With that said, many have found comfort and respite from anxiety and other disorders by using a weighted blanket. Below, we’ll dive into the benefits of weighted blankets, how they work, and what health conditions they may ameliorate.
How Do Weighted Blankets Work?
Weighted blankets feature a filling that’s—you guessed it—weighted. Some are filled with poly or metal filling, but blankets like the Layla Weighted Blanket, for example, feature glass beads. The beads are tiny and sewn in between layers of the blanket. No matter the kind of fill you choose, they’re strategically lined up so the weight is evenly distributed across your body.
Weighted blankets work in a way that is similar to an occupational therapy strategy called deep touch pressure therapy or DTP .
What’s Deep Touch Pressure Therapy?
Before you can understand why DTP works for certain people, it’s important to understand how your body works to process anxiety. The sympathetic nervous system (SNS) acts as your body’s integrated alarm bells. For example, when you miss a deadline at work or get into a fender bender during your commute, these types of situations typically set off your body’s alert system.
With that said, it’s normal to feel stressed. Stress is your body’s evolutionary response to danger—it was imperative for early humans to feel stress to react appropriately to danger. But cavemen didn’t have to handle feelings of FOMO after seeing all their friends at a party or panic after realizing they didn’t pay their taxes on time. Our stresses these days consist of more subtle and potentially more numerous sources beyond the neighborhood saber-toothed tiger.
But while stress is a natural reaction to worrying situations, it can take over and cause long term feelings of fatigue, anxiety, and irritability. As a result, you might not sleep as well and your digestive system might go on the fritz.
Your parasympathetic nervous system (PSNS ) is the opposite of the sympathetic nervous system. You can think of your sympathetic nervous system (SNS) as the underlying cause of your flight or flight response when faced with a trying situation. Your PSNS helps to conserve your body’s energy by moving it back toward homeostasis. It’s what brings you some calm to both your body and mind after a period of stress. The physical effects of your PSNS include a slowed heart rate, relaxed muscles, and improved blood circulation.
When you put pressure on the body in the form of DTP, it can promote the activation of the parasympathetic nervous system. It may lead to an increase in endorphins in your brain, which are also the hormones released when you get that “runner’s high.” Neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin also get released, bringing about a sense of peace and well-being.
While it’s possible to practice DTP with just manual hand pressure, it’s a little easier to get the same effects from a weighted blanket. Plus, it’s nearly impossible to give yourself DTP, but with a weighted blanket, you can get all the same benefits.
So, what are weighted blankets used for? They can be used as a therapeutic practice for a variety of health conditions that we will explore below.
Weighted Blankets for Anxiety
Anxiety can be paralyzing for some adults and children. Like stress, anxiety is normal to feel once in a while, but when it’s a chronic issue, it can cause serious issues. It manifests in different ways but can cause:
- Rapid breathing
- Rapid heart rate
- Feelings of dread
- Gastrointestinal distress
- Avoidance of triggers
- Obsessive behavior.
It can become more serious and escalate to a panic attack, where the body goes into its most extreme form of fight or flight mode.
There are a variety of methods to treat anxiety like talk therapy and medication, but one of the simplest ways to do so is by using a weighted blanket. A weighted blanket alone is unlikely to solve serious anxiety issues but for mild anxiety-inducing days, it can help your emotions and thoughts under control and your body to a place of calm.
In one study, researchers examined how effective a 30-pound weighted blanket would be for adults with anxiety. 63% of participants in the study exhibited lower physical manifestations of stress and anxiety after using the blanket. This is one of the main benefits of weighted blankets, a comforting physical weight that lessens some of your mental weight.
Weighted Blankets for Insomnia
A study published in the Journal of Sleep Medicine and Disorders found that the calming effects of a weighted blanket helped patients fall asleep and sleep more deeply through the night. Research has suggested that sleep and anxiety are closely intertwined. When you don’t sleep enough, it can trigger anxious feelings. And if you’re feeling anxious, you might not be able to wind down enough to actually fall asleep.
A weighted blanket is a one-two punch that reduces anxiety so you can fall asleep.
Weighted Blankets for Restless Legs Syndrome
Restless legs syndrome, or RLS, is characterized by the urge to move your legs, usually occurring in tandem with sensations like crawling, itching, cramping, burning, numbness, tingling, or pain. One way to counter the annoying sensations of RLS is by providing your brain with “counter stimulation” in the form of a weighted blanket. It can help counteract and neutralize those prickly feelings in leg muscles, allowing you to sleep without frustrating interruptions from RLS.
There’s also some research that anxiety and restless leg syndrome are connected to one another. So, a weighted blanket can serve to quell those anxious thoughts in addition to any pain or tingling.
Weighted Blankets for Sensory Processing Disorder
People with sensory processing disorders receive sensory information but can’t process it in a normal way. Sight, sounds, texture, smells, taste, and movement perception can all be affected. Many children on the autism spectrum have issues with sensory stimuli and may have a sensory processing disorder. The Applied Behavioral Analysis describes the effects of deep-pressure stimulation provided by regular use of weighted blankets:
- Sense of calm
- A decrease in overall anxiety
- Increase in happiness
- Better social interactions
- Increased communicativeness
- Improved sleep
- Lower sensitivity to touch
- Decrease in self-injury
Weighted Blankets for ADHD
ADHD sufferers deal with overstimulation and distraction caused by the environment around them. Studies have shown the promise of weighted blankets to calm and organize the central nervous system. With that said, a note of caution, the use of weighted blankets for children should always be monitored. Infants and other young children should never be under a weighted blanket.
In most cases, a weighted blanket should be around 10% of the sleeper’s body weight. A woman weighing 150 pounds, for example, would want a weighted blanket around 15 pounds— sometimes a little more, sometimes a little less.
Other Benefits of Weighted Blankets
Babies enjoy the security and feeling of being swaddled. It’s a successful way of calming an infant that’s been practiced for thousands of years. You might be surprised that for most people, the feeling and desire to cuddle or be hugged never goes away. Of course, you might not always have a hug or cuddle from another person handy when you need it most. The comfort and soothing nature of a weighted blanket can deliver that experience and may even help you calm down from a stressful event.
Layla Sleep Weighted Blanket: Take a Load Off
Sleep doesn’t always come easy. If you deal with anxiety or sensory issues, it’s important to discuss your medical treatment with a doctor. In tandem with your doctor’s advice, a weighted blanket from Layla Sleep may offer respite from chronic sleeplessness. Offered in twin, queen, and king sizes, the Layla Weighted Blanket is the perfect addition to any bedroom. Shrug off the stress of the day and enjoy the comforting weight of a blanket designed to help you relax and fall into a deep sleep. Don’t you feel more relaxed, already?