Weighted blankets also called gravity blankets or magic blankets have become popular over the last few years because of their numerous physical and mental health benefits. These blanket types have been part of the therapy clinic for easing sensory-related symptoms.
The weighted blankets have been embraced outside the clinic and are now readily available without a doctor’s prescription. This guide will give comprehensive benefits associated with this magic blanket.
But first, let’s get to know more about this magic blanket…
What are weighted blankets
Weighted blankets are heavy blankets with extra weight from glass beads or plastic poly pellets sewn into pockets in the blanket fabric. It is this weight that gives the weighted blanket its name. The weight varies from 5 pounds to 30 pounds. However, the body weight greatly determines the use of the weighted blanket. The recommended weight should always be ten percent of your body weight.
The weight of the weighted blanket has been designed such that it is sufficient enough to stimulate pressure points on the skin. This recreates a deep hug or squeezing hence its numerous benefits to the therapeutic clinics.
How do weighted blankets work
The weighted blanket works using the principle of Deep Touch Pressure (DTP) which helps patients to regulate their emotions and behavior. The weighted blanket was designed to help those with sensory processing disorders such as autism. They are used in sensory integration therapy or occupational therapy.
Deep touch pressure stimulates the release of chemical serotonin and dopamine which induces calming and relaxing effects on the body. Serotonin (the happy hormone) is also responsible for melatonin hormone which is asleep and relaxation of the mind.
Anxious to know the health benefits of weighted blankets? Read on.
Health Benefits of weighted blankets
Weighted blankets have been around for long, but it is only lately that people became aware of their non-medicinal values. Even though it is known for better sleep, weighted blankets have many more benefits than just a night of sound sleep. Below is a list of the health benefits of weighted blankets at glance and a subsequent discussion of each benefit given.
- Reduces Stress and Anxiety
- Eases insomnia
- Manages Autism Symptoms
- Improves focus for the ADHD
- Eases symptoms of Restless Leg Syndrome
- Eases Symptoms of Depression
- Addresses symptoms of PTSD
- Eases fibromyalgia pain
- Helps manage OCD
- Helps the Elderly
- Soothes symptoms of Panic Disorder
Now, to the discussion of each benefit of the weighted blanket.
Reduces Stress and Anxiety
According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, over 40 million adults in the United States suffer from anxiety disorders. This represents 18.1% of the US population annually showing that anxiety disorder is a common mental health illness.
Anxiety is common because of our daily interactions and the sense of urgency that we often put ourselves through. The hectic lives that we go through daily have an overwhelming effect to our nervous system which then triggers anxiety symptoms.
The good news is that anxiety is treatable and one of the ways is by using a weighted blanket.
A weighted blanket provides a better alternative to treating anxiety disorder because of the firm but gentle ‘hug’ that you get. By applying the principle of DTP, a weighted blanket slows down the heart rate and increases the blood circulation resulting in a relaxed body and a calm mind.
Weighted blankets have earned various names like stress blankets and calming blankets because of their ability to naturally restore the hormonal balances necessary for the brain to relax hence providing a good night’s sleep.
Sleep and sleep disorder statistics show that on average, 60 million US adults have a sleep disorder. Of all of these cases of sleep disorder, Insomnia is the most common, with 30% of the adults reporting short term issues and 10% reporting chronic insomnia. Sleep deprivation alone leads to at least 100,000 deaths annually in the US.
Insomnia is the monster that is slowly eating up the US population. Chronic insomnia contributes to increased risk of medical conditions such as stroke, asthma, obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes, and heart disease. It is also a major contributor to mental health disorders and an increased risk of accidents. Living with insomnia for long can shorten life expectancy.
More than ever, Americans need a solution to this monster. Weighted blankets provide the most effective natural and healthy benefits in the management of insomnia and its effects.
The weighted blanket applies a soothing effect on the body stimulating the production of serotonin hormones responsible for sleep.
Stress, anxiety, and over-stimulation of the body through the day contributes to insomnia. Weighted blankets provide the health benefits necessary for a restful night by inhibiting the symptoms of stress and anxiety.
Manages Autism Symptoms
Autism is a complicated condition that includes problems in social, language and communication skills. This developmental disorder varies in severity and can also be characterized by repetitive patterns of thoughts and behaviors. People experiencing this disorder are generally said to be in the Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).
The sensory issues that autistic people experience are similar to a “traffic jam” within the brain. Signals generated in the brain become clogged and jumbled up in the sensory nerves. This leads to anxiety and emotional meltdowns. Young children are the most affected because of their inability to effectively verbalize their feelings. The young children also lack the emotional maturity to handle the anxiety.
The use of massage and deep touch therapy has proved to be effective in the management of the sensory processing challenges. A weighted blanket is the most available tool that is effective for recreating massage and deep touch therapy.
Read more here: Best Weighted Blankets for Autism
Improves focus for the ADHD
Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is the most common mental disorders in children. It is also common in adults. ADHD symptoms may include lack of focus, hyperactivity or unnecessary movements, and impulsivity or acting hastily at a given moment without too much thought.
ADHD affects an estimated 8.4 percent of the children and 2.5 percent of the adults in the US alone. The disorder is present in school-aged children with problems concentrating in class or completing their classwork.
Due to a lack of focus and impulse concentration, the children and adults experiencing ADHD often feel restless. This possess a great challenge to those afflicted with the condition that they find it difficult to accomplish everyday activities like normal people.
The good news is that deep touch therapy (DTP) can help people with ADHD to improve their focus and reduce restlessness. DTP helps to create a soothing and calming effect that lessens anxiety. Weighted blankets are the most natural tools with these health benefits for ADHD people.
A weighted blanket recreates the effects of deep touch and massage in alleviating anxiety experienced by people with ADHD. Children in school are able to stay on task and display higher levels of concentration using a weighted blanket. The children can also use a weighted lap pad or a weighted vest to help them increase their focus in a classroom environment. The lap pad and weighted vest use the same underlying technology as the gravity blanket.
Eases symptoms of Restless Leg Syndrome
Restless legs syndrome (RLS), also known as Willis-Ekbom disease, is a common condition of the nervous system that causes unpleasant or uncomfortable sensations in the legs and an irresistible urge to move them. The symptoms often occur in the late afternoon or in the evenings. This can be severe at night while the person is resting i.e. sitting or lying on the bed. The condition also affects the arms on rare occasions.
The tingling, unpleasant crawling and creeping sensations, along with the involuntary jerking of the legs and arms, can make it nearly impossible to sleep. With time, RLS can lead to chronic insomnia, which dramatically affects productivity and lead to negative health effects.
Some people suffering from RLS find relief with the help of compression socks. The problem with compression socks is that it may be extremely tight and uncomfortable for some. The compression socks are also not suitable for people with mobility challenges or arthritis.
Weighted blankets offer more health benefits because of the added weight and pressure on the legs. The weighted blankets are extremely easy to use. The weighted blanket also has added benefits because using deep touch therapy, it induces calm on the nervous system hence leading to longer, more restorative periods of sleep.
Read more here: Weighted blankets for restless leg syndrome
Eases Symptoms of Depression
Depression or major depressive disorder or clinical depression is classified as a mood disorder. The feelings of sadness, loss, or anger describe depression. This mood disorder interferes with a person’s everyday activities. The severe symptoms of depression affect how you feel, think, and handle daily activities, such as eating, sleeping, or working. People diagnosed with depression must have had the symptoms associated with depression for at least two weeks.
The use of a weighted blanket for depression symptoms related to low levels of serotonin can be a game-changer. The weighted blanket through the deep touch therapy stimulates the production of serotonin which reduces the levels of the stress hormone cortisol. This diminishes the symptoms of depression.
Read more here: The Best Weighted Blanket for Depression
Addresses symptoms of PTSD
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is an anxiety disorder that develops as a result of very stressful, frightening, or distressing events and develops in people who have had an encounter with a shocking, scary, or dangerous event such as a car accident or physical assault. Fear is normal during and after a traumatic situation. The victims of PTSD relive the traumatic event through nightmares and flashbacks and may experience feelings of isolation, irritability, and guilt.
PTSD results in sleep-related symptoms such as insomnia and depression. It also results in a lack of concentration.
Weighted blankets have health benefits for PTSD because of their deep touch pressure (DTP) therapy. The extra weight of the weighted blankets can soothe the victims of PTSD to calmness hence able to overcome their anxieties. Research on the effectiveness of weighted blankets on PTSD symptoms shows that at least 63 percent reported less anxiety as a result of using a weighted blanket. The main reason is that weighted blankets reduce pulse rates and lowers blood pressure.
Eases Fibromyalgia pain
Fibromyalgia is a long-term (chronic) rheumatic condition that causes musculoskeletal pain, general fatigue, and localized tenderness and stiffness at specific points on the body. The condition causes sleep and cognitive disturbances which may result in other disorders such as insomnia.
The number of adults aged 18 years and above experiencing fibromyalgia in the US are around 5 million and 80-90 percent of this number are women.
There is no cure for Fibromyalgia but it can be managed by medications, exercise, and behavioral therapy. Many patients suffering from this condition have reported improvements as a result of deep touch pressure. Patients suffering from fibromyalgia have reported improvement in their health, sleep quality, and other benefits as a result of using weighted blankets.
Weighted blankets help manage anxiety, chronic fatigue, and depression that accompany fibromyalgia. The weighted blanket is a highly beneficial tool because unlike other tools, it enables patients to manage pain without using drugs. The use of medication can have other resultant effects such as judgement or mood impairment and the deep-touch stimulation from a weighted blanket is a 100 percent drug-free method with a host of health benefits for managing chronic pain.
Helps manage OCD
Obsessions are unwanted, intrusive thoughts, urges, or images that trigger anxiety and extremely distressing feelings. Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is a mental health disorder that occurs when one is caught in cycles of obsessions and compulsions. Everyone is affected by OCD and it is reported to be present in one in every four adults in the US.
People with OCD condition often find it difficult to manage persistent, obsessive thoughts and behaviors. They often find it difficult to fall and remain asleep which may result in other sleep-related disorders such as insomnia.
Health benefits of weighted blankets include management of sleep-related disorders such as insomnia. The weighted blanket therapy helps adjust the brain chemistry hence reducing the impact of OCD symptoms and encouraging quality sleep.
The gentle but firm pressure from weighted blankets stimulates the production of serotonin and melatonin hormones. These hormones enable people with OCD to manage their symptoms and remain calm throughout the night.
Helps the Elderly
Insomnia is more prevalent in old age. This can lead to more health issues in the elderly. The elderly also experience more stress, depression, and anxiety. The resultant effect of this is dramatic changes in the sleep-wake cycle. Those living with the elderly must have noticed that they fall asleep late at night and sleep in short bursts rather than a sound sleep throughout the night.
Weighted blankets have so many health benefits for the elderly. With a weighted blanket, they get a calming effect that makes it easier for them to fall asleep. The firm but gentle pressure that weighted blankets apply on their body stimulates the production of serotonin hormone responsible for sleep. This drastically improves sleep quality. You should approach the weighted blankets to use on the elderly with caution. This is because a weighted blanket may have some side effects on the elderly, especially if they are visibly weak. Ensure that you seek a recommendation from an occupational therapist and get the right weight for the elderly.
Soothes symptoms of Panic Disorder
Panic disorder is an anxiety disorder that occurs when individuals experience recurring and sudden attacks of panic or fear. It can literally stop life on its tracks. Panic disorder patients know that it can occur at any time and the symptoms associated with it can have a toll order on the patients. In some patients, the occurrence of panic disorder may be due to stressful events.
Panic disorder medications are available that help patients feel calm and relaxed. However, natural remedies are also available for the treatment of the condition. A natural way of soothing panic disorder symptoms that has other health benefits is the use of weighted blankets.
A weighted blanket is able to reduce the occurrence of panic attacks because its firm and gentle pressure on the body stimulates the production of serotonin and dopamine which are responsible for a calm, relaxed state of mind and body. This body state results in much needed quality sleep. A research study shows that people who sleep under a weighted blanket wake up feeling less anxious and refreshed.
Are the Health Benefits of Weighted Blankets Guaranteed?
You might have tried a weighted blanket before but still don’t see the results as alleged. However, according to a study published on the Journal of Occupational Therapy in Mental Health, 78% of patients suffering from anxiety prefer to use a weighted blanket in the management of stress as opposed to using drugs and medication.
On rare occasions, the weighted blanket might not work depending on the condition that it is being used to treat. However, before trying out a weighted blanket for managing sleep-related conditions, seek a doctor’s recommendation. This is because only a doctor is able to know what kind of treating will work for your condition.
This guide has been inspired by several research studies carried out towards the use of weighted blankets to manage symptoms related to autism, PTSD, ADHD, fibromyalgia, OCD, panic disorder, restless leg syndrome, and sleep-related disorders such as depression, insomnia, and anxiety. The various studies and references used are listed at the end of this guide.
More Resources on Health Benefits of Weighted Blankets
Several research studies have been carried out to show the health benefits of weighted blankets. This section shows the resources that you can go through on the benefits that weighted blankets have for their users.
- Positive Effects of a Weighted Blanket on Insomnia
- Weighted Blankets and Sleep in Autistic Children—A Randomized Controlled Trial
- The Impact of Weighted Blankets on the Sleep and Sensory Experiences of Autistic Adults
- Positive Effects of a Weighted Blanket on Insomnia
- How to Know if Weighted Blankets Really Work
- Physiological Effects of Deep Touch Pressure on Anxiety Alleviation: The Weighted Blanket Approach