Do you or your child suffer from anxiety? If the answer is yes, you might want to consider purchasing a weighted blanket. Our expert team has prepared the below guide to help you understand all the pros and cons of weighted blankets, what to look for, and more. With that said, let’s dive into the article!
- What are Weighted Blankets?
- Best Weighted Blankets of 2019
- How Weighted Blanket Therapy Works
- Weighted Blankets For Anxiety
- Weighted Blankets for Autism
- Types of Weighted Blankets
- Weighted Blankets Buying Guide
What are Weighted Blankets?
As the name may suggest, a weighted blanket is not your everyday, lightweight blanket. It is much heavier than your standard blanket. Weighted blankets will typically range from between five and twenty-five pounds depending on how heavy you want your blanket to be. But why should one go for a heavy blanket in place of the regular, common down quilt or comforter? If the recent statistics are anything to go by, weighted blankets have proven quite effective for people with certain conditions and disorders.
People suffering from insomnia, fibromyalgia, restless leg syndrome, obsessive-compulsive disorder, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, ADHD, and autism have benefited quite a great deal from weighted blankets, no wonder they are this popular today more than ever before. If not for anything else, they provide the perfect, safe alternative to the use of medication and other forms of treatment the patients may be under. Latest findings have proven that weighted blankets can significantly reduce not only the symptoms but also help with the management of the above-mentioned conditions.
Key benefits of weighted blankets:
- Lowered anxiety is one of the most notable benefits of weighted blankets
- Very Positive calming effects
- Lowered physiological indicators of stress, i.e., pulse rate, blood pressure, and pulse oximetry
- Effective coping strategy during times of anxiety
- Improved sleeping patterns for people with insomnia thanks to the calming, safe and grounded effect the weighted blanket has.
- Helps with autism
Best Weighted Blankets of 2019
How Weighted Blanket Therapy Works
Think for a moment about swaddling an infant. That firm, snug, warm and comforting hug of the swaddle wrapped around a sleeping infant helps them relax enough to naturally drift to slumber. Should they wake up in between their sleep, the snuggly hug naturally triggers some sensation on their mind, and they will go back to sleep immediately? It is no wonder such infants tend to sleep for much longer hours than those not swaddled.
Now, this sensation and the effect it has on the infant is similar to a weighted blanket for adults. According to occupational therapists, a light touch can be alerting. While this is perfectly OK for an average person, it can be over-stimulating for someone with sensory processing dysfunction. Weighted blankets solve this – they provide deep pressure to create a calming, relaxing effect.
Sensory Stimulation & Weighted Blankets
People with sensory processing dysfunction have a hard time with sensory modulation and regulation. For most conditions, this manifests as over-sensitivity stimulation to the sensory organs. Thanks to weighted blankets, they bring in deep touch pressure or what is known as proprioceptive pressure. This deep touch pressure is known to release serotonin hormone. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that has proven quite effective in regulating brain functions. As such, weighted blankets will help to not only modulate but also regulate sensory stimulation. As a result, one’s nervous system gets an organized and calmed effect. This results in a good night’s sleep with fewer disruptions.
Weighted Blankets For Anxiety
It is a well-known fact people with anxiety have a tough time getting rested and relaxed at night. There are many ways to reduce and manage stress-related anxiety; top among them is using weighted anxiety blankets. When combined with existing therapies, one can be able to not only sleep better but also have fewer episodes of anxiety related stress. For starters, weighted blankets are safe to use for both children and adults. Through continuous use, they can help one achieve a relaxed state so that you can sleep more deeply. This is made possible through the “grounding” or “earthing” effect the blankets have, pushing one downwards thus leading to the much-needed calming effect. As previously mentioned, these weighted blankets will help stimulate DPT (deep pressure tissue), a very effective therapy that utilizes firm, hands-on pressure to manage high levels of anxiety and chronic stress.
These blankets are effective for anxiety as they reduce nighttime levels of cortisol; a hormone often produced when the brain is misled to believe you are under attack; thus eliciting a flight response. When you are under chronic stress, or when your body is on high gear for flight response, the cortisol levels escalate to uncontrollable amounts. It needs no mentioning such high levels of cortisol in the human body have a very negative effect on the immune system. If not for anything else, it elevates blood sugar levels, thus negatively affecting your digestive tract.
Further, the high levels of cortisol on the body, particularly those that remain high for long without dropping back down naturally, can lead to various complications including depression, anxiety, weight gain, and insomnia. Through deep pressure touch, weighted anxiety blankets promote relaxation, thus breaking up the cycle. As a result, neurotransmitters serotonin and dopamine are released, feel-good hormones that will help you combat anxiety, depression, and stress. The grounding effect of the blankets ensures your body has a natural and effective way of synchronizing cortisol secretion levels throughout the day and night with the circadian rhythms.
Weighted Blankets for Autism
By the same token, weighted blankets have proven quite effective when it comes to autism. Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a medical disorder prevalent in children that encompasses a range of medical conditions. The term “spectrum” succinctly reflects the wide variation in strengths and challenges possessed by each with autism. These conditions are characterized by challenges with repetitive behaviors, social skills, nonverbal and speech communication as well as very distinct strengths and differences. There are many different types of autism as a result of environmental and genetic influences.
Weighted blanket for autism is one of the tried and tested ways of managing the autism disorder. As is with other similar conditions, getting someone to relax and have a calmer state of mind can be next to impossible. However, thanks to deep touch pressure exerted by the blanket, it ensures an autistic child gets a deep, satisfying good night sleep. The last thing you would want is to have an irritable autistic child who can’t seem to get down no matter what sleeping techniques you employ. This can leave you drained, sleepless, angry and irritable as well. The blanket is useful for both autistic children and adults. How? Cuddling and hugging benefits are well documented since time immemorial.
Oxytocin is one of those important neurotransmitters that ensure someone feels calm, relaxed and generally happy. Research indicates that the oxytocin hormone is directly associated with increased loyalty and trust as well as human bonding. Through cuddling and hugging, it has been proven through numerous studies that it triggers the production of oxytocin, which boosts one’s sense of wellbeing. This explains the reason why cuddling and hugging have been incorporated in many forms of therapy today.
Now, when it comes to people with autism, tactile and touch sensitivity can lead to anxiety, an unsettled feeling and sometimes even pain. It is no wonder most people with autism will never tolerate cuddling or hugging. They end up unsettled, stressed, anxious and sometimes even experience untold pain and suffering. This is where a weighted blanket for autism comes in. By applying very gentle pressure, the blanket delivers all the many great benefits of a hug without necessarily forcing the unpleasant or unwelcome body contact.
Types of Weighted Blankets
The main distinguishing factor between the various types of weighted blankets available in the market is how the blankets are weighted and the general construction design.
The first and most common type is the box-construction which as the name may suggest, the blankets assume the shape and design of a “box.” These “box” or “compartments” in a blanket that looks like a down-filled comforter is made up of substances such as glass beads, poly-fill, and poly pellets.
Channel construction is the other popular type of blanket available in the market today which is made of a channel-like compartment design that helps ensure the weighing material is enclosed inside. Through this channel compartment, the weighted material is evenly distributed throughout the blanket. This ensures the weight is well distributed when draped over the body. Further, because of the channels, you can expect there is less movement of the weighted material, which in turn ensures there is a soothing, softer sensory stimulation.
Fully-sewn weighted blankets – just like with normal blankets, there are also weighted blankets that come fully sewn together meaning you can wash your weighted blanket although the cover is not removable. When buying this type of weighted blanket, however, you need to put much consideration on the interior material, lest you buy something whose interior material is not washable.
Do-it-Yourself Weighted Blankets – the same way you can put a down comforter inside a fabric shell, you can also have a weighted blanket put inside a washable external layer. This external layer can be customized by fabric pattern, shade or texture.
Weighted Blankets Buying Guide
With so many different types of weighted clothing and different brands on the market, it can be confusing for a first-time buyer. Some of the major considerations to make when looking to buy one include the following:-
Size – just like buying your normal, every-day blanket, you have to think of the size of the weighted blanket that you want to invest in. You can bet they are available in all manner of sizes, from full, twin, queen and all else in between. Most weighted blankets will cover the top of the bed and will rarely hang down on the sides otherwise the weight will pull the blanket on the edges the moment you toss and turn. Lap weighted blankets and leg blankets are designed for people with restless leg syndrome, while there are tiny weighted blankets designed to snugly wrap around your shoulders.
Weight – just how much weight should a weighted blanket carry? Experts recommend that your blanket should weight around 10% of the user’s total body weight. It would be best to consult and read a lot so you can find the right and most effective weighted blanket for your needs. Most manufacturers of weighted blankets remove the guesswork and will often present a useful and practical guide on the right blankets for your body mass.
Material and construction – blankets come in all manner of weights, colors, and materials, so you have to consider such things as whether you want a washable one with a removable cover or not. This will also boil down to the weighted materials as there are those that cannot be washed. Even so, most other considerations will be dependent on your tastes and preferences especially in regards to color. Most pre-made blankets come in blue, gray and such like neutral color tones but for a custom-made one, you can always specify what you want based on your tastes and preferences, interior décor items, etc.
Comfort – when it comes to comfort, you have to think of how often you will be using your blanket. Of course, you are looking at something that provides warmth, fullness, pain/stress relief, body/back support, and enough breathability. Ensure you go for something that will habituate your body to sleep; less your deprive yourself off sleep. Also look for superior quality ergonomic support, providing spinal support lest you cause pain and discomfort.
Durability – Of course, you want to invest in a weighted blanket with a good build if you are to be assured of durability. Good quality means service for a long time. You can further enhance durability by safeguarding your blanket and keeping it fresh using a matching cover that can be purchased separately. This way, you can wash and rinse the cover without touching on the blanket itself. It would be wise of you to confirm the warranty of your newly acquired blanket. Further, you should ensure the material adheres to the safety and health standards.
There is nothing like having a great night’s sleep, relaxed and calmed down. This is often a tall order for most people with conditions such as autism, anxiety, restless leg syndrome, fibromyalgia, stress depression to mention but a few. Using a weighted blanket, one can trigger the body to release feel-good hormones that promote the perfect sleep, calm and relaxing effect.