What makes you feel most cozy and secure? You aren’t alone if the answer is returning to bed with a big blanket overtop of you. As humans, we crave connections and physical intimacy, and few things can replicate that feeling better than a weighted blanket.
Whether you’re looking for a natural way to treat your anxiety, a simple solution for soothing an autistic child, or just want to explore a better way to help you and your baby unwind each night, a weighted blanket might provide the solution you are looking for.
What Is A Weighted Blanket?
Just as you’d expect, weighted blankets are specially designed to be heavier than the standard comforter or quilt. These blankets typically weight between four and 30 pounds, and they are often filled with natural materials or plastic beads, giving them a similar texture to beanie baby toys.
This extra weight adds warmth and gentle pressure to the blanket, which mimics the feeling of being held when you wrap it overtop of you. As a result, weighted blankets can improve people’s moods, combat anxiety, soothe sensory disorders like autism, treat insomnia and more.
The Benefits Of Deep Touch Pressure
We all crave the feeling of physical connection- it’s programmed directly into our nervous system.
Deep Touch Pressure (DTP) is the technical term for the soothing feeling of gentle, distributed weight against your body. For anyone who feels like they aren’t getting enough tactile attention each day, DTP can provide relief and help you to feel calmer, healthier and more relaxed.
This gentle pressure acts as a calming force that can reduce activity in the sympathetic sections of the Autonomic Nervous System (ANS) in ways that increase your endorphin production and decrease your heart rate. The process also releases calming neurochemicals like serotonin and dopamine into your bloodstream to boost your mood. In this way, DTP is an effective natural remedy for anxiety disorders, chronic stress, and sleep insomnia.
It’s possible to experience the benefits of DTP from a gentle massage, hugging, snuggling with a partner, body pillows, or from a weighted blanket. In fact, weighted blankets were initially developed to reduce the stress levels of children and adults with sensory disorders.
8 Benefits Of Weighted Blankets
Feeling skeptical that a heavier blanket will make much difference for your quality of life? These benefits of weighted blankets might convince you otherwise.
1. Reduces Anxiety
No matter your age, a weighted blanket is a safe way to lower your stress level and help you reach a relaxed state. A study that looked at the effectiveness of 30-pound weighted blankets found that two-thirds of participants reported lower levels of anxiety after wrapping themselves in one.
Research reveals that weighted blankets might be especially useful during high-stress events, like visiting the dentist. One study showed that weighted blankets produced physiological changes in dental patient’s nervous systems, causing them to calm down before their appointments.
Since research shows that even short periods of DTP can calm you down, consider keeping a blanket on hand for when you need quick relief.
2. Fights Insomnia
You might be skeptical that a better blanket will improve your sleep, but the evidence shows that it certainly can. A study on insomnia patients found that those who tried sleeping with a weighted blanket experienced less restlessness at night and an easier time falling asleep in the first place.
The soothing effect of a weighted blanket can create a more comfortable environment for falling asleep by imitating the feeling of being swaddled tightly in bed. This close physical connection provides a sense of warmth and safety, making it easier for the body to relax.
Weighted blankets are also known to increase serotonin levels. Serotonin is partly responsible for your body’s melatonin levels, which is the chemical that tells your body when it’s time to go to sleep.
3. Reduce Pre-Sleep Stress
Wrapping yourself in a weighted blanket before relaxing may reduce your cortisol production, a stress hormone that typically triggers the “fight or flight response” in your body. Too much cortisol production adds stress to your immune system, raises your blood sugar levels, and reduces the effectiveness of your digestive system.
However, studies show that “grounding” your body in place as you sleep with a weighted blanket can reduce cortisol production as you sleep, making it easier to get higher quality relaxation and lower your risk of waking up stressed, tired, or in pain in the morning.
4. Triggers Release Of Feel-good Hormones
Deep pressure touch triggers the release of neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin, which are two major feel-good hormones for your brain. Both these beneficial compounds can combat stress, depression, and anxiety, leaving you with an emotional pick-me-up after a quick snuggle session.
5. Calms Down The Nervous System
In addition to the neurochemical changes they create, weighted blankets also improve the functioning of the nervous system, meaning that covering yourself with one is an effective way to physically calm down and reduce unwanted restlessness.
6. Improves Classroom Behavior
Children who have ADHD often struggle to sit in their seats during the school day, but embracing DTP in the classroom can significantly enhance their concentration and performance. Further research shows that providing children with the security of the extra sensory stimulation of a weighted blanket can also improve fine motor skills like writing, especially for Autistic children.
For a more portable solution, consider letting your child try wearing a weighted vest to school. You might be amazed at the difference it makes.
7. Soothes Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder
One of the most effective ways to alleviate the symptoms of OCD is to improve your serotonin production, either through medication or natural methods. Weighted blankets are a proven way to increase your serotonin levels, meaning that they can calm your mind to free you from your compulsions.
Best of all, weighted blankets work well for combating all conditions caused by low serotonin levels, including bipolar disorder, PTSD, and aggression.
8. Mimics A Hug
The medical benefits of regular hugging are well studied, and a weighted blanket can give you similar feelings. Hugs and heavy blankets alike can trigger the release of oxytocin, a hormone that slows down your heart rate, reduces blood pressure, and promotes feelings of relaxation.
Who Should Not Use A Weighted Blanket?
Despite their impressive health benefits, weighted blankets aren’t for everyone. Since most models will keep you warmer than a regular blanket, they can pose health risks for people who are sensitive to temperature changes for any reason.
If you have a chronic heart condition, have circulation issues, respiration issues, problems regulating your temperature or are going through menopause, it’s best to discuss things with your doctor before trying a weighted blanket.
How Heavy Should A Weighted Blanket Be?
The best weight for your weighted blanket depends on several factors. Some blanket manufacturers recommend that adults choose blankets that weigh between five to ten percent of their body weight, while children can benefit from blankets that weigh about ten percent of their weight, plus a few extra pounds.
The use you plan to put your weighted blanket to and the severity of your symptoms will also make a difference in the size you need. For instance, some people get significant benefits from relatively lightweight lap blankets, while others require a heavy full body blanket to feel any better.
If you aren’t sure what kind of weighted blanket is best for your needs, be sure to check in with a doctor or occupational therapist to receive some expert advice.
Choosing The Right Weighted Blanket
Ready to try a weighted blanket for yourself? These blankets can be a bit of an investment, so it’s best to do your research beforehand so that you purchase the right type for you.
When buying a blanket, it’s often best to choose one made from all-natural fibers, like a 100 percent cotton blanket. This 15 lb cotton weighted blanket by Amy Garden and available on Amazon is the number one best seller and best reviewed. Check the price on Amazon here.
Polyester and other synthetic fibers often don’t breathe as well, but they can work well for smaller blankets not meant for night use, like this weighted lap pad. If you’re feeling crafty, you can also sew your own weighted blanket and stuff it with plastic Poly Pellets to your preferred weight.
Regarding size, it’s best to choose a blanket that’s slightly smaller than your bed so that it sits directly on top of the bed. Otherwise, you risk it falling off the side.
The quality of the filling material matters as well. Many companies rely on natural materials like rice or barley, but these plant-derived substances can break down over time and trigger allergies in some people. A popular option is to choose a blanket filled with a plastic filling instead (make sure it is BPA free) that won’t trigger your allergies.
Ready To Relax? Try a Weighted Blanket Today!
No matter what weighted blanket you choose to use, you’ll likely be surprised how quickly it works to calm your heart rate and soothe away your anxiety. Millions of people can attest, once you begin using a weighted blanket for stress relief, you aren’t likely to go back.