Did you know that there are over 600 types of neurologic diseases?
What’s more, these nervous system diseases affect as many as 100 million Americans. That’s about a third of the entire US population.
Unfortunately, many of these disorders cause both physiological and psychological symptoms. Problems with moving, sleep, and moods can all result from disorders of the nervous system.
This is where the main purpose of a weighted blanket comes into play. These blankets feature a design and construction that helps calm the nervous system.
Ready to learn what exactly these blankets do and what conditions they can help treat? Then let’s dive right into it!
What is a Weighted Blanket?
Weighted blankets are exactly what they sound like — blankets that make use of some type of dense filling. The most common materials in weighted blankets are beads or plastic pellets. Some also use glass or quartz materials, while others have sand in them.
What Exactly is the Purpose of a Weighted Blanket?
The extra weight in weighted blankets makes the user feel like it’s “hugging” them. That feeling, in itself, may already help the user feel calmer. More than that, this extra weight provides therapeutic pressure.
Weighted Blanket and Deep Pressure Stimulation
Weighted blankets act on the same concept of deep pressure stimulation (DPS). When you apply DPS to the body, it activates the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS). This then makes your body go to the “rest and digest” mode.
This activation of the PNS then lowers the heart rate and blood pressure. It also results in decreased respiration. Together these effects lead to a calmer, more relaxed state.
For Both Kids and Adults
For many years, the market offered weighted blankets for kids with autism. A few were also designed for adults suffering from PTSD.
Increasing research on weighted blankets has made their popularity skyrocket though. Today weighted blankets for adults and kids are available for those who wish to sleep better. These blankets have even been shown to help people who suffer from pain conditions!
Now that you know what a weighted blanket is and how it works, it’s time to talk about its benefits.
1. Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder
Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) affects more than 8% of kids and 2.5% of adults in the US. This medical condition interferes with the brain and its development. People with ADHD often have very high activity levels and limited attention spans.
Granted, there are few studies that prove the benefits of weighted blankets for ADHD. However, there’s a similar study on weighted vests. The researchers found that these vests helped improve attention in kids with ADHD.
Moreover, the scientists observed a reduction in the patients’ hyperactive movements.
Weighted blankets are similar to weighted vests (except that they’re bigger). In this way, weighted blankets may deliver the same benefits that weighted vests do.
A separate study, this time using weighted ball blankets, had similar results. The researchers noted a 10% improvement in activity levels and attention span. They also saw improvements in the kids’ sleep patterns.
Sleeping difficulties are common in people with autism or ASD, particularly in children. This is why scientists sought to investigate if weighted blankets can help.
Research shows that weighted blankets are a more favored sleep tool for ASD patients. It appears that these blankets do help improve both the quality and quantity of sleep in people with ASD.
Granted, there’s definitely a need for more studies. However, the current findings on weighted blankets and autism are promising.
Insomnia is a sleep disorder that makes it hard to fall and stay asleep. People with insomnia are also prone to waking up often at night and having trouble going back to sleep. Experts estimate that 60 million Americans suffer from this chronic sleep disorder.
Moreover, about half of insomnia cases result from psychological stress and mental conditions. This is why many people who have depression or anxiety also suffer from sleep disorders.
Research has shown that deep pressure stimulation can help ease insomnia. It appears to do so by encouraging the body to release serotonin.
Serotonin is a crucial sleep hormone since the body uses it for melatonin synthesis. Melatonin, another hormone, regulates the entire sleep-wake cycle of the body. This includes triggering the body to feel sleepy and thus go to sleep.
Since DPS helps promote the release of serotonin, it can help ease the symptoms of insomnia. It’s in the same way that a weighted blanket benefits people with sleep disorders. With a weighted blanket, you’ll get the same firm yet gentle pressure that DPS provides.
4. High Levels of Stress
Many studies confirm that Americans are some of the most stressed people in the world. In one survey, eight in 10 participants said that they’re under stress. In another report, 57% of the participants said that they feel “paralyzed” by stress.
On appropriate occasions, stress is actually a normal and important bodily response. It helps the body prepare for situations and respond to those events. For example, stress is what triggers your body’s “fight-or-flight” response to danger.
Chronically high levels of stress, however, can affect both your physical and psychological health. It can impact your behaviors, cognitive function, and even your emotions. All these negative effects of stress can then lower the quality of your life.
As mentioned above, the parasympathetic nervous system triggers the “rest and digest” mode. Whereas stress results from the activation of the sympathetic nervous system. The SNS is what triggers the fight-or-flight response, after all.
Deactivating the SNS is another purpose that weighted blankets serve. The calming effects of these blankets help “wear off” the fight-or-flight in you. So using these blankets can help you bring your stress levels under control.
5. Anxiety Disorders
Anxiety, like stress, is also a natural response of the body to things that may occur. Stress is actually what triggers anxious thoughts or emotions. These can be in the form of worry, apprehension, fear, unease, or nervousness.
You know that feeling of nervousness when you’re about to have a job interview? That’s anxiety right there. It’s normal and is something that most people also go through.
However, many people experience severe anxiety that lasts for more than six months. In this case, it’s no longer normal and is already a form of anxiety disorder. In the US, 40 million people suffer from this mental condition.
As with stress, anxiety is also connected to the sympathetic nervous system. Anxious feelings can flood this part of your nervous system with hormones. These chemicals, like adrenaline and cortisol, can put your SNS into hyperdrive.
Chronic anxiety can result in more frequent panic attacks, headaches, and even depression.
While a weighted blanket won’t cure your anxiety, it can help ease your symptoms. Its relaxing effects can reduce your body’s production of hormones like adrenaline. With less of these hormones in your system, you may feel more at ease and less worried.
In fact, one study found that the use of a weighted blanket reduced anxiety in 63% of the patients.
6. Restless Leg Syndrome
People who suffer from restless leg syndrome have an “uncontrollable urge to move”. This is usually due to a highly unpleasant sensation in the legs.
Although the symptoms can show up anytime, they often occur at night. This can then result in sleep problems, such as insomnia. Moreover, people with this condition often find it unbearable to travel long distances.
Weighted blankets can help reduce these symptoms through their deep pressure technique. This can then calm your nerves and ease the unpleasant sensations in your legs.
7. Pain Disorders
As many as 50 million adults in the US suffer from chronic pain. Another 20 million experience the more debilitating “high-impact” chronic pain.
Because of this, the use of pain medications in the US has skyrocketed over the years. In fact, US doctors filled out about 300 million pain prescriptions in 2015 alone.
Unfortunately, many of those medications have become highly misused and even abused. In 2016 alone, 2 million Americans misused prescription pain drugs for the first time.
Non-drug treatments work on many types of pain conditions. Weighted blankets, for instance, offer pain relief similar to massage therapy. By using these blankets, you can reduce your reliance on addictive pain medications.
Weighted Blankets are More than Just for Better Sleep
As you can see, the purpose of a weighted blanket goes beyond helping improve sleep. Your entire body benefits from the deep pressure therapy these blankets provide. Aside from better, longer ZZZs, they may also help ease your pain, stress, and anxiety.
That should be enough reason for you to invest in your very own weighted blanket ASAP.
Still looking for more reasons to get a high-quality weighted blanket? Then be sure to check out this other post on the many benefits of weighted blankets!