For many of us, a good night’s sleep can always feel just out of reach. Whether you suffer from anxiety, stress or other general sleeping disorders, a lack of deep, restful sleep can have significant impacts on your life. Sleep is important to the overall functioning of your body and in all areas of your life. Those of us who struggle with irregular sleep patterns know this reality all too well. However, hope might be within reach. Rather than reaching to prescribed sleeping pills or alternative sleep aides, weighted blankets are considered to be a natural, healthy relief to even some of the most complex sleep problems.
Today, we’ll be sharing the benefits of weighted blankets and how to best use these heavy blankets to get a good night’s sleep.
How do weighted blankets work?
Weighted blankets rely on Deep Pressure Stimulation or Deep Touch Stimulation to foster a good night’s sleep through gently applied pressure. In a 2015 study on the therapeutic effects of weighted blankets, researchers have found a strong correlation between weighted blankets and an increase in stress-reducing hormones such as oxytocin and serotonin. In this study, 63 per cent of participants reported decreased feelings of anxiety, stress and overall restlessness. Weighted blankets mimic the feelings of other forms of physical touch such as massage, hugging or other types of physical contact.
In addition to the physical benefits, weighted blankets’ evenly distributed pressure promotes the production of feel-good chemicals in your brain while simultaneously suppressing feelings of stress and anxiety. This simultaneous action has been proven to lower the sympathetic nervous system’s reactions while increasing the activity in the body’s parasympathetic nervous system.
What is the sympathetic nervous system?
Your body’s sympathetic nervous system is the central nervous system that is responsible for the fight or flight response. The sympathetic nervous system is the key driver of stress, anxiety and a feeling of restlessness. By calming the central nervous system (primarily your brain!), weighted blankets help to foster a sense of security and calm.
What is the body’s parasympathetic system?
The body’s parasympathetic nervous system is a separate nervous system responsible for your body’s internal functions such as breathing, heart rate, blood pressure etc. These functions are subconscious and happen outside of your control making the parasympathetic nervous system difficult to control or manipulate. Deep Pressure Stimulation has been shown to increase the levels of activity in the parasympathetic nervous system, thereby lowering blood pressure and your heart rate to increase feelings of calm and relaxation.
In conjunction with the effects weighted blankets have on your body’s central nervous systems, weighted blankets have also been proven to have profound effects on your internal hormone production. Weighted blankets have been proven to effectively influence three critical hormones in your body: oxytocin, serotonin, and cortisol.
Oxytocin is the “love hormone.” This hormone is responsible for feelings of warmth, attachment, affection, and general happiness. This is a complex hormone that builds strong emotional attachments, empathy, and bonding between people. Oxytocin is a critical hormone in helping parents bond with their babies through physical touch and is the primary hormone released when hugged or shown physical affection. Research shows that weighted blankets increase oxytocin production, which helps with falling asleep stress-free and relaxed.
Serotonin is your all-around feel-good hormone! Serotonin is responsible for mood stabilization and is often synthetically used in anti-anxiety and anti-depression medications. Serotonin is also our personal connection hormone contributing to feelings of belonging and socialization. Weighted blankets contribute to an increase in serotonin production, creating healthy sleeping patterns, and managing energy levels. Serotonin is also closely linked to another sleep hormone, melatonin, making it an important feature of a healthy sleep cycle.
Cortisol is the stress hormone. This hormone is your body’s central response function to stress. Increased cortisol levels can contribute to weight gain, feelings of anxiety or depression, and an inability to fall or stay asleep. Researchers have found promising correlations between the use of weighted blankets and a decrease in overall cortisol levels, making users feel more relaxed, less stressed, and more likely to develop healthy sleep patterns.
What are the benefits of a weighted blanket?
Expert studies continue to point to both the physiological and physical benefits of weighted blankets for a wide range of sleep, physical ailments, and mental health conditions, 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!
How do you use a weighted blanket?
A weighted blanket is simple and easy to use for adults and children. Simply place the weighted blanket across your entire body, so the weight is evenly distributed. Now lay back, relax, and let the benefits of Deep Pressure Stimulation set in. It’s that easy!
For children, it is important to find a weighted blanket that is appropriate for their size and age. Many experts believe that lap blankets or smaller sized weighted blankets are more appropriate for children rather than full-sized bedding.
For folks who might be warm sleepers, have no fear – there are cooling weighted blankets for you as well. Cooling weighted blankets are made from specifically designed cooling fabric and moisture-wicking fibers to ensure breathability and airflow, keeping you the optimal sleeping temperature.
How to choose the best weighted blanket for your needs
It is relatively simple to choose the right blanket for your specific body and sleeping needs. Experts recommend that your weighted blanket be no less than 10 percent of your total body weight to be heavy enough to activate deep touch pressure benefits. For example, if you are 150 pounds, your ideal weighted blanket should be approximately 15 pounds.
It is also recommended that you do your research on the type of fabrics used in weighed blankets so you can avoid skin irritation or potential allergic reactions. Many weighted blanket manufacturers use high-quality natural materials, including premium cotton or other natural fiber blends.
It is also important to look for your weighted blanket’s manufacturing details, mainly how the weight is created and distributed. Many weighted blankets use strategic stitching and evenly distributed pockets to hold weighted plastic or glass beads. If not properly manufactured, these beads can bunch, lump, or fall to the edges of your blanket, so it is important to invest in a well-made, evenly distributed weighted blanket.
Studies continue to show the physical and psychological benefits of weighted blankets in reducing stress and fostering a good night’s sleep. With more products on the market, it is important to do your research to find the right weighted blanket for your sleep needs and personal lifestyle. The right weighted blanket can help create feelings of security and calm. When used correctly, it can significantly improve your quality of sleep and overall quality of life.