What is a Weighted Blanket?
A weighted blanket is a therapeutic sleep accessory designed to provide heavy, evenly-distributed pressure on the body that can be used to relieve physical pain or decrease anxiety and stress.
These blankets use small pellets or beads to create the weight, which helps reduce movement and restlessness.
They are typically made from a lightweight fabric, such as cotton or fleece, and are filled with material like glass beads or plastic pellets that provide the desired weight and balance.
The blankets come in a range of sizes and weights to accommodate individual needs.
What are the Benefits of Using a Weighted Blanket?
Anxiety is a common mental health disorder that can affect people of all ages.
Weighted blankets have been used as a tool to reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression, such as restlessness, fear, panic, racing thoughts, and physical stress.
Studies with randomized controlled trial, have shown that the deep pressure stimulation provided by weighted blankets can help to relax the nervous system and reduce the cognitive suppression associated with anxiousness.
Additionally, many of them are made from breathable fabrics, which help to create a sense of comfort for those feeling overwhelmed by their anxious thoughts.
Insomnia and Sleep Disorders
Sleep disorders such as insomnia affect millions of people every year. For those who struggle with insomnia, a weighted blanket, other then a light blanket, can be beneficial in helping to relax the body and promote restful sleep at night.
The additional blanket’s weight helps to activate the body’s pressure points, releasing serotonin and promoting feelings of composure and relaxation leading up to better sleep at night. Weighted blankets can also be an effective tool to help individuals staying asleep, as they tend to keep the body still while the mind relaxes.
Autism is a neurological disorder affecting areas of the brain related to social interaction, communication, and behavior.
Weighted blankets have been used to reduce anxiousness in people with Autism Spectrum Disorder by providing deep pressure stimulation. This type of sensory input has been known to give a feeling of composure and comfort, which can be beneficial when managing episodes of extreme distress or sudden outbursts.
With its calming properties, they may help individuals with autism regulate their moods and emotions, thus providing greater control over their behavior and improving their overall quality of life.
Osteoarthritis is a degenerative joint disease that results in inflammation, pain, and stiffness. It is the most common form of arthritis, and it typically affects the elderly.
Weighted blankets can offer relief to those suffering from osteoarthritis due to the deep pressure stimulation that helps the body relax.
Studies have shown that deep pressure stimulation can improve the range of motion, reduce pain, and increase comfort and sleep quality in those with osteoarthritis. Some extra pounds can also help to reduce tremors and increase proprioception, or awareness of where certain parts of the body are in space.
Additionally, weighted blankets provide a sense of comfort and security, which can help reduce stress and anxiety associated with chronic conditions such as osteoarthritis.
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder is a neurodevelopmental disorder characterized by symptoms of hyperactivity, impulsivity, and difficulty paying attention.
ADHD can affect a person’s ability to concentrate, stay on task, and control their behavior. Weighted blankets are believed to provide a restful sensation, which may benefit people with ADHD.
A study conducted in 2019 found that weighted blankets may improve self-regulation and decrease restlessness in children with ADHD.
Additionally, they have been reported to help with sleep problems associated with ADHD, such as trouble falling asleep and nighttime awakenings.
Many medical procedures require the patient to remain still for an extended period of time. Weighted blankets can be used to help reduce anxiousness and discomfort during these procedures by providing a restful pressure point sensation.
By providing additional added pressure input, the patient may be able to achieve a good night’s rest, reducing the overall duration of the procedure. The use of these blankets has been shown to reduce anxiety related to medical procedures, improving sleep, patient satisfaction, and experience.
Chronic pain refers to pain that persists for longer than 12 weeks and is usually caused by a long-term illness or injury.
Weighted blankets can provide relief from chronic pain due to their pressure technology, which releases hormones called endorphins, which act as a natural painkiller.
The deep pressure touch provided by the weighted blanket stimulates nerve endings in the skin and signals the brain to release serotonin and dopamine, which are calming neurotransmitters. This helps alleviate the sensation of chronic pain, allowing users to have a more restful sleep.
Do Weighted Blankets Work Actually?
Weighing blankets remain a largely unstudied concept, making it difficult to definitively answer the question of whether or not they work.
However, anecdotal evidence suggests that people with a wide range of conditions may benefit from their use. Some find that the pressure created by weighted blankets helps to calm insomnia and anxiety, provide comfort and reduce restlessness, making it easier for them to sleep.
Other users report improved focus, less impulsiveness, and fewer sensory-seeking behaviors. Though more research is needed in this area, there is reason to believe that weighted blankets may be a beneficial tool for many people.
Not only has existing research demonstrated the potential of weighted blankets to offer relief from physical discomfort or conditions, but recent studies point to even more promising evidence.
A 2020 study by Swedish researchers found that weighted blankets improved sleep in individuals with mental health conditions like major depressive disorder, bipolar disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, and ADHD. The study of 120 participants found that after four weeks of use, those using the weighted blanket reported less insomnia and reduced symptoms of fatigue, depression, and anxiety.
A 2021 study found that a heavy blanket (15-lb) is more effective than a light blanket (5-lb) in reducing chronic pain, particularly in those with high-trait anxiety. The study did not find a significant change in pain intensity ratings. The study suggests that the reduction in pain may be due to the pressure from the heavy weighted blanket. It provides evidence that a weighted blanket can be an accessible and home-based tool for reducing chronic pain.
A study from 2020 aimed to explore the efficacy of weighted blanket applications and sleep quality in a child with autism spectrum disorder and behavioral manifestations of sensory processing deficits. The study used a single-subject design with two 4-year-old participants and found that while the blanket intervention did lead to enhanced morning mood and a decreased time to fall asleep, the changes were not significant enough to recommend for clinical use. The study suggests future research to explore the efficacy of weighted blankets in increasing the quality of sleep among children with autism using larger sample sizes.
A 2015 study found that 60% of participants with insomnia reported better sleep with a weighted blanket.
Are There Risks When Using a Weighted Blanket?
Weighted blankets have become increasingly popular as an alternative therapeutic technique for a variety of conditions and uses. However, it is important to understand any potential risks before using one. They can present a suffocation risk, as some may be too heavy for certain individuals.
They can also create discomfort if too much pressure is applied. It is important to discuss your specific needs with a medical provider before selecting the appropriate weight for your blanket. Additionally, weighted blankets can be difficult to clean, and may contain synthetic materials that can cause allergic reactions in some people.
To reduce the risk of these reactions, it is important to use a heavy blanket that is properly sized and made of breathable fabrics.
Potential Benefits of Weighted Blankets
Overall Sense of Calm
Weighted blankets provide several potential health benefits to users and can result in a more calming and soothing atmosphere. By providing even pressure throughout the body, They can reduce the heart rate and help with relaxation.
This allows users to feel less stressed and anxious and more restful and relaxed. In addition, the increased pressure generated by the right blanket can also reduce cortisol levels, which can lead to an overall sense of calm.
Increased Serotonin Levels
Serotonin, a neurotransmitter responsible for regulating mood and sleep, can be increased by the use of most weighted blankets. They provide an even pressure that helps relax the body, leading to an increase in serotonin levels throughout the body. This can result in a feeling of calm, improved mood, and better sleep.
Increased Oxytocin Levels
Oxytocin is a hormone that has been found to reduce pressure and induce relaxation. Weighted blankets have been shown to increase the production of oxytocin, which can help reduce stress, anxiety, and promote a sense of well-being.
Studies have concluded that oxytocin can improve sleep and reduce cortisol levels. For those seeking comfort, a weighted blanket may have a positive effect on anxiousness while simultaneously encouraging positive health effects. This is supported by concrete scientific evidence!
Weighted blankets can help reduce movement as they provide calming input to the body. A weighted blanket, during sleep or other activities can help improve focus and reduce fidgeting, as the weight provides a gentle sensory input that helps to relax the body.
Additionally, the weighted blanket can help to reduce restlessness, allowing the users to remain still and focused on the task at hand. They have been used in therapy for those with autism, ADHD, and anxiety symptoms, as they work to provide comfort and reduce tension in the body.
Improved Quality of Sleep
Most Weighted blankets can help to improve sleep quality. Studies show that they can increase serotonin and oxytocin levels in the body, leading to a sense of calm, reduced movement, and improved quality of sleep.
They have been found to decrease rapid eye movement (REM) and may reduce grunting and restlessness. The added weight helps the body relax, allowing the sleeper to fall asleep more easily and increase sleep maintenance.
The Use of Weight in Therapy
Weighted therapy, or deep pressure therapy, is an increasingly popular form of therapy that uses a firm, evenly distributed pressure on the body to relax the nervous system and stimulate certain brain waves.
Weighted blankets are one form of this type of therapy, and they can help reduce pressure and anxiety, improve mood, and generally improve quality of life. Research suggests they can also be beneficial for those who struggle with autism, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), insomnia, other sleep disorder, pain, and medical procedures.
Weighing Down Anxiety
The use of weighted blankets has been found being effective to reduce anxiety in people who experience chronic issues. By using deep touch pressure stimulation (DTPS), they provide a calming effect that can help reduce stress levels.
Studies have found that DTPS is particularly effective for those with autism and ADHD, as well as those with a generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). Studies have also revealed that the weight of the blanket can provide an overall feeling of security and comfort.
One study reported that participants felt calmer and more secure when lying under a weighted blanket. Additionally, they may provide additional benefits such as increased serotonin levels, increased oxytocin levels, and improved slumber. During the exact mechanisms by which weighted blankets work remain unclear, it’s clear that they can be effective at helping to manage anxiousness.
Should You Use a Weighted Blanket?
Weighted blankets are becoming increasingly popular, and many people are replacing their regular comforters with them, but it can be difficult to decide if it’s the right choice for you. They might not be suitable for everyone and may even cause harm in some cases. It is important to weigh both the benefits and risks before investing in a weighted blanket.
The use of a weighted blanket is controversial and it is still an unregulated industry. Experts have indicated that there is a lack of long-term scientific studies which could indicate either further positive or negative results on the impact of a weighted blanket.
It is advised to talk to your doctor before using a weighted blanket, especially if you have underlying medical conditions like sleep apnea. Your doctor should be able to advise you on whether a weighted blanket is suitable and help you to identify any safety risks. In some cases, it may be beneficial to opt for other forms of therapy.
It is essential to choose a weighted blanket that is safe and conforms to industry standards, such as one with non-toxic beads and one that does not exceed 10% of your body weight. There are also specialized weighted blankets available that are designed for medical purposes.
Overall, there is evidence to suggest that they can aid with anxiety and insomnia, as well as provide a general sense of calm. However, it is important to consider the potential risks before making a purchase and to speak with a medical professional if needed.
Is There a Better Option?
Not everyone is keen on using weighted blankets, and many people wonder if there is a better option for treating these conditions. Fortunately, there are several alternative treatments available that may be just as effective as weighted blankets.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) has been shown to be an effective treatment for a wide range of mental health issues, including anxiousness, bipolar disorder, and depression. For those who don’t want the additional weight of a blanket, a weighted vest, deep breathing techniques, or mindfulness meditation can also bring rest. Exercise can help to improve physical wellbeing, and regular physical activity can help reduce stress levels and improve slumber.
Ultimately, when considering any treatment option, it is important to speak to a doctor or mental health professional to ensure the best care.