Calming blankets are used for better sleep and rest, and one of the reasons is because weighted blankets help with anxiety, which disrupts sleep for many people in today’s world. And one of the biggest reasons why we prefer using weighted blankets is because they are a completely natural remedy.
According to SleepFoundation, anxiety and insomnia can each cause the other to increase in that anxiety can cause insomnia, but then a lack of sleep can add to anxiety. It becomes a vicious cycle. So where do weighted blankets come in and how do they help with anxiety?
What is a Weighted Blanket?
First of all, a weighted blanket is a heavier than normal blanket that is specially designed with added weight, sewn into small pockets to create a feeling of pressure on the body.
Sometimes they are also made with special technologies like Coolmax or material like bamboo to reduce heat buildup for hot sleepers and warmer weather. These are also commonly known as cooling weighted blankets.
These blankets can be used at night or during daytime naps. Some people even like to drape a weighted blanket across their shoulders or lap while they sit or relax.
The Science of Deep Touch Pressure (DTP)
Weighted blankets are reported to work by creating something called deep touch pressure (DTP).
There is research with dental surgery patients showing that DTP has a calming effect on the nervous system during these types of stressful situations. Having to visit the dentist was a good area of study as it causes increased anxiety for many people, including adults and children. DTP increases feelings of well-being and calmness. It’s the reason a weighted blanket can reduce anxiety and improve the sleep experience of the user.
The added weight applies the extra pressure when draped over the body, producing a calming effect for greater relaxation.
Some people have likened the weight of these products to the feeling of the heavy vest used to cover your body for protection when you get a dental X-Ray.
Deep touch pressure has been shown to have a positive effect on body chemistry, increasing levels of serotonin, which is a brain chemical responsible for improving mood, and supporting better sleep.
Increasing “feel good” hormones and reducing cortisol will reduce anxiety for people who use weighted blankets when they sleep, nap, or relax.
This is an excellent benefit for anyone who has a problem with anxiety and wants to feel a greater sense of well-being.
Research and Studies Involving Anxiety and Calming Weighted Blankets
Studies have shown that weighted blankets are beneficial for improving anxiety.
A report published by researchers at Northwestern College Department of Nursing has indicated that several studies found deep touch pressure produced by weighted blankets to be effective for reducing anxiety. One of the studies found that using a weighted blanket was helpful for adults who were receiving inpatient treatment for mental health issues.
The study results, published in a 2015 edition of Occupational Therapy in Mental Health, reported that a majority of patients experienced a significant decrease in anxiety after using a calming weighted blanket.
So the evidence shows that there is science behind the use of weighted blankets for anxiety. But are there any risks to be wary of?
The Safety of Weighted Blankets
One of the great things about using a weighted blanket for anxiety, insomnia, and general better rest is that they are a natural remedy that comes with little to no risk.
It’s a great way to avoid chemicals if you get maximum comfort from your weighted blanket.
As an example, the 2015 study in Occupational Therapy in Mental Health says that using a 30-pound weighted blanket is safe because it didn’t cause any changes in vital signs such as blood pressure or heart rate.
However, even though they are considered safe to use, there are a couple of noteworthy cautions to consider before purchasing or making a DIY heavy blanket.
Cautions for Using Weighted Blankets
One of the things you need to keep in mind if you’re going to use a weighted blanket is to make sure it never restricts the person using it.
The individual should always be able to get out from under it using their own strength.
Also, take note that weighted blankets are generally not recommended for infants under two years of age. And if you use one yourself, be careful if young children and/or pets share the bed with you. There are weighted blankets that are specifically designed for children. And there are also pet friendly weighted blankets for cats and dogs.