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Weighted Blankets for Insomnia and Other Conditions

Many people cannot do without weighted blankets. For most, these pieces of fabric have become a routine part of healthy sleep habits and stress relief. And there’s a good reason for this. Studies suggest that weighted blankets may provide relief for autism patients, as well as people with insomnia, anxiety, and other conditions.

This article will explore the therapeutic benefits of weighted blankets on insomnia, autism, and anxiety, among other conditions.

What is a weighted blanket?

A weighted blanket is a therapeutic blanket weighing between 5–30 pounds. The extra weight exerts a pressure that mimics pressure therapy (1) or deep pressure stimulation.

Weighted blankets have extra heft. This is because they are made of heavier layers of fabrics with plastic or glass pellets. As a result, they feel more like the lead apron placed over you when you go to the dentist for an X-ray.

Weighted blankets are usually sold online, at department stores, or drugstores.

What are the benefits of a weighted blanket?

Deep pressure stimulation causes relaxation of the nervous system through pressure. You can liken it to the experience of being hugged or held. Using a weighted blanket may help (2):

· Relieve pain perception

· Reduce symptoms of anxiety

· Relieve depression

· Improve your sleep quality

There’s no need to have pressure therapy completely hands-on. For example, when you use weighted blankets, you’ll feel the pressure coming not from another person but the blanket wrapped around your body.

One may also feel deep pressure stimulation from weighted vests and other such garments. A study (3) reported that psychiatric assistance dogs would assist their owners with deep pressure stimulation.

How do weighted blankets work?

In theory, it is believed that the pressure from the weight of these blankets provides therapeutic value. You can compare it to a baby’s swaddling blanket that soothes it to sleep. Weighted blankets are designed to:

1. Calm your nerves

The pressure from weighted blankets triggers your nervous system responses that lower your breathing and heart rate during periods of anxiety. This can calm you down and help you to sleep. Weighted blankets also prevent frequent tossing and turning in bed. This means you can lie still and drift off.

2. Triggers the release of natural chemicals

The pressure from weighted blankets can trigger the release of serotonin from our brain. Serotonin is a hormone that helps your body and mind to calm down. It keeps your mood steady and is helpful with sleep.

The pressure from weighted blankets may stimulate the release of oxytocin, which boosts your immune system response, eases stress and pain, and helps you get to sleep.

3. Sensory therapy

There are indications that weighted blankets may be helpful for ADHD or ASD patients — who are overstimulated by the noise in their environment. The pressure from the blanket may help them feel protected and safe.

What does the research say?

In addition to current research, several studies have promising results that provide more evidence that weighted blankets can provide relief from physical pain and symptoms of other ailments.

A 2021 Swedish study (2) found that weighted blankets were helpful and improved sleep-in for people who have bipolar disorder, major depressive disorder, ADHD, and generalized anxiety disorder. The study involved 120 people who received either a weighted chain blanket or a light blanket. After four weeks, users of the weighted blanket had reduced fatigue and insomnia, anxiety, or depression during the day.

Another study (3) found that weighted blankets were immensely beneficial to children and adults with ASD or ADHD. Participants in the study included 37 adults and 48 children who were comfortable relaxing during the day while sleeping with weighted blankets.

In a 2020 study (4) involving 28 participants who had trouble falling asleep, it was discovered that using a weighted blanket over a 6-week timeframe resulted in improved sleeping habits, quality, as well as the time it took to fall asleep.

A 2020 study conducted by researchers from Florida measured the impacts of weighted blankets on inmates of an inpatient psychiatric facility. In the study, 61 out of 122 participants used a weighted blanket. These 61 had meager rates of anxiety compared to the rest.

  • While these studies may involve small groups, it is essential to note that they support the purported benefits such as reduced anxiety, improved sleep, and relief of physical pain.

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