If you’re the kind of person who loves a reassuring hug (And who doesn’t?), then you might be interested in knowing more about weighted blankets. Some people simply like the feeling they provide. But for others, it can be very important – even vital – to their mental health. Here’s the scoop on what these blankets are, and how they might be able to help people with issues such as insomnia, post-traumatic stress disorder, autism and anxiety.
What is a Weighted Blanket?
Weighted blankets are a bit heavier than a normal blanket. They evenly distribute this extra weight, applying small amounts of pressure to different areas of the body. Many people compare the sensation of using a weighted blanket to receiving a hug.
Now, there are different types of blankets available and when choosing one that’s right for you, body weight is the most important factor to keep in mind.1 Whether you’re just looking for a good night’s sleep or using weighted blankets as a part of an occupational therapy program, body weight is key. The trick is to choose a blanket that’s anywhere from 5 to 10 percent of your weight.2As an example, the average adult will benefit most from a blanket that weighs anywhere between 15 and 30 pounds.3
Benefits of Weighted Blankets for Anxiety
One of the main reasons why weighted blankets are gaining in popularity is the principle of Deep Touch Pressure, or DTP. The most obvious example of DTP is when you go to the spa to get a massage. According to research, DTP promotes the release of a chemical known as serotonin. This chemical provides a feeling of relaxation and calm.4
Studies indicate that DTP in the form of a weighted blanket can be a great help to people suffering from anxiety disorders. For example, one study found that about 33 percent of participants who used the blanket showed a decrease in nervous system activity. In addition, more than 60 percent of the people who took part in the study reported lower levels of anxiety. Even more impressive was the fact that almost 80 percent of participants said they would turn to a weighted blanket in order to help bring relief from their anxiety symptoms.5
Weighted Blankets Could Also Improve Quality of Sleep
One of the most important benefits of a weighted blanket could be an improvement in the quality of sleep. In one study, a group of participants used a weighted blanket while sleeping. The other used a traditional blanket. According to the results, the group using the weighted blanket said their sleep was more comfortable and deeper than normal. The group members using the blanket also said they moved far less frequently during sleep than normal.6
Weighted blankets can also help people suffering from mental issues so severe that they need to undergo occupational therapy. Many patients suffering from serious mental problems often need to be restrained in bed. However, when wrapped in a weighted blanket, those restraints are no longer necessary.7
Researchers believe the reason why weighted blankets are so effective when it comes to sleep is they mimic the experience of being swaddled. Many people feel like they are in a “cocoon” of sorts, much as they were when they were small children. This and the feeling of security this type of blanket offers can promote high-quality sleep by helping the body and mind relax.8
Other Methods of Battling Anxiety
In addition to trying a weighted blanket, there are other non-drug related methods of fighting feelings of anxiety.
Here are some options to consider.
- Lemon balm – This is a calming herb that may reduce anxiety and stress. It can be used topically, made into a tea, or taken in capsule form as a supplement.9
- Lavender Oil – Lavender and other essential oils can often promote a sense of calmness in someone suffering from problems related to anxiety. One study involved two groups of women who were experiencing anxiety before undergoing a medical procedure. One group inhaled lavender oil vapor and the other did not. The group who used lavender reported a greater feeling of calm than the non-lavender inhaling group.10
- Laughing – Simply laughing more can slow down the production of cortisol, also referred to as “the stress hormone.” According to one study, laughing more not only reduces cortisol but it may also help improve short-term memory.11
A Concluding Note
There are no indications that using a weighted blanket is in any way dangerous. If you’re battling anxiety, talk to your doctor and see if they agree that it would be beneficial for you to try out.
For more health wisdom from Eastern philosophies and the Urban Monk, keep reading here: