Weighted blankets, also known as a gravity blanket, were typically used by psychiatrists and therapists for their patients. Today, however, this “magic blanket” has entered the mainstream market. There is still an ongoing debate whether they part a play in lessening one’s anxiety as well as other helping with other issues. Some health experts caution the use of a weighted blanket in children because of safety concerns.
Weighted blankets for adults and teens are not harmful according to Teresa May-Benson, who is an occupational therapist associated with the Spiral Foundation located in Newton, Massachusetts. She notes that these blankets have long been in use in sensory integration therapy which is designed to help patients with autism or those with sensory issues to help them focus more on their sensory functions. Experts say that this type of therapy can improve their emotions as well as behavior. However, weighted blankets should be avoided with infants and young children due to safety concerns.
What are Weighted Blankets?
As the name suggests, weighted blankets are blankets that come with extra weight in them. If you plan on buying one, there are a few factors that you need to consider:
- Materials. The materials used in the weighted blanket play a large part of its weight. For example, plastic pellets and glass beads are two of the most common options used for weighted blankets, but there are others like millet, rice, and lead (make sure you avoid the lead). Outside material varies as well. “Breathable cotton” is a popular choice for those who consider themselves “hot sleepers.” In fact, many people benefit from a more breathable 100% cotton blanket as long as the room is kept cool. Muslin is also a popular choice because it is considered a breathable fabric.
- Style. Another factor that you need to take into account when it comes to weighted blankets is its style. Do you want a duvet or something more in the style of a comforter? Nowadays, many are turning to a duvet cover because they provide easy care. Lap pads are also available as are weighted vests.
- Weight. For adults, the weight is typically 10% of the ideal body weight. The formula for children is 10% of the correct body weight and 1-2 pounds. However, you should always check with your pediatrician before introducing a heavy blanket to your child due to the risk of smothering or suffocation.
How Weighted Blankets Work
A good night’s sleep may become elusive at times. Stress and anxiety may cause you to toss and turn at night. You may have tried meditation apps, sleep medicine, and white noise devices to no avail. Is it possible that weighted blankets can really help you sleep at night?
Weighted blankets can increase melatonin production via sensory stimulation. The increased melatonin production then increases serotonin levels in the brain.
Weighted blankets tend to weigh between 10 pounds to 25 pounds and are usually filled with poly pellets for an even distribution as you lie in bed. The idea behind weighted blankets for adults or teens is to recreate the weight of someone holding you while you sleep. Research has shown that weighted blankets been found to help alleviate anxiety thus making it easier for them to fall asleep.
Can They Help with Insomnia?
More and more insomnia sufferers are turning to weighted blankets to help them sleep better at night. These blankets are usually filled with balls, chains, and pellets which give the blankets heft. Based on a study published in the Journal of Sleep Medicine and Disorders in 2015, 31 adults who were diagnosed with chronic insomnia were monitored for a week using their own blankets, two weeks with weighted blankets, and another week with their usual blankets. According to the results, 4 out of 5 patients preferred to sleep with a weighted blanket because they were able to sleep longer with little to no occurrences of waking up in the middle of the night.
It is believed that deep pressure stimulation may help in part as it provides patients with that reassuring and cocooning effect. The weighted beads that are incorporated into the blanket create a tactile sensation equivalent to that of being caressed. This can help reduce the feeling of anxiety in users while promoting sleep and relaxation. Serotonin and melatonin levels are increased.
Benefits of Weighted Blankets
When it comes to weighted blankets for adults or teens, it would be a good idea to be aware of their many benefits.
- It’s similar to getting a huge hug. The weight of the blanket is similar to the feeling of being embraced while in bed. The slight pressure around your body gives you that comforting feeling, enough to make falling asleep easier on your part.
- It helps you stay asleep at night. If you want to have a restful sleep, investing in weighted blankets may be the solution. For those that wake up due to stress and anxiety, a weighted blanket may improve sleep significantly.
- It makes you fall asleep faster. What other benefits do weighted blankets for adults? The effects of weighted blankets are somewhat similar to swaddling a newborn. The deep pressure stimulation creates a calming effect that it promotes relaxation and sleeping on your part.
- It is useful for anxiety and stress. Weighted blankets are designed to help patients feel calm and relaxed during bouts of stress and anxiety. Having this blanket around can help you have a restful sleep at night.
- Creates a focus for ADHD. Patients who have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder may have difficulty focusing and sleeping regardless of whether they are adults or kids. Some patients who have this disorder may have trouble focusing, while others tend to be restless and impulsive. Adults, as well as children with autism, have found that their sleep quality improved significantly with the help of weighted blankets because of the deep touch pressure stimulation. Weighted blankets can also provide the sensory input required for those who have a processing disorder.
- Alleviates restless leg syndrome. Those who were diagnosed with restless leg syndrome often describe the sensation as a creepy spider crawling up and down their legs. Since the symptoms of RLS often appear at night, your sleep can be disrupted. Some patients found that adding weight to their legs helped them a lot.
- Improves mood. There are days when you feel happy, and then there are days when you may feel out of sorts. Sometimes you may be irritable due to hormones. If your serotonin levels are low, it may out-of-sorts. The good news is that the weight of these blankets has been found to help in boosting serotonin and melatonin levels which means that not only will you feel better about yourself, but it will be easier for you to sleep better at night as well.
- Alleviate symptoms of PTSD. PTSD or post-traumatic stress disorder is typically linked to veterans, but this can be said too in individuals who experienced a stressful or even traumatic event. The problem with patients with PTSD is that they experience sleep problems because of their triggers. Using weighted blankets for adults reduces blood pressure as well as pulse rates, so you’ll be able to sleep better at night.
- Enhances sleep quality. Just because you weren’t able to sleep well last night it does not automatically mean that you have insomnia. Fatigue may be one of the causes of your restless sleep which in turn can sap you of your energy the following day. Even if you got the suggested number of hours of sleep, it doesn’t mean that you will automatically feel rested and energized. The quality of your sleep is important too, which is where using a weighted blanket comes in. The added weight gives you that comforting feeling that will allow you to sleep better at night.
- Aids the elderly. As we get on in years, our sleep-wake cycle changes to the point that we barely get 8 hours of sleep at night. In some elderly, this lack of sleep has led them to have insomnia which can affect their overall wellness. That being said, the use of weighted blankets have significantly improved the quality of their sleep, and the number of hours they get to sleep at night.
As you can see, weighted blankets appear to have several benefits that it can boast of which is why it is not surprising that many are turning to this product to help them sleep well at night.