The Wrap on Weighted Blankets
Toddlers have blankies. Now, there are weighted blankets for children and grownups – and cuddling up with one is like a warm, reassuring hug.
Weighted blankets are therapeutic blankets that run between five and 30 pounds. The pressure from the extra weight mimics a therapeutic technique called deep pressure therapy, which uses firm, controlled pressure to induce a feeling of calm. This pressure makes it feel like you’re being swaddled, stroked, or held.
When you’re stressed, your heart beats too quickly. Pressure calms you by activating your parasympathetic nervous system, which lowers your heart rate when you’re under stress. A lower heart rate leads to the sense of calmness provided by the weighted blanket.
Weighted blankets may benefit all kinds of sleepers – especially those who experience high levels of daily stress. While research is limited, deep pressure therapy has been found to calm adults and children with anxiety, autism, and attention difficulties, some researchers say.
Health benefits of weighted blankets
Provide comfort and security
Weighted blankets work in the same way a tight swaddle helps newborns feel snug as a bug in a rug. Many people find that these blankets help them doze off more quickly by promoting a sense of security.
Ease stress and soothe anxiety
Stress and anxiety are often responsible for interfering with sleep. A weighted blanket may help manage those feelings and translate to a better night’s sleep for those who are troubled by stressful thoughts.
Improve sleep quality
Deep pressure therapy mimicked by weighted blankets is thought to stimulate the production of the feel-good hormone serotonin, reduce the stress hormone called cortisol, and increase levels of melatonin, the hormone that helps you sleep.
Calm the nervous system
An overactive nervous system can lead to anxiety, hyperactivity, elevated heart rate, and shortness of breath. A weighted blanket may calm the flight-or-flight response and activate the parasympathetic nervous system, thus relaxing the body in preparation for sleep.
What to do if you have persistent sleep problems?
Make sure your primary care physician weighs in. Your doctor knows you best and can assess your condition, determine if a weighted blanket is right for you, as well as recommend any additional treatment approaches.
Sources: SleepFoundation.org, American Academy of Sleep Medicine, PennMedicine.org