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Are you curious about the benefits of weighted blankets for insomnia, anxiety and a range of other conditions?
Whether you struggle with insomnia or bouts of anxiety or have a child with autism, the therapeutic benefits of a weighted blanket could prove a huge help.
Often described as akin to a gentle ‘hug’ weighted blankets have long been used in the autistic community as a natural therapeutic aid to help children calm down and sleep better.
Now more mainstream, you’ll find many people enjoying the benefits of weighted blankets for a range of conditions – from anxiety and insomnia to PTSD, Restless Legs Syndrome and Fibromyalgia.
How Do Weighted Blankets Work?
Filled with tiny glass or plastic beads, to give them extra weight, weighted blankets provide something called deep touch stimulation.
This gentle pressure helps stimulate the brain to release neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin – ‘feel-good’ hormones associated with improved mood and sleep.
This helps to sooth the nervous system and encourage more restful sleep.
What’s The Research?
Whilst research is still limited, this 2015 study suggests the benefits of a weighted blanket includes a ‘beneficial calming effect’ for those suffering from insomnia, whilst this one found that weighted blankets may help people in stressful conditions.
However, the benefits don’t stop there.
Here are 21 benefits of a weighted blanket ranging from relaxation and better sleep to the support of pain management.
21 Benefits Of A Weighted Blanket
1 – May Help Insomnia
According to the Sleep Health Foundation, (PDF) around 1 in 3 people have at least mild insomnia.
The gentle pressure of a weighted blanket can help calm the nervous system in readiness for sleep, by encouraging the release of serotonin; a natural mood enhancer. Serotonin naturally converts to melatonin, which helps your body relax and prepare for sleep.
This study also found weighted blankets helped participants to overall achieve a ‘calmer night’s sleep’.
2 – May Reduce Stress
Anxiety or stress can leave you feeling physically and mentally exhausted.
Utilising the deep touch pressure of a weighted blanket is thought to stimulate physiological effects that naturally relax the nervous system and induce restful sleep.
It’s similar to the act of cuddling or swaddling a baby, where the gentle contact or pressure provides a ‘grounding’ sense of security, safety and comfort.
3 – Promotes release of oxytocin
The gentle pressure of a weighted blanket is thought to stimulate the same reaction in your body as a hug.
Science has shown that the comforting physical touch of a hug, or cuddle, initiates the body to release ‘feel good’ hormones, such as oxytocin, which are linked with well-being.
4 – May Reduce Cortisol
As well as stimulate the body to release ‘happy hormones’, such as oxytocin, the physiological effects associated with weighted blankets and deep touch pressure are also thought to reduce the ‘stress hormone’ cortisol.
5 – Supports autism spectrum disorders
People with autism spectrum disorders find it more difficult to interact and communicate with other people. This can make the routine and expectations of everyday life challenging, placing increased pressure on the nervous system.
Interestingly, some of the earliest research on deep touch pressure was produced by Temple Grandin, a noted animal scientist, who was herself on the autistic spectrum. Grandin discovered that deep touch pressure benefited both herself and children with autism and ADHD, acting to both calm and reduce stimulating behaviours.
As a result, weighted blankets have been used as a calming, therapeutic aid in the autistic community for many years.
6 – May improves focus
Today’s mobile phone rich, media saturated society has been linked to children’s decreased ability to focus, especially in a classroom environment.
This study showed how the deep touch pressure of a weighted vest have helped children with attention deficit disorders focus up to 18% better.
7 – May Ease restless leg syndrome (RLS)
Restless leg syndrome (RLS) causes an irresistible urge to move the legs, often combined with a tingling or crawling sensation. Typically worse at night, it’s common for RLS to affect sleep.
Neurologists believe RLS may be linked to low levels of dopamine, a hormone deep touch pressure is thought to help the body release.
8 – Comforts people with Downs Syndrome
Children born with Down Syndrome have cognitive and growth impairments, which can make learning how to fit into society, in an independent way, emotionally and physically draining.
People with Downs Syndrome may benefit from the gentle, comforting stimulation of a weighted blanket, which helps calm the nervous system by encouraging the release of hormones linked with well-being and sleep.
9 – May reduce dental anxiety
Hands up if you hate visits to the dentist!
This study (PDF) found ‘…physiological evidence to support the positive clinical effects of DTP for reducing anxiety in dental environments.’
10 – Work naturally with the body
It’s estimated that up to 70 million Americans suffer from sleep disorders, many relying on prescription drugs to help them sleep.
Weighted blankets works in tandem with the rhythms of the body , encouraging the natural release of hormones linked with sleep.
11 – May Relieve Symptoms of Asperger’s
A neurological condition on the autism spectrum, many people with Asperger’s experience the world as overwhelming. This can lead to anxiety and poor sleep.
Whilst there a number of recognised therapies you can use to help manage the symptoms of Asperger’s Syndrome, using a weighted blankets for Asperger’s may help alleviate symptoms of anxiety and poor sleep.
12 – May Ease Fibromyalgia Pain
Fibromyalgia is thought to affect up to 10 million Americans. The pain and chronic fatigue associated with the condition can be debilitating. Whilst some sufferers have reported that the added pressure of a weighted blanket is too overwhelming, others have reported a huge relief in symptoms such as pain and insomnia.
This study also found that therapeutic touch reduced pain in people with fibromyalgia.
13 – Soothes menopause symptoms
Let’s face it, menopause isn’t fun. Symptoms include hot flashes, irritability and sleep disturbances. However, the therapeutic deep touch of a weighted blanket may help ease symptoms and lead to better sleep.
14 – May calm PTSD Symptoms
PTSD is not easy to live with and symptoms include anxiety, agitation and difficulty sleeping. The therapeutic deep touch pressure of a weighted blanket may help ease symptoms, including reducing cortisol levels at bedtime and promoting better sleep.
15 – May ease symptoms of dementia
Alzheimer’s and dementia sufferers often experience agitation and distress, as well as anxiety and disturbed sleep. This study showed how patients who used a weighted blanket demonstrated reduced distress and anxiety.
Always consult a medical professional if an older person suffers from an underlying medical condition, as a weighted blanket may not be safe to use. A weighted blanket should also not be used if a person is unable to move a blanket off themselves independently.
16 – Supports Immune System
The gentle pressure of a weighted blanket is thought to stimulate the brain to release neurotransmitters, such as oxytocin. Oxytocin has been shown to play an important role in regulation of the immune system.
This study also found that hugging may reduce the chance a person has of getting sick.
17 – Comforts symptoms of depression
According to The National Institute of Mental Health millions of adults in the United States are diagnosed with depression every year.
Whilst depression requires professional help and treatment, the therapeutic benefits associated with weighted blankets may lead to an increased sense of calm and peace in depression sufferer.
This lady, a registered psychologist who suffers from depression, found a weighted blanket helped improve both her mood and sleep.
18 – May Support Symptoms of ADHD
Many children with attention deficit disorder, or ADHD, have trouble calming down or regulating their emotions themselves.
Using the calming effect of a weighted blanket on the nervous system may help children with ADHD to relax and sleep better. Weighted blankets (or a smaller weighted lap pad) may also be used during the day to help a child with ADHD settle down.
Always keep in mind that weighted blankets should never be used with infants or toddlers, as they may pose a safety risk.
19 – Feels like a warm hug!
Many people liken the feeling of a weighted blanket to a comforting, warm hug. Scientific research has long shown how hugs have a positive effect on our health.
20 – May benefit heart health
The therapeutic ‘hug’ of a weighted blanket may also help heart health.
One study found that couples who held hands for 10 minutes, followed by a 20-second hug, showed greater reductions in blood pressure levels and heart rate than romantic partners who sat in silence for 10 minutes and 20 seconds. These findings suggest that hugs (which release the ‘feel good’ hormone oxytocin) may benefit heart health.
21 – May Make You Happier!
The deep touch stimulation of a weighted blanket is thought to help the body release the hormone oxytocin, the same hormone released during a physical hug. Oxytocin is sometime referred to as the ‘cuddle hormone’ and is associated with happiness and less stress.
More and more people are turning to the therapeutic deep touch pressure of weighted blankets.
In fact, research suggests a weighted blanket helps the brain release neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine, which naturally sooth the nervous system and encourage restorative sleep.
The benefits of weighted blankets range from helping insomnia and soothing pain to easing the symptoms associated with a wide range of conditions.
If you think you might want to try a weighted blanket, here’s how to choose one.