What exactly are weighted blankets, and how can they help you sleep and live better? Learn all about weighted blanket benefits in this article.
In this article:
- What is a Weighted Blanket?
- Why Are They Heavier and What Makes Them Heavy?
- Who Most Benefits from Weighted Blankets?
- What Are the Benefits of Regular Usage?
Using Weighted Blankets for Overall Wellness
What is a Weighted Blanket?
In recent years, weighted blankets have started to make their way into more and more households, but you might be wondering what they are and what they’re used for — and if you should try it yourself.
These blankets differ from the regular blankets you’ll find at most stores. While both types are cozy in their own way, weighted blankets are significantly heavier than the average blanket, and with good reason.
They’re known for providing a good night’s sleep to its users, and in turn, improving their health overall.
In this article, we’ll explore what a weighted blanket is, what it’s used for, and how to know if one is right for you.
Why Are They Heavier and What Makes Them Heavy?
A weighted blanket contains pockets of different substances used to weigh it down. You can choose between non-organic and organic fillers, each coming with their own benefits and drawbacks.
- Smooth pebbles (choose small stones)
- Plastic poly pellets (ABS virgin, which means no toxins)
- Micro glass beads (fine glass beads with a smooth texture)
- Steel shot beads (large, heavy beads)
- Sand (semi-organic and budget-friendly option)
- Food (dried beans, corn, and rice)
Figuring out the best-weighted blanket for your needs depends on what kind of fillers it’s stuffed with. The different fillers create certain textures which affect the benefits you’ll get from using the blanket.
Some of the fillers, such as smooth pebbles and steel shot beads, have obvious drawbacks due to the inconsistent texture causing the blanket to be lumpy,.Also, the stones and beads may crash against each other if not distributed properly. If you have sensory sensitivities with texture and sound, you may want to choose another option.
Organic fillers, including sand, might seem like a better option until you consider the logistics. Presumably, you’ll want to wash your blanket. When sand gets wet, it clumps and is difficult to dry out.
Similarly, with other food fillers, it’ll be difficult, or even impossible, to fully dry the blanket. Additionally, food like rice, legumes, and dehydrated vegetables expand in water, stretching out the fabric and causing lumps. These food items are also more susceptible to mold and insects.
Micro glass beads are luxury fillers, and plastic poly pellets are a cost-efficient alternative. Both fill the blanket pockets evenly and allow you to wash and dry your blanket without harm.
If you know what materials and weight work best for you, then you can start looking for the best type for your needs. Be careful about following DIY weighted blanket tutorials, though. It’s still best to purchase one from an expert, trusted source.
Who Most Benefits from Weighted Blankets?
In the past, occupational therapists were the ones most likely to buy and to use these for their clients to promote a state of relaxation and calm. Now, however, weighted blankets have moved into the mainstream, and several people use them as a holistic, non-pharmaceutical option to manage symptoms of various chronic illnesses and disorders.
People who have any of the listed disorders will most benefit from using a weighted blanket on a regular basis:
- Sensory processing disorder
- Chronic stress
- Chronic pain
- And more…
What is Sensory Processing Disorder? Also known as Sensory Integration Dysfunction, this is a condition in which the brain has problems processing information it receives from the five senses. People with this problem tend to be oversensitive to certain stimuli they encounter.
Going to bed with a weighted blanket can help people with these conditions fall asleep and stay asleep longer.
While these blankets can certainly be incorporated in your daily self-care routine to moderate your symptoms, if you’re taking prescription medications, you do not want to stop taking them without consulting with your psychiatrist or other mental health professional.
What Are the Benefits of Regular Usage?
We now know who weighted blankets can help, but how does it help?
Lying under a weighted blanket feels like getting a bear hug. It promotes feelings of security and safety. This is called “deep-touch pressure stimulation” or DTPS.
On a brain chemistry level, this type of stimulation can release more oxytocin, serotonin, and melatonin while decreasing cortisol levels.
What does all this mean? Let’s break it down further.
Oxytocin is referred to as the “cuddle hormone.”
- Released during extended hugs of thirty seconds and longer
- Promotes feelings of love and connectedness
- DTPS is like getting an extended hug, which naturally releases this hormone
Serotonin is commonly called the “happy hormone.”
- Promotes feelings of happiness and well-being
- Lack of serotonin tends to cause feelings of depression
- DTPS can trigger your body to send a signal to your brain to create more serotonin
Melatonin is commonly known as the “sleep hormone.”
- Helps regulate your circadian (day-night) cycle
- Released in the presence of external cues (outside darkness)
- Low levels cause you to not be able to fall asleep or stay asleep at night
- DTPS can help encourage melatonin production
Cortisol is the “stress hormone” released by the adrenal glands.
- Short bursts of stress are healthy
- Chronic stress can have devastating results
- Adrenal fatigue (chronic stress) can cause depression and inflammation
- DTPS promotes relaxation and reduces circulating cortisol levels
While weighted blankets won’t “cure” depression, anxiety, or other psychological and genetic disorders, regular usage can help counteract some of their symptoms and improve your overall wellness. *
The production of these hormones helps calm your nerves, reduce stress, and help you stay asleep longer, allowing for deep healing. It also helps you focus more in school or work and even give you a better emotional disposition.
Are you suffering from anxiety, insomnia, or other sleep problems? Have you tried using weighted blankets? Share your experience with them in the comments section below!
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Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on October 15, 2018, and has been updated for quality and relevancy.