Weighing Up The Weighted Blanket
So we have all heard about these weighted blankets, but what is a weighted blanket and do they really have as many benefits as people make out? The idea of falling asleep in a tight embrace does sound very appealing, but does it just feel good? Or are there more things going on than simply comfort?
Firstly, there isn’t just one kind of weighted blanket. They come in different sizes, different weights, and of course, there are plenty of colours and styles to choose from. More and more companies are beginning to manufacture their own weighted blankets and the technology and science of the weighted blanket has greatly improved since becoming more commercially available. Originally, weighted blankets were used in medical settings for patients with severe anxiety, post traumatic stress disorder, autism, and other mental health conditions, but the benefits are now more widely known and understood.
The weight is added to each blanket with little beads or pellets made from plastic or glass and, depending on the quality of the blanket, the beads will be stitched into small sections to reduce the chance of a noisy or lumpy night’s sleep. Choosing the weight of your blanket is as simple as calculating what 10% of your body weight is. So if you weigh 70kg then you would need a blanket like this, which is 7kg, alternatively there are heavier blankets and lighter blankets for kids too.
So what about everyday use? There hasn’t been a great deal of clinical research into the effectiveness of weighted blankets specifically, to read more see https://www.health.harvard.edu/mind-and-mood/anxiety-and-stress-weighing-heavily-at-night-a-new-blanket-might-help. However, for some people a weighted blanket can be very successful in helping with anxiety and stress, particularly those who find they are struggling to sleep because of these conditions. Much like a tight hug or a firm swaddling can calm an unsettled baby or child, the weight of the blanket helps to calm the nervous system. When we are stressed or anxious our heart rate quickens as we are in a more “fight or flight” state, but being held firmly or hugged lowers our heart rate again and brings back a feeling of calm or “rest and digest”. This is part of a vein of therapy called, “Deep Pressure Stimulation,” which works to influence the nervous system in a more positive way, so that the “feel good” hormones, such as dopamine and serotonin are released and positively influence how we feel. To find out more see, https://www.appliedbehavioranalysisedu.org/what-is-deep-pressure-stimulation/.
People who suffer from conditions such as anxiety, stress, ADHD, autism, and some sleep disorders are likely to feel the benefits of sleeping under a weighted blanket, but every individual will experience a slightly different result, see https://www.pennmedicine.org/updates/blogs/health-and-wellness/2019/february/weighted-blankets. People with these conditions may want to discuss weighted blankets with their healthcare professional first. And this is because, of course, these conditions are never the same for any two people, and so treatments cannot be either.
The simple logic of the matter is, that weighted blankets can very effectively increase a sense of calm and ease, and everyone knows it’s much easier to sleep when feeling calm. Sleep, of course, is also extremely important and can be a strong indicator of other health issues or even influence the quality of our lives, but the importance of sleep requires its own blog post to be efficiently explained.At the end of the day, if you are laying in bed, staring at the ceiling and not falling asleep, then you would likely benefit from the warm embrace of a weighted blanket.