Need more convincing on the benefits of weighted blanket therapy? Let’s take a deep dive under the covers below.
5 Amazing Benefits of a Weighted Blanket
What Is Weighted Blanket Therapy?
Babies tend to relax and drift off to slumber best when burrito-ed nicely in a blanket. This is because the snug hug and the soft touch of the duvet recreate the sensation of being safely in the womb.
Neurologically, this intimate contact activates and strengthens the baby’s self-soothing response and decreases stress levels by lowering the heart rate, blood pressure, and cortisol levels. As a result, swaddled babies tend to fall asleep quicker, longer, and achieve more restful sleep with fewer disturbances.
In the same vein, occupational therapists consider touch as a therapeutic stimulus for patients with autism exhibiting sensory processing disorder, severe anxiety, and post-traumatic stress syndrome (PTSD). Deep Touch Pressure (DTP), specifically, induces the release of hormones that calm the patient’s nervous system and alleviate their symptoms.
The problem, however, is the question of how to evenly distribute the pressure all over a patient’s body. The solution: weighted blankets.
Nowadays, the practice of DTP at home is made possible by commercially-available weighted blankets aka gravity or pressure blankets. While it has been mostly used in a therapy setting to help patients with autism and other mental health issues, the science of weighted blanket therapy can potentially benefit other conditions, too.
Here are five more benefits of weighted blanket therapy.
1. Provides Touch Therapy for Patients with Autism
Sensory regulation and modulation is a difficult feat for people with autism and sensory processing disorder. As a result, their reaction to sensory stimulation (touch, for example) may be abnormal—they may feel anxious, unsettled, or even hurt when touched.
To avoid this overstimulation, they may limit or altogether avoid physical contact with other people. While this may protect them from the overwhelming sensation of touch, this avoidance is detrimental to their social development.
In fact, there are studies linking social delay in children with autism with problems with touch. With a lack of normal responses to touch, a child misses achieving milestones needed for the normal foundation of development.
This is why most experts recommend touch therapy to patients with autism. It aims to normalize the feeling of being touched.
As a patient progresses in this kind of therapy, parents might want to consider the use of weighted blankets. Receiving DTP from these blankets releases oxytocin and mimics the calming benefits of a hug.
2. May Help People with Anxiety in Seizing the Zzzs
Most people suffering from anxiety disorders experience recurring feelings of distress and anticipation of worst-case scenarios. They live in a constant state of worry; worrying magnified exponentially.
In some cases, patients (especially those diagnosed late) have lived in this condition for quite a long time, that it has become their normal.
This disorder can disrupt many aspects of an individual’s life, including their quality of sleep. Imagine trying to drift off at night with heightened worrying and waking up the next day feeling unrested.
The use of a weighted blanket for anxiety disorder may ease patients to sleep at night. In fact, a study that measured the vital signs of adults using pressure blankets found that 63% of the participants felt less anxious under weighted duvets.
Additionally, the researchers also observed a 33% drop in participants’ electrodermal activity, a sweat gland response rooted from stress.
3. May Help Manage Insomnia
While insomnia can manifest in a number of ways—inadequate sleep due to difficulty in falling asleep, waking up very early, waking up frequently at night, and unrestful sleep—poor daytime functioning and distress is one universal detrimental effect.
The underlying cause for this sleep condition undoubtedly varies per patient but increasing serotonin concentration in the body is known to improve patients’ quality of sleep.
The body requires serotonin to produce melatonin. Think of melatonin as the hormone that signals the body it’s time to sleep.
At night, when our eyes detect the decreasing of light, the retina communicates with the brain, signaling it to increase melatonin concentration in the body. This will make us feel sleepy and ready for bed.
Research has shown that DTP promotes the release of serotonin in the body. If counting sheep does not work anymore, it may be time to give weighted blankets a try.
4. Aids in Managing Fibromyalgia Flare-ups
Fibromyalgia is an often misdiagnosed chronic pain disorder that burdens patients with a range of debilitating symptoms, like pain all throughout the body and heightened sensitivity on at least 11 of the 18 pain points of the body.
Patients suffering from fibromyalgia syndrome may benefit from myofascial release, a therapy in which firm but gentle pressure is applied to pain points. The use of weighted blankets can function as an overnight source of pressure to relieve and reduce symptoms.
Additionally, many patients also often complain of concurrent sleeping problems. Weighted blanket therapy may also deal with these coexisting sleep disturbances as previously mentioned.
5. Wake Up to More Cheerful Mornings
Hugs are like the desserts of the tactile sense—they feel good, they “taste” good, they make us feel good. Sometimes, they are all we need after a long stressful day.
The thing about hugs is they induce the release of happy hormones like oxytocin, serotonin, and dopamine.
Oxytocin is also called the bonding molecule—it’s a hormone linked with trust and loyalty. A spike in oxytocin can relax the body by decreasing the heart rate and reducing levels of the stress hormones cortisol and norepinephrine.
Serotonin and dopamine, on the other hand, are mood-boosting chemicals that can help with one’s confidence, drive to achieve, and overall feelings of happiness.
If you come to think of it, our emotions and states of mind are heavily affected by our brain chemistry. In fact, on a neurological level, one marker of most mental illnesses like depression and anxiety disorders is a dip in these so-called happy hormones.
The use of weighted blankets at night is one way of hacking into the body’s happy chemicals. The pressure you get from the blanket is like an overnight hug from a friend or loved one.
Then, you can embrace more cheerful mornings with weighted blankets.
From its original application in occupational therapy and psychiatry, weighted blanket therapy is becoming a more accessible treatment option for quite a number of conditions. These five benefits are just a few of the many.
Do you have any other questions about weighted blanket therapy? Let us know in the comments section below!