Many people have found that weighted blankets are a valuable addition to the range of options for anxiety relief and for improving their nightly sleep. Research suggests that weighted blankets can help people with autism, anxiety, and insomnia, as well as other conditions.
In this post, we discuss the ins and outs of how weighted blankets work, as well as the advantages and potential risks or side effects of using weighted blankets in your home.
Benefits of Sleeping Under Weight
Weighted blankets provide many health benefits, such as helping to alleviate stress and improve your sleep.
Weighing between five and 30 pounds, therapeutic blankets such as weighted blankets can assist people who are dealing with anxiety, depression, and insomnia. The additional weight on top of the patient feels similar to a therapeutic massage called deep pressure touch or deep pressure massage.
Weighted blankets calm the sympathetic nervous system, which is in charge of our fight or flight response. When using the weighted blanket, the deep touch pressure signals the brain that you are safe from harm’s way, and so the brain slows its cortisol production.
Cortisol in the brain creates rapid breathing and heart rate; when cortisol production decreases, the brain uses that time to increase serotonin production.
An increase in serotonin production while we sleep will give us a much better night’s sleep, and the added serotonin will help us feel happy and stabilize our mood throughout the next day.
Continued use of a weighted blanket can mean a better night’s sleep and better days ahead.
Melatonin is the sleep hormone. Our bodies produce it naturally, and its production begins to increase as it starts to get dark outside. However, cortisol in the brain can interrupt this production, making it harder for us to fall asleep quickly and even rest well.
The Sympathetic Nervous System
Weighted blankets signal the sympathetic nervous system, the system in charge of our physical response to our environment and situations, to calm and relax. As soon as the sympathetic system is disengaged, our body begins producing serotonin and can also start its natural melatonin production without interruption. Which can help improve your mood, alleviate pain, and help to lower your anxiety naturally.
During deep pressure massage, the therapist uses hands-on pressure to relax the sympathetic nervous system. This same nervous system disarmament occurs when an appropriate weight blanket is applied to the body’s core.
Although weighted blankets offer the same pressure as being swaddled or wrapped in a big hug, the force of the weighted blanket varies from person to person.
Who Could Benefit from the Use of a Weighted Blanket?
People who have low muscle tone in their arms and legs might find a weighted blanket beneficial.
Research has taken a look at weighted blankets' effectiveness for several different conditions. Despite the need for further investigation, findings to date have supported the following advantages:
Insomnia and Sleep Disorders
The findings of a randomized, controlled study show that participants who used a weighted blanket for four weeks straight reported significant improvements in lowering their levels of insomnia. Participants also experienced an increased activity level during the day and were able to stay asleep during their entire planned sleep session. They also had a lower occurrence of fatigue, anxiety, and depression upon waking.
In terms of getting a good night's sleep, weighted blankets appear to be especially helpful. The average participants in a recent study were twenty-six times more likely to experience a 50% or more significant reduction in the severity of their insomnia.
Participants in the weighted blanket group were also twenty times more likely to experience their insomnia in remission. The participants maintained these positive results during a twelve-month time period in which a follow-up was completed.
The well-known Temple Grandin was one of the first to study the effects of deep pressure touch on an individual with autism. Using herself as the test subject, by the age of 19, she had built what she deemed her first “hug machine.”
She came across the science of deep touch pressure while studying how animals with higher intelligence responded to deep touch pressure to calm them. In one 1990 case, reported findings showed that deep touch pressure produced a calming effect in children with psychiatric issues.
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder
Due to the limited number of studies that directly study the use of ADHD patience and weighted blankets, it is essential to consider whether other kinds of weighted garments could also yield similar results. Using weighted vests, researchers in this study found that weighted clothing and vests have been successfully used in therapeutic applications with participants with ADHD to increase the participant’s ability to pay attention and reduce sporadic movements that are categorized as hyperactivity.
It was discovered that the patients who used the weighted vest while engaged in long-term testing saw promising results. Participants noticed that the children were better at staying on task, no longer leaving their seats, or engaging in other fidgety activities. They also increased the child’s speed of processing and responding.
In addition, there is further research that supports the claim that weighted blanket therapy for sleep issues associated with ADHD also helps with sleep issues caused by anxiety.
One of the primary purposes of using a weighted blanket is to deal with anxiety. Results from past studies indicate that deep pressure touch may help decrease autonomic arousal. The arousal, in this case, is responsible for the symptoms of anxiety, such as a higher heart rate.
The studies found that in approximately 33% of the participants, using a weighted blanket significantly reduced their individual anxieties.
Is There a Risk of Injury When Using a Weighted Blanket?
For adults, there are virtually no risks involved with using a weighted blanket. However, using a weighted blanket is not suggested for children under the age of four years old, as it could increase the likelihood of suffocation. However, anecdotal evidence and expert opinion contradict these claims. You should always consult your pediatrician before using a weighted blanket. However, being confident that you chose the correct weight for your body helps avoid these risks.
What Weight Should You Choose?
Knowing the right weight is essential when it comes to sleeping comfortably and soundly with a weighted blanket.
No more than 10% of your body weight should be considered the limit of what you can comfortably support with a weighted blanket. The weighted blanket should fit snugly around the body in addition to being weighted.
- For adults — You can try a medium-sized to a large-sized weighted blanket when it comes to weight. These range in weight from 11 to 30 pounds, depending on your body’s exact weight.
- For children — If your child weighs between 20 and 70 pounds, a kid’s sized weighted blanket should weigh between three and eight pounds.
- For larger children and teens — A child or teen weighing between 30 and 130 pounds should have a medium-weight blanket that weighs between five and 15 pounds.
- For the elderly — To care for older adults, a variety of blankets in the weight range of five to eight pounds should be used.
How To Properly Acclimate To a Weighted Blanket
Unfortunately, most people’s bodies and nervous systems won’t let them sleep comfortably under a weighted blanket right away. It is best to take at least twenty-one days to get comfortable with using your weighted blanket.
- First Seven Days — For the first week, simply sleep with the weighted blanket over your legs. This will begin to get your body used to the weight. It may seem strange at first, but we promise that you will acclimate if you take your time.
- Day Eight to Twelve — After you have mastered feeling comfortable with the weighted blanket over your legs, you can bring it up and sleep with it, covering half your body.
- Day Thirteen to Twenty-One — If you feel comfortable enough to keep the blanket on half the body for a few more days, pull the weighted blanket up to your chin and allow your arms to rest beneath it. Be sure to remove your comforter at this point so you don’t overheat.
Weighted Blankets for a Light as a Feather Sleep
In conclusion, weighted blankets are popular among people suffering from pain, anxiety, and sleep disorders. Weighted blankets provide a type of treatment that can be maintained in the home and in your bed that can have similar benefits as regular exposure to deep pressure therapy.
Several studies and clinical tests performed on these blankets have produced positive results for various ailments, including autism, ADHD, insomnia, and anxiety. They help calm a restless body, decrease feelings of anxiety, and help to improve sleep disturbances.
Are you looking for the right weighted blanket for you or members of your family? At Luna, we offer various sizes and styles and fabrics to help you choose the weighted blanket that is perfect for someone you love or as a treat for yourself. Kiss long nights and exhausting days goodbye with the help of a weighted blanket.