Doctors and occupational therapists have used weighted blankets have been used over the past two decades as a sensory integrative approach to help children with learning disabilities and developmental disorders, as well as individuals of all ages who are going through rehabilitation. Based on information presented by occupational therapist Tina Champagne, M.Ed., OTR/L, additional goals of weighted blanket use include facilitating self-care and the development of coping skills for mental health.
Weighted blankets are just like they sound: a blanket that weighs anywhere from 5 to 30 pounds. The deep pressure stimulation provided is a therapeutic technique that mimics the calming feeling of a noticeable-yet-gentle squeeze felt throughout the entire body. Over the years, new research and increased popularity involving weighted blankets for consumer use has risen dramatically with a spike in online conversations about their benefits occurring more in recent months.
Among the reported benefits of a weighted blanket are decreased anxiety, reduced restlessness when attempting to fall asleep, and an increase in serotonin levels. Penn Medicine also shares how it helps with sleep disorders, ADHD, and autism as well. Amidst the current hype surrounding the weighted blanket, there are studies that present data evidencing just how valuable they truly are.
One of the main benefits of a weighted blanket is how it helps both children and adults alleviate anxiety and manage sensory issues. A national poll conducted by the American Psychiatric Association revealed there was an increase in anxiety scores across all ages, genders, and ethnic groups from 2017 to 2018. The average score jumped to 51 out of 100, which was a five-point increase since the previous year.
A constant state of anxiety is disruptive to a person’s physical and mental health, including their sleep patterns. Weighted blanket therapy offers a sense of tranquility by putting the autonomic nervous system at rest. The presence of this purposefully heavy blanket reduces certain symptoms of anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder, such as an increased heart rate and muscle tension. By addressing these physical reactions, a weighted blanket allows people to experience a more relaxed feeling. In one study, using a 30 lb. weighted blanket, data revealed that 63% of participants experienced lower anxiety after use and 78% of participants preferred it as a calming solution.
A weighted blanket encourages stillness for those who suffer from anxiety on a regular basis. When combined with other enjoyable activities like meditation or breathing exercises, it can instantly begin to quiet the mind and body.
Anxiety is one of the leading causes of sleep disturbance leading to sleep deprivation and sleep disorders, such as insomnia, sleep apnea, and restless leg syndrome. Many people do not receive the recommended eight hours of sleep per night. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has previously reported that over a third of American adults routinely receive less than seven hours of sleep.
In addition to anxiety, lack of sleep is often the result of overexposure to blue light from electronic use, a person’s sleeping conditions, and an array of other habits and situations that result in less than quality sleep. The soothing pressure from the weighted blanket emulates the feeling of being wrapped up and held, which aims to relieve stress and increase serotonin.
Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that’s linked to the sleep-wake cycle that delivers a soothing effect. Lack of sleep leads to other serious health effects. Heart disease, obesity, and depression are all results of continuous sleep deprivation. A weighted anxiety blanket literally envelops you in calmness as a way to lower blood pressure, alleviate stress, and ease you into better sleep.
Individuals diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) are distracted by environmental stimuli and often have a hard time focusing or sitting still. This often leads to problems with learning and developing interpersonal relationships. A weighted blanket can be used as a grounding technique to offer self-control and prevent distractions.
People diagnosed with ADHD are generally extra sensitive to sound and touch in their everyday surroundings, but the gentle pressure of a weighted blanket works to relieve stress and improve attention spans for sensory processing purposes. In cases of overstimulation, it can be used as a tool to keep actions and emotions from escalating to a harmful level.
A study published in the American Journal of Occupational Therapy concluded that wearing a weighted vest supported improvement in attention behavioral problems of children with ADHD. While the benefits differ from person to person and the use of a weighted blanket or vest isn’t intended to be the only course of care, it has been shown to improve anxiety and sleep deprivation, as well as deliver positive results for people suffering from ADHD.
If you experience problems sleeping, the Gravity Blanket can help you fall asleep faster and sleep deeper. The ideal weight of a weighted blanket depends on the size of the person using it. As an in-between, the 15-lb. weight of the Gravity Blanket is suitable for most. Plus, its dimensions accommodate using it in bed or when reclining on the couch.
The deep-touch pressure of the weighted blanket makes you feel snug and settled in when winding down from the day and getting ready to go to sleep. Lie with it while you read, meditate, or engage in other low-key activities. The supporting feel is designed to help you sleep through the night without interruption.
Regardless of how or when you use a weighted blanket, the feeling of calm benefits both mental and physical health. Less anxiety means reduced blood pressure and an increased likelihood of quality, restful sleep. In addition to all the benefits to your health, it simply feels good. Cozy up and invite respite into your life with the use of a weighted blanket.
Some people choose to sleep with an anxiety blanket every night, while others use it for specific occasions. Instances where it can be extra beneficial include traveling and during high-stress situations. Traveling tends to increase feelings of tension and anxiety. It also often causes disruptions in sleep and insomnia due to jet lag and being off of a standard sleep schedule. A weighted blanket can quickly bring relief to the body either while en route or when adjusting to a new place and time zone.
In addition, weighted blankets can be used periodically if you’re starting to see a spike in stress levels due to work responsibilities, life changes, or any other temporary periods of time where you feel an increased level of anxiety that’s affecting your sleep. It can be used situationally or every day and still provide the same benefits.
Despite the heavier weight of the Gravity Blanket, it’s made with a unique microfiber cooling duvet to keep you comfortable as you rest. Maintaining a cool body temperature when sleeping is crucial to optimal sleep health and one of the many secrets of cool sleeping. When you’re too warm or not receiving enough ventilation, it can cause you to wake up throughout the night. These constant interruptions will leave you feeling less than refreshed when you wake up.
Pairing the Gravity Blanket with The Pod is a combination that focuses on keeping you calm and cool as you sleep. The personalized temperature regulation allows you to choose a temperature that’s ideal for you that adjusts as you sleep based on your sleep phases, heart rate, and other sensory cues tracked by The Pod’s technology. When synced with the Sleep app, you can also track your sleep patterns and progress.
Your customized report provides valuable data about how well you’re sleeping, how much you’re sleeping, and identify any trends. With the information provided, you can improve your sleep habits or get back on track whenever your sleep cycle starts to wane. Sleep is such an important factor of your everyday life that making it a priority will have a direct impact on all aspects of your health.
The comfort of a weighted blanket has worked for many to ease anxiety and improve health. The regular use of a weighted blanket can generate deeper feelings of rest and relaxation on a nightly basis. This results in reduced feelings of anxiety and fewer occurrences of sleep deprivation. It can also lead to boosts in your mood, less daytime fatigue, and reduced body pain.
Weighted blankets have been a tool used by professional caregivers for years and continues to be part of health and wellness plans for anyone who wants to focus on improving their sleep patterns and feelings of calmness. They’re used like any other blanket but with built-in stimulation to help the body in various ways.
Relax with one before going to bed to get a feel for it while you’re awake. Then, switch to using it at night while you’re sleeping to see how much better you feel the next day. Take note of the differences you experience after consistent use. Regardless of your level of stress or sleep behavior, a weighted blanket feels like a warm, soothing hug, which is something everyone can benefit from.
Sources: https://www.nasmhpd.org/sites/default/files/V_2_B_ChampaignWeightedBlanket.pdf; https://www.psychiatry.org/newsroom/news-releases/americans-say-they-are-more-anxious-than-a-year-ago-baby-boomers-report-greatest-increase-in-anxiety; https://www.pennmedicine.org/updates/blogs/health-and-wellness/2019/february/weighted-blankets; https://www.researchgate.net/publication/233228002_Exploring_the_Safety_and_Therapeutic_Effects_of_Deep_Pressure_Stimulation_Using_a_Weighted_Blanket; https://www.cdc.gov/media/releases/2016/p0215-enough-sleep.html; https://www.sleep.org/articles/will-a-weighted-blanket-help-you-sleep-better/; https://ajot.aota.org/Article.aspx?articleid=1864920;