Can A Weighted Blanket Change Your Life?
With weighted blankets becoming increasingly popular as a holistic way to treat stress, anxiety and sleep issues, we take a deeper look at what they are and how they can help improve wellbeing.
What is a weighted blanket?
Weighted blankets are a type of heavy blanket being touted in wellness circles as potential remedies for several issues including anxiety and insomnia, as well as sensory processing difficulties and attention disorders and autism. Typically weighing anywhere from 3 – 30 pounds and filled with heavy beads or pellets, weighted blankets are designed as a therapeutic aid and to enhance wellbeing.
How do they work?
It’s thought that the extra weight and pressure from the blanket mimics a therapeutic technique called deep pressure stimulation. A firm but gentle pressure that can include stroking, hugging and squeezing, it’s thought to help relax the nervous system, increase endorphin levels and trigger the release of happy hormones such as serotonin and dopamine.
How do they help with sleep issues?
A weighted blanket can help improve sleep quality by stimulating serotonin. As well as providing you with feelings of calm and comfort, this important chemical is instrumental in establishing good sleep habits. That’s because serotonin stimulates parts of the brain that are responsible for sleep and the production of melatonin, a hormone that is essential for getting much-needed shut eye. According to The Sleep Council, the feeling of safety and security you get from being physically weighed down by the blanket also promotes the production of the feel-good hormone oxytocin which can relieve pain, reduce stress levels, help alleviate depression and help maintain a healthy immune system. It can also help you sleep better at night by encouraging feelings of safety and security. While weighted blankets can be a great sleep aid, it’s important to still maintain good basic sleep hygiene, so stick to regular bedtimes, avoid stimulants that impede sleep and aim to reduce screen time before bed.
How can they help reduce anxiety?
As well as helping to improve sleep, research shows that weighted blankets might also help reduce feelings of anxiety thanks to the grounding effect of deep pressure therapy, which can help lower night-time levels of cortisol. As part of our normal diurnal rhythm, cortisol levels rise naturally in the morning and are at their highest at around 7am. Under normal circumstances these levels then begin to drop, reaching an all-time low in the evening as we prepare to sleep. When we experience chronic low-level stress, our stress response to stays activated and these cortisol levels stay high. High cortisol levels have a clear impact not only feelings of stress and anxiety but on sleep, gut health, our immune system and even our skin and hair.
Can everyone use them?
While most people can benefit from the therapeutic help of a weight blanket, there are certain people who should seek professional medical advice before using one or should steer clear. That includes children under 12, those with obstructive sleep apnoea, asthma and claustrophobia.