The therapeutic effects of weighted blankets are loved by many fitful sleepers and individuals suffering from insomnia. Initially intended as a medical tool, nowadays they’re commonly used as a source of stress relief. Here’s all you need to know about them.
What’s a Weighted Blanket?
As the name suggests, a weighted blanket is a heavier version of a duvet that’s filled with pellets or beads made of plastic, glass, or metal. Some brands add cotton to the mix to maintain the feeling of a traditional duvet while others focus exclusively on the weight of the blanket and use sand to fill it up. It usually comes as one piece, although there’s also the two-piece option that comes with an inner weighted layer and an outer cover, which is softer, lighter, and varies in terms of colors and designs. Both parts are generally washable though the all-in-one version of the blanket takes longer to dry.
Unlike an everyday duvet, a weighted blanket is sized to an individual’s body rather than made to hang off the bed. That’s because it’s meant to apply even pressure on the body to bring about the health benefits it’s known for. Options for adults range between five to 30 pounds while those for children are much lighter.
How Do Weighted Blankets Work?
Occupational therapists first used weighted blankets as part of a therapeutic technique called Deep Pressure Stimulation (DPS) aimed at relaxing the nervous system. This type of therapy was initially intended for the treatment of children with autism; however, over the years, research has found its benefits to be effective in individuals with different types of sensory issues, both young and adults.
People with sensory processing disorders tend to experience frequent anxiety attacks that lead to high levels of stress and sleepless nights. Autistic children share similar symptoms with those individuals, hence the similarity in their treatment methods. The deep touch pressure that a weighted blanket applies to the body stimulates the production of serotonin, a feel-good hormone, and reduces the level of the stress hormone cortisol in the blood.
This results in individuals feeling safe, relaxed, and comfortable, and able to sleep through the night. While research is still in the initial stages, current findings are promising. They support the use of weighted blankets as a therapeutic tool for adults and children suffering from a variety of conditions, such as chronic pain disorders and insomnia, and psychological disorders, including autism and depression.
What Are the Benefits of Weighted Blankets?
The health benefits of using a weighted blanket are directly related to those of DPS. The gentle pressure that’s applied to the body can help lower and manage the symptoms of several conditions that have stress and anxiety as the main culprits. Whether you’re feeling stressed, experiencing anxiety, or struggling with insomnia, sleeping with a weighted blanket on could provide you with the source of relaxation, you need to enjoy a restful night.
People with chronic pain conditions, restless leg syndrome, or even ADHD have been shown to benefit from the use of a weighted blanket though further research is still needed to confirm a direct correlation between the tool and the conditions. Neverlethess, the positive results have been attributed to the stimulated production of serotonin in the brain, which can make people feel calmer, soothed, and relaxed, helping them ease into their sleep.
What Type of Weighted Blanket Should I Get?
There are many different types of weighted blankets on the market, which means it’s worth taking the time to search for the best one for you. If you don’t know where to start, check out our shopping guide and top picks over at Review Geek.
As we mentioned above, they tend to be fitted to an individual’s body size, but there are also larger versions that can match the length and width of your mattress. The important thing is that it doesn’t hang off the bed as that would prevent it from providing you with its soft pressure evenly all over your body.
As a rule of thumb, adults should opt for a blanket that’s 10 percent of their body weight and, when in doubt, always choose the next highest option available. You should select the fabric and the content of the blanket according to your preferences and needs considering certain fabrics can cause skin irritation, and certain materials can cause you discomfort. Blankets with sand, for instance, tend to be the cheapest. However, they take longer to dry, and they’re not the most comfortable as the grains of sand don’t usually distribute evenly around the entire surface area.
Lastly, people who suffer from obstructive sleep apnea, asthma, and claustrophobia should avoid this type of linen as it might make it even more challenging for them to breathe well throughout the night and disrupt their sleep. Similarly, weighted blankets are not recommended for infants or young children, as it might increase the risk of suffocation.
Although they were initially intended to be a medical device, weighted blankets have proven to be an effective sleep aid for people with sensory issues and even those who are sensitive to stress and anxiety. Choosing the right one for you requires a little bit of time, effort, and money, but if you believe your body could benefit from its use, then it’s certainly worth the effort.