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20 Benefits of Weighted Blanket Therapy

Posted by Jeanie Davis on

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It’s yet another night of tossing & turning… just can’t get comfortable… can’t get to sleep. Maybe the day’s stresses keep running through your mind… or maybe you just can’t settle down… too restless…

Insomnia is a vexing problem, isn’t it? You might sip a bit of chamomile tea, and that might help. Turn on some relaxing music… take a hot bath… every trick you can think of, but you still don’t get to sleep easily… or you wake up at 3 am, cursing the alarm clock.

Trying to find the right solution, you discovered the therapeutic blanket, aka, weighted blankets. A heavy therapy blanket has helped many people who have sleep problems.

Also referred to as a pressure blanket, gravity blanket or more simply a weighted blanket. It was initially created to help people with sensory processing disorders like autism, as a non-medicated and natural form of therapy to help ease their anxieties or to calm them down when stressed.

The heavy therapy blanket creates a sense of being swaddled. The physical connection that you feel provides warmth and security, helping the body relax.

Weighted blankets have been used to reduce or manage the symptoms of:

  • Sleep disorders
  • Nervous disorders
  • Mood disorders like depression and anxiety
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and panic disorder
  • Restless Leg Syndrome
  • Arthritis, fibromyalgia, and pain
  • General stress

Research shows that weighted blanket therapy creates a type of physical connection that has an abundance of positive effects on hormones governing the nervous system, affecting both mood and stress level.

Weighted Blanket Benefits

#1 - Enhances Oxytocin:

The pressure from a weighted blanket is similar to a hug, which provides warmth and a sense of security. As research shows, a hug releases the hormone oxytocin in the body which helps create a feeling of relaxation, so you feel at ease. Oxytocin also slows the heart and reduces blood pressure, prompting the body to relax, resulting in improved sleep.

#2 - Releases Dopamine & Serotonin:

A weighted blanket provides a gentle yet deep pressure that goes deep within the body. Researchers have found that this “deep touch pressure stimulation” or “proprioceptive pressure” promotes the release of two brain chemicals -- dopamine and serotonin which have a calming effect that combats anxiety, stress, and depression.

#3 - Reduces Cortisol:

A therapeutic weighted blanket helps ground your body during sleep which may deeply enhance the calming effect. Studies show that grounding may help reduce nighttime levels of cortisol, a stress hormone that has a negative effect on blood sugar, digestion, and immunity.

#4 - Boosts Melatonin:

When the weighted blanket stimulates serotonin, melatonin hormones are also released -- promoting sleep and helping regulate the sleep cycle.

That’s the beauty of a weighted blanket. Overall, the blanket’s pressure provides a calming, soothing environment that is conducive to sleep, so the tense, anxious, restless person gets the sleep they need.

#5 - Puts insomnia to rest

Insomnia has a variety of patterns. Maybe you have trouble getting to sleep. Or you just can’t stay asleep, waking up in the wee hours -- much too early. It’s a problem many, many people face - but a weighted blanket can potentially help.

The best research comes from a 2015 study in the Journal of Sleep Medicine and Disorders. In this study, 31 adults with chronic insomnia had their sleep tracked for one week with their usual bedding. Then they slept for two weeks with a weighted blanket. The fourth week, they slept with their usual bedding again.

Overall, the participants indicated that they liked the weighted blanket. When using the weighted blankets, they were able to sleep longer and were less awake during the night. They were less restless before going to sleep when they used the weighted blanket. They also indicated they slept better and woke up feeling refreshed.

Researchers found that “when the participants used the weighted blanket, they had a calmer night’s sleep.” (1)

Psychologists say that the weighted material may be effective because it produces a light touch sensation whenever you move under the blanket. This may feel like a caress. The sensation may stimulate the release of hormones/brain chemicals that soothe the nervous system, reducing anxiety and arousal.

A weighted blanket may aid in reducing insomnia in this way, which makes the blanket an effective non-drug approach to improve sleep quality, researchers state. (2)

#6 - Reduces anxiety and restlessness

A sense of calm is necessary to drift off to sleep. Imagine feeling that calm effortlessly...

The deep touch pressure stimulation from a weighted blanket has been shown to produce a soothing effect that reduces anxiety. Because deep touch pressure provides this calming effect that aids sleep, the blanket also helps symptoms of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

Deep pressure stimulation helps with restlessness, which aids both adults and children with this common ADHD symptom -- and research shows it can help with their sleep problems as well.

In one study of 42 children, one-half had ADHD symptoms while the others did not. Their sleep was tracked by sleep testing and parent diaries for four weeks; for two weeks, they used a weighted blanket. The ADHD kids found that the weighted blanket reduced the time it took to fall asleep and the number of awakenings during the night. In fact, they slept just as well as the children without ADHD. (3)

#7 - Helps students focus


School can be challenging for a child with a sensory processing disorder like autism. The hallways and classrooms are overwhelming with noise and intense colors. This can be overwhelming for the child, causing frustration and upsets.

Over the years, educators and occupational therapists have encouraged the use of weighted vests and lap pads. Researchers believe that the firm yet gentle pressure helps relieve the child’s anxiety and keeps them focused; they also sleep better. (4)

#8 - Easing Restless Leg Syndrome


Nighttime is difficult if you have restless leg syndrome, as the tingling is often most apparent at night -- greatly impairing sleep. You may have difficulty traveling because you constantly feel the need to move your legs. It’s very troubling!

While compression socks provide some relief, they can actually become very uncomfortable if they are too tight. If you have arthritis, you may even have trouble putting the socks on your legs. With a weighted blanket, you get the relaxing pressure without constriction to the legs.

#9 - Relieves painful fibromyalgia

Fibromyalgia mostly affects women, and the pain can be very debilitating.

The disease is complex causing chronic muscle, ligament and tendon pain, fatigue and multiple tender points on the body. The aching muscles and chronic fatigue associated with fibromyalgia can make even everyday activities painful and difficult without medication.

A weighted blanket has helped patients prevent symptom flares due to the blanket’s gentle, firm pressure. This mild pressure also reduces anxiety and depression, improving sleep as well as the quality of life.

#10 - Eases pain

Many people say that a weighted blanket helps relieve pain, so they can stop the cycle of painkillers. There is also evidence that a weighted blanket helps relieve dental pain. (5)

A weighted blanket, aka ‘gravity blanket’, helps “ground” the body during sleep by pushing it downwards. This grounding may create the deeply calming effect that people report. Also, because the blankets simulate deep pressure touch, both chronic stress and anxiety are reduced.

A study in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine suggested that grounding the human body during sleep can help improve cortisol level, especially in women, which improved their sleep and reduced stress, insomnia, and pain. (6)

#11 - Improves sleep quality


Fatigue is often caused by poor quality of sleep. You get some sleep, night after night, but you don’t get truly restorative sleep. This is so evident when you wake up tired -- as you have not benefited from the proper type of sleep!

A weighted blanket can help improve sleep quality. The blanket’s deep touch pressure stimulates serotonin, the relaxation hormone, which helps you fall asleep faster, stay asleep longer, and feel rested in the morning.

#12 - Promotes a happier mood


If you’re feeling irritable or depressed, you may not be getting enough mood-lifting brain chemicals. Serotonin, the hormone that affects mood disorders, is also considered a brain chemical.

Deep pressure stimulation (via a weighted blanket) can boost levels of serotonin, research shows. This same deep pressure also reduces levels of the stress hormone, cortisol, which also helps the body to relax. A weighted blanket can serve as the hug you need to improve your mood and ease your sadness. (7)

#13 - Enhances calm

If your day has been filled with too much stress, wrapping yourself up in a weighted blanket when you finally get home can help make things better. If a bad boss or bad traffic has you feeling frantic, your weighted blanket can help you feel better. Those helpful hormones and neurotransmitters -- serotonin, dopamine, and oxytocin -- will give you the hug you need.

#14 - Relieves travel anxiety


If you feel anxious in the confined space of a car or airplane, you’re not alone. Others feel disturbed by the frantic pace and crowds at the airport. Staying in a strange environment like a hotel room can be difficult for others.

If you have these anxieties while traveling, you could benefit from a weighted blanket. The deep pressure stimulation from the blanket can help your body produce serotonin, the soothing hormone/brain chemical. In one study, 78 percent of those using weighted blankets considered it to have a calming effect. (8)

#15 - Relieves PTSD symptoms


If you have trauma in your past, a weighted blanket can provide a therapeutic touch.

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a serious problem that affects many people who have experienced a stressful or traumatic event. Veterans who saw combat can suffer from PTSD. Survivors of trauma like a physical assault or a serious car accident are two more examples.

Various therapies can help ease symptoms of PTSD, including anxiety, sleeplessness, and depression. Research shows that a weighted blanket helps reduce anxiety in these survivors, along with improving blood pressure and pulse rate. (9)

#16 - Helps control panic disorder


Panic attacks are so disturbing, but a weighted blanket might help you feel less vulnerable.

If you suffer from panic disorder, you feel the need to protect yourself from stressful situations that ramp up your fear and vulnerability to panic attacks. A weighted blanket can help you sleep better so you feel refreshed and less anxious the next day. By promoting the ‘calming’ hormones and neurotransmitters, a weighted blanket helps to calm both the body and the brain.

#17 - Eases Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder symptoms


Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is unique in every person. Some may follow very strict dietary or lifestyle habits. Perhaps you have a germ phobia. Or you need your environment to be extremely orderly. Persistent, obsessive thoughts and behaviors are the hallmarks of OCD.

OCD has been linked to low serotonin levels. Researchers believe that the deep touch pressure stimulation therapy provided by a weighted blanket will boost serotonin to help keep OCD symptoms under control.

#18 - Aids elderly people


Elderly people often transition into an unconventional sleep pattern -- staying up much later than usual and taking more naps during the daytime. Elderly people also may suffer from depression and anxiety.

Researchers have found that elderly people who used weighted blankets “liked sleeping with the blanket, found it easier to settle down to sleep and had an improved sleep, where they felt more refreshed in the morning.” (10) Just make sure to purchase the correct size and weight blanket for the elderly person, especially if the person is frail -- so ensure a safe, soothing sleep.

#19 - Helps Ease Autism Symptoms


If your child has autism, you will be happy to know a weighted blanket may help their symptoms.

Massage or touch therapy has been found to help control the symptoms of autism. Researchers have noted that touch therapy helps by decreasing levels of the stress hormone cortisol, and increasing levels of the neurotransmitters serotonin and dopamine, which improves anxiety, mood, impulse control, and more. 

Research involving 73 young people with autism spectrum disorder and severe sleep problems slept with a weighted blanket and with a regular blanket. Sleep tests and parent diaries showed that the weighted blanket didn’t improve their sleep. However, the kids said that they preferred the weighted blanket - so researchers speculate there may be a benefit that the testing didn’t identify. (11)

#20 - Helps Relieve Tourette’s Symptoms

People with this neurological disorder have uncontrollable symptoms like tics and movements, causing them great fatigue and anxiety. The deep pressure therapy from a weighted blanket can help ease the anxiety and provide a sense of calm that improves sleep.

Conclusion

Overall, the deep pressure stimulation from a weighted blanket provides a calming, soothing effect that is conducive to sleep. This allows the tense, anxious, restless person gets the sleep they need. And if you have pain, this special blanket can help relieve your discomfort so you can get plenty of rest. People suffering from arthritis, fibromyalgia, and other painful conditions have found relief in sleeping with a weighted blanket. Growing numbers of people are finding that this special type of blanket is a good alternative to life-long sedative-hypnotic medications (sleeping pills) at night. By promoting the ‘calming’ hormones and neurotransmitters, a weighted blanket helps to calm both the body and the brain.

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