For those struggling with sleep problems and chronic pain conditions, there seems to be an endless amount of “sleeping aides” that promise a better night’s rest. From prescription sleep medications to natural supplements and essential oils, these sleep aids can range in intensity and potential negative side effects. For those who are looking for a more physical way to treat your sleep woes, a weighted blanket can provide similiar benefits to other types of more invasive forms of sleep remedies without the potential for negative side effects.
But are weighted blankets safe to use? In today’s article, we will be outlining the primary benefits of weighted blanket therapy and the safety considerations you should keep in mind when using a weighted blanket for yourself or a child.
What are the benefits of a weighted blanket?
The primary benefits of weighted blankets come from Deep Pressure Stimulation. The scientific name for this physical experience is proprioceptive pressure. This Deep Pressure Stimulation fosters a good night’s sleep through consistent, gently applied pressure over the entire body. Weighted blanket therapy mimics the feeling of physical touch and forms of affection, such as a hug or embrace.
There have been numerous scientific studies on the benefits of weighted blankets, including a 2015 study on the therapeutic effects of weighted blankets where researchers tracked the sleep of individuals suffering from insomnia while they used traditional blankets and weighted blankets. Overall, the research study participants reported an increase in the quality and duration of their sleep and more positive feelings as a result of stress reduction and improved rest. In fact, in this study, 63 percent of participants reported decreased feelings of anxiety, stress, and overall restlessness.
The evenly distributed pressure of weighted blankets can stimulate the production of feel-good chemicals in the brain while simultaneously decreasing feelings of stress and anxiety. By influencing your brain’s chemical makeup, these hormones can help promote a better night’s sleep, alleviate physical ailments and chronic pain, and help maintain overall health.
Weighted blankets have been proven to have tangible effects on your internal hormone production. Deep Pressure Stimulation studies show weighted blanket therapy can effectively influence your body’s critical hormones: oxytocin, serotonin, dopamine, melatonin, and cortisol.
- Oxytocin is the hormone responsible for feelings of love, affection, and general attachment. This is the primary hormone responsible for bonding between parents and their children.
- Serotonin is responsible for mood stabilization and personal connection. This hormone contributes to feelings of belonging and socialization.
- Dopamine is a neurotransmitter hormone that acts as the chemical messenger between your brain and your nerves.
- Melatonin works to regulate your sleep pattern and helps you to fall asleep naturally.
Contrary to the above-mentioned hormones, who all report an increase in production due to Deep Pressure Stimulation, cortisol is a hormone that sees a reduction in production through weighted blanket therapy. Cortisol is our body’s primary hormonal response to stress. Weighted blankets have been proven to decrease cortisol production making users feel more relaxed, less stressed, and more likely to develop healthy sleep patterns.
In addition to hormonal benefits, Deep Pressure Stimulation impacts the reactions in your body’s central nervous system. The use of weighted blankets helps to lower reactions in the body’s sympathetic nervous system while increasing activity in the body’s parasympathetic nervous system.
Your body’s sympathetic nervous system is the central nervous system that is responsible for the fight or flight response and is the key driver of stress, anxiety, and a feeling of restlessness. By calming the central nervous system, weighted blankets help to reduce anxiety, stress, and reduce symptoms of panic disorders such as OCD.
The body’s parasympathetic nervous system is another function of the central nervous system and is responsible for your body’s internal functions such as breathing, heart rate, and blood pressure. Deep Pressure Stimulation has been correlated to an increase in the levels of activity in the parasympathetic nervous system helping to lower blood pressure and your heart rate to help you get into a deep sleep cycle.
Who can benefit from weighted blanket therapy?
Individuals who struggle with various sleep disorders and physical ailments can benefit from using a weighted blanket. There are a number of conditions that studies have shown weighted blankets can naturally address or improve, including:
- Anxiety and depression
- Helps with focus and ADHD symptoms
- Eases fibromyalgia pain and flares
- Restless Leg Syndrome
- Chronic body pain
- PTSD, mood disorders, and panic disorders
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder
- Muscle tension
- and many more!
Are weighted blankets safe?
For most adults, weighted blankets are safe to use and have very few risks. Individuals who suffer from a select few medical and physical conditions should use a weighted blanket with caution. Weighted blankets may be unsuitable for people with certain conditions, including:
- Sleep apnea, particularly obstructive sleep apnea, causes problems breathing while sleeping
- Asthma or other respiratory conditions
- Claustrophobia may be triggered by the weight and pressure of a weighted blanket
If you have any concerns about your medical conditions and how a weighted blanket may impact you, we encourage you to speak with your doctor or registered medical professional.
Are weighted blankets safe for children?
According to experts, weighted blankets should be used with caution for children, especially young children. Children should always be able to lift the weighted blanket on and off themselves to reduce the risk of suffocation under the pressure of a weighted blanket. Weighted blankets should not be used for toddlers under the age of two and should be used with supervision and caution for children under 10. We highly recommend consulting your pediatrician before allowing your child to use a weighted blanket.
How to choose the right weighted blanket?
Choosing the right weighted blanket is a fairly simple process. Depending on your specific body and sleeping needs, there is a wide range of weighted blankets. These blankets come in varying weights, different fabrics, blankets focused on cooling and promoting airflow, and blankets designed to be warm and cozy. Experts recommend that your weighted blanket should be no less than 10 percent of your total weight. For example, if you weigh 150 lbs, your weighted blanket should be no less than 15 lbs.
Your weighted blanket weight should be heavy enough to activate the Deep Pressure Stimulation benefits we describe above. The weight should be evenly distributed to ensure there are no pressure points on any one point of your body.
For children, it is recommended that parents use the 10 percent of their body weight measurement as long as they are able to move freely underneath and take the blanket on and off themselves.
Weighted blankets can be manufactured in a number of different ways. Most weighted blankets on the market using strategic stitching and evenly distributed pockets to hold weighted glass or plastic beads. We recommend looking for weighted blankets that are specifically designed to prevent beads from bunching or falling to the edges of the blanket, creating an uneven weight distribution. Weighted blankets are generally made from breathable, natural fabrics such as high-quality premium cotton, natural fiber blends, or sherpa. If you have skin sensitivities or allergies, we recommend doing your research on the types of fabrics used in manufactured weighted blankets. Many are considered to be hypoallergenic and better for folks with allergies than traditional bedding!
No matter your sleep preferences or needs, a weighted blanket can offer a natural, at-home solution to your sleeping woes. Weighted blanket therapy is safe to use for children and adults and can be a beneficial addition to your overall health and quality of life.