Looking Underneath the Covers: What Is the Purpose of a Weighted Blanket?

what is the purpose of a weighted blanket

A weighted blanket, also known as a gravity blanket, can be used for a variety of purposes. In many cases, weighted blankets have been known to significantly improve a person’s sleep quality while also providing a calming effect that relieves anxiety and stress. With all of this in mind, it is no wonder weighted blankets are rapidly growing in popularity and becoming a necessity in an average home.

This article aims to answer the question – what is the purpose of a weighted blanket, as well as discusses the benefits, and for whom it is recommended. By the time you are through, you should have all the information you need to determine if purchasing a weighted blanket is the right decision for you.

What Is a Weighted Blanket

A weighted blanket is a heavier cover with either plastic pellets or glass beads sewn inside. The addition of the beads within gives it added weight in precise amounts. Generally speaking, weighted blankets range between 3 and 12kg. The appropriate blanket weight for your frame is basically between 5% and 10% of your body weight.

How Do Weighted Blankets Work?

a woman dozing soundlyWeighted blankets promote a sensation referred to as deep touch pressure stimulation. Deep pressure stimulation helps to relax you in the same manner as a massage or a hug. The gentle weight of the blanket on your body establishes a calming effect that stimulates your Parasympathetic Nervous System (PSNS). This increases the production of certain hormones and limiting selective brain chemicals which can have a reverberating effect on the quality and length of your sleep as well as your overall mood.

Pressure therapy was first discovered as a soothing method for children who are autistic and is still used by occupational therapists today as a tool for blanket therapy. Studies found that gentle pressure on the body helped to release oxytocin. The discovery eventually led to the development of weighted blankets for a variety of purposes. Aside from blanket therapy, they can also be used by people with other conditions or those who want to sleep better.

10 Weighted Blanket Benefits

By now you are probably wondering, why would you use a weighted blanket? As it turns out, there are plenty of reasons you may want to, including a boost to your nervous system. The benefits of weighted blankets are numerous and are not limited to the top 10 listed here.

1. Improves Sleep Quality

For many people, the primary benefit associated with the use of weighted blankets is that they improve sleep quality. The deep pressure stimulation provided by a weighted blanket may help produce a feeling of security and content that lulls you to sleep. This can be compared to the way a baby benefits from being swaddled. The deep touch pressure may also aid to decrease restlessness and reduce movement, enabling you to sleep soundly and feel invigorated in the morning.

2. Combats Sleep Disorders

The deep touch pressure provided by a weighted blanket can also help with more serious sleep disorders like insomnia. Deep pressure boosts your nervous system which can be particularly beneficial for people experiencing sleepless nights. Research has shown that using a gravity blanket can help insomniacs not only to fall asleep faster but also to stay asleep for longer.

3. Promotes the Release of Serotonin and Dopamine

The therapeutic stimulation derived from a weighted blanket provides a calming effect. Research shows that using a weighted blanket may help to release serotonin and dopamine. These two chemicals in your brain actively work to relieve stress, as well as deal with anxiety and depression. Higher levels of dopamine and serotonin equate to a calmer nervous system and a greater sense of relaxation overall.

4. Amplifies Melatonin For Better Sleep Cycle

Melatonin is commonly referred to as the sleep hormone. Melatonin supplements are often used to help regulate your circadian rhythm and sleep cycle. However, a weighted blanket can help boost your melatonin supply naturally, thanks to its deep touch pressure stimulation. Melatonin hormones are released in concurrence with the stimulation of serotonin. It heightens your sense of tranquillity, helping you to fall asleep faster, and stay asleep for longer without disruption.

5. Increases Oxytocin Which Promotes a Sense of Relaxation

The pressure provided by a weighted blanket is often compared to the feeling of being hugged. This sensation provides not only warmth but also a sense of security and protection. According to some studies, receiving a hug can help to release the hormone oxytocin in your body which naturally creates a sense of ease and relaxation. For many people, a weighted blanket can trigger the same hormonal release by making them feel like they’re being embraced.

6. Reduces Cortisol Levels During Sleep

Feeling grounded and secure while you sleep has been proven to reduce the nighttime levels of a stress hormone called cortisol. Cortisol can have an adverse effect on digestion, blood sugar levels, and immunity – all of which can interrupt sleep. A weighted blanket may provide you with the grounded sensation needed to inhibit the production of this stress hormone and to control your body’s chemical levels for better sleep.

7. Reduces Anxiety

Anxiety easily interferes with healthy sleep patterns and can lead to a sense of restlessness. Whether you experience anxiety in general, while travelling, or during medical procedures, weighted blankets may help diminish these symptoms. Thanks to the regulation of your nervous system, a weighted blanket can have both real-time and long term benefits when it comes to dealing with anxiety.

8. Alleviates Panic Attacks

Panic attacks are often caused by an overwhelming sense of vulnerability. A weighted blanket can provide some sort of shield that makes people feel secure and somewhat protected from the outside world. Using a weighted blanket while experiencing a panic attack may lower your heart rate and help calm you down. If you have a panic disorder, consistently sleeping with a weighted blanket may also aid in preparing you for the next day’s challenges.

9. May Ease Various Sources of Pain

a woman relaxing on a sofaSome people find that using a weighted blanket can help relieve pain associated with restless leg syndrome, fibromyalgia, or even those caused by invasive dental procedures. With restless leg syndrome, the discomfort is often prominently felt at night, making a weighted blanket particularly useful. The gentle pressure from this blanket can help compress a painful area without being overly restrictive, as compression socks have a tendency to do. A gravity blanket has also been useful in relaxing patients during dental procedures. It’s been known to prevent flare-ups of fibromyalgia symptoms, too.

10. Increases Focus Throughout the Day

Weighted blankets may also aid in enhancing focus, especially in children with anxiety, attention deficit hyperactivity (ADHD), or other sensory processing disorders like autism. The firm yet gentle pressure of a weighted blanket can help kids by grounding them in an overstimulating classroom, or by helping them sleep better at night. These children are more likely to have better concentration throughout the day if they are well-rested.

Other Weighted Blanket Considerations

Now that we know about some of the major advantages offered by weighted blankets, there are a few more things to consider before you decide if a weighted blanket is an answer to your sleep problems or stress management issues.

Who Should Use a Weighted Blanket?

a little girl sleeping with her teddyMost people will receive some form of benefit from using a weighted blanket, even it is just a bit of added comfort. However, for all of the reasons listed above, studies show that people with the following conditions and mental health disorders are particularly susceptible to the positive effect that these blankets can bring.

In many cases, study participants in the following groups of people found a decline in symptoms or a better ability to manage symptoms when weighted blankets were introduced as a therapy blanket.

Weighted blankets are highly recommended for people with the following conditions:

  • Any type of Sensory Processing Disorder: Touch therapy can help acclimate kids with a Sensory Processing Disorder to the touch of another person or object in their daily lives.
  • Autism Spectrum Disorder: Autism is one kind of sensory processing disorder that shows positive results from touch therapy.
  • Seizures: Deep pressure has been known to reduce the severity and frequency of seizures in some kids and adults.
  • Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD): Gravity blankets help reduce anxiety and panic.
  • Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD): It could increase focus and minimise distraction for children and adults with ADHD.
  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD): Calming can help reduce the nervousness associated with OCD.
  • Depression: Regulating the nervous system reduces symptoms of depression.
  • Sleep Disorders: Relief is provided for a myriad of sleep disorders including insomnia, restlessness, and more.
  • Anxiety: People with high levels of anxiety tend to benefit greatly from weighted blankets because of the sense of calm it evokes.
  • Chronic pain like Fibromyalgia: The cradling sensation that these blankets can provide might help to alleviate certain types of chronic pain.
  • Tourettes Syndrome: The calming effect can assist with managing Tourette’s outbursts.
  • Menopausal Symptoms: Menopause is known to disrupt sleep due to increased levels of depression and anxiety. A weighted blanket can help relieve symptoms associated with these conditions.
  • Panic Disorder: Studies show panic attacks can also be minimised by deep pressure therapy.
  • Restless Leg Syndrome: It could relieve tingling sensation and prevent excessive motion while you sleep.
  • Elderly: Adds warmth and a sense of security as long as the blanket is not too heavy.
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Who Should Not Use a Weighted Blanket?

While weighted blankets present a string of positive outcome for a wide range of people, they are not recommended for everyone.

The use of weighted blankets are not advised for the following groups of people:

  • Toddlers: Children under two years old should not be given weighted blankets as they can pose a serious health risk to their tiny body frame and make them feel as if they are trapped. Additionally, weighted blankets available on the market today are considerably heavier than would be, for a toddler’s lighter bodyweight.
  • Sleep Apnea: If you have sleep apnea, you are probably all too familiar with how it can affect your breathing. Unfortunately, a weighted blanket can make this problem even worse by further obstructing your already inconsistent breathing pattern. And, this is something that should be avoided in any way possible.
  • Asthma: Similar to sleep apnea, anyone with asthma should also avoid using a weighted blanket. The blanket’s added pressure on your chest can further disrupt your breathing.
  • Claustrophobia: Using a weighted blanket in combination with a predisposition for claustrophobia may trigger a reaction and cause the opposite of the calming effects desired. Instead, a weighted blanket may promote anxiety in a person with claustrophobia.

Is It Good To Use a Weighted Blanket Every Night?

a man sleeping soundlySleeping with a weighted blanket every night will provide you with the best results. Consistent use will allow you to maximise the benefits associated with deep pressure stimulation, particularly the psychological advantages.

However, if it is your first time using a weighted blanket, then you may want to warm up to the new covering a bit before sleeping with it all night. Try putting it around your shoulders while sitting on the sofa and watching TV or snuggle with it while taking a long nap. This will allow your body to get accustomed to the sensations provided by its deep touch pressure. This way, when you do take it to bed for the entire night, you’ll get the results you’re hoping for.

Even with this initial breaking in process, some people may not fall in love right away with their weighted blankets. If you find yourself feeling this way, try not to get discouraged. The therapy being provided by a weighted blanket builds up and grows over time. If you are a first time user, we recommend trying to sleep with it for 30 nights before making a final decision as to whether or not it is the right solution for you.

Conclusion

What is the purpose of a weighted blanket? As we now know, there are many uses for weighted blankets. One of the most important is encouraging better sleep. When you get a good night’s rest, the benefits add up and become easily noticeable in your waking life. Therefore, many weighted blanket benefits come down to getting enough quality sleep. However, these blankets go even further with their capacity to help children and adults with sensory and nervous disorders.

Are you convinced? Do you want a weighted blanket for yourself or think it could be helpful for someone you know? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

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