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Suits have been swapped for sweatshirts and joggers, and smart work shoes replaced with slippers, yes, we’ve all gone big on personal comfort this year. But have you gone so far as a weighted blanket? Lauded for their stress-relieving and sleep-promoting properties, they have grown in popularity, so we’re going to look at:
- What is a weighted blanket?
- Weighted blanket benefits
- Weighted blanket risks
Let’s see what all the weighted blanket fuss is about and find out if the rumours are true…
What is a weighted blanket?
A weighted blanket is a regular blanket which is full of things such as glass beads or plastic pellets. The idea is that as you lie under them, they warm you as a thick blanket or duvet does, but they also add weight. The resulting heaviness is what gives you all the benefits – it’s similar to something called Deep Touch Pressure therapy (DTP),
“Pressure on the body can increase the release of serotonin in the brain. This neurotransmitter is sometimes called the “happy” chemical because it creates a sense of calm and well-being.”
This therapeutic feeling can help with a number of disabilities and developmental issues as well as your well-being.
So, when you ask something like ‘Do weighted blankets work?’, it depends entirely on what you want or what you expect the weighted blanket to do. Read on for some benefits…
Weighted blanket benefits
These therapeutic blankets aren’t just for kids. No, weighted blankets for adults are just as popular because they help manage a range of syndromes and conditions such as Restless leg syndrome and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). But they can also relieve pain, reduce anxiety and improve your mood too.
ADHD – there’s no hard research on it, but there have been studies on weighted vests which have a similar function. The results suggested that the added weight and serotonin production improved attention spans and reduced additional movement.
Anxiety – this is one of the main uses for weighted blankets – to treat anxiety. One study found that pressure stimulation, or weighted blanket use, reduced anxiety in a significant number of participants, “…33% demonstrated lowering in EDA when using the weighted blanket, 63% reported lower anxiety after use, and 78% preferred the weighted blanket as a calming modality.”
Sleep and insomnia – further to their anxiety-reducing capabilities, weighted blankets are also used for encouraging sleep. The additional pressure on the body increases the release of the feel-good serotonin hormone. When you add in a dark room or evening light, this serotonin is transformed into melatonin (the sleep hormone) by your pineal gland, and you naturally fall asleep easier.
Pain relief – much like massage therapy, the pressure of a weighted blanket could help with chronic pain issues. Moreover, The Sleep Council also suggests that the secure feeling you get when wrapped in a weighted blanket can increase the release of oxytocin. Nicknamed ‘The Cuddle Hormone’, oxytocin has been shown to modulate pain and reduce stress, and it can help you feel safe, secure and more settled at bedtime.
As well as these, there have been studies which have shown how weighted blankets can help children with autism feel more comfortable at bedtime, even if it didn’t help their sleep issues much.
There are other suggestions on how they can aid in medical procedures and with things like osteoarthritis, but there’s little research done to back these up, and they all seem rooted in reduced anxiety.
Weighted blanket risks
Weighted blankets are generally safe to use for all ages, but there are some rules to follow for the most beneficial experience:
- Do not let toddlers under two years old use them as there is a risk of suffocation
- If you have any medical conditions you are currently receiving treatment for, you should confirm with your doctor that a weighted blanket is safe to use.
- Those with Sleep Apnoea, Asthma or claustrophobia should steer clear of weighted blankets.
- Choose one that’s the right size – it shouldn’t hang off the bed or sofa as the weight can pull it down.
- Make sure the materials used to weigh it down are safe – glass beads and plastic pellets are the most popular and the safest.
- If using them on children, start with a small amount of time when they’re first asleep and watch them for a while before removing it to see how they get on.
- Adults using blankets should be able to move around freely – if not, then take it off.
The most important thing to consider when buying one is weight. They come in a range of weights, but you need to make sure you don’t get one that’s too heavy. The general suggestion is to aim for a blanket that is 5-10% of your body weight. For example, if you weight 80kg, aim for no more than and 8kg blanket, for children weighing around 30kg, no more than 3kg. Going above these guidelines could result in uncomfortable heavy pressure and heat production.
As you can see, there are plenty of weighted blanket benefits and positives to be had, as long as you follow the guidelines and don’t expect too much. What works for one person won’t work for everyone, but at the end of the day, you’ll still have a warm and cosy blanket to snuggle up in during the colder months. If the weighted additions happen to help your insomnia or anxiety, well, that’s just a bonus.
Written by: Jack, Head of Content at Affinity