted blanket due to an increase in serotonin, which as we’ve already noted, helps people feel calm and sleep better.
Help for People Suffering from Chronic Pain
If you deal with widespread chronic pain, a weighted blanket may be just what the doctor ordered. Fibromyalgia includes chronic pain in its list of symptoms.
Ask anyone with fibromyalgia and they’ll tell you how debilitating the symptoms can be, and difficult to treat.
One way fibromyalgia patients find relief from pain is through myofascial release. This therapy technique is similar to deep pressure touch therapy. Using a weighted blanket can create the same gentle pressure experienced in myofascial release therapy.
If you suffer from fibromyalgia, try a weighted blanket for relief from symptoms, including a reduction in depression and anxiety (also symptoms of fibromyalgia.)
The Elderly and Weighted Blankets
If you have a loved one diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or dementia, you’ve witnessed first-hand how these illnesses often cause agitation, anxiety, and sleep disturbances.
When elderly patients use a weighted blanket, they can experience a reduction in anxiety symptoms. The warm gentle pressure of the blanket can calm their nerves and help them enjoy deep sleep.
The beauty of weighted blankets as a non-drug treatment for the elderly is that you can help them use the blanket day or night. Even if they’re sitting in a chair, you can place the blanket around them and help them experience a therapeutic calm.
Benefits of a Weighted Blanket for Children
We’ve already talked about using weighted blankets for kids with ADHD and SPD, but are there other reasons they might work for kids?
Your child doesn’t have to have a diagnosis to enjoy the benefits of a weighted blanket.
Clearly they help kids who have a medical or emotional condition requiring the calming effects of the blanket, but any child can benefit from sleeping under a weighted blanket.
Parents of children without the above disorders primarily buy the blankets to help them sleep better. Sleep issues are common in toddlers and young children, so it’s not uncommon for parents to seek out help in the form of something natural vs. pharmaceutical.
Try a weighted blanket and see if it doesn’t help your little one sleep better.
We do want to make parents aware that weighted blankets aren’t for infants or children under 2 years of age.
Ready to Enjoy Your Own Weighted Blanket?
Now that you’ve read about the many benefits of a weighted blanket, why not try one and see for yourself?
Whether you suffer from sleep issues, stress, anxiety, or chronic pain, a weighted blanket can help. If a loved one deals with a sensory disorder, or Alzheimer’s or dementia, perhaps a weighted blanket could be given as a gift this holiday season.
With so many wonderful benefits offered by weighted blankets, why not buy one for you and your loved ones and get a great night’s sleep for a change!