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Does a Weighted Blanket Help with Anxiety?

You might get a twinge of it in advance of a dentist appointment to get a tooth filled.   It may keep you up at night if you’re worried about your job or finances.  In some cases, you might just feel overwhelmed by a sense of impending danger, panic, or doom that doesn’t seem to be connected to anything specific.

It’s anxiety.  And it’s a normal human reaction to stress.

Anxiety can actually be a good thing in some situations where the feeling can alert you to danger and help you get ready to deal with it.   In most cases, the feeling is mild and passes once the anxiety-producing event is over.  But for many people anxiety goes beyond that.  

 

Constant Anxiety Can Negatively Impact Your Quality of Life.

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Adults and children who have an anxiety disorder often feel an ongoing sense of worry, fear, about everyday situations.   In severe cases, people may experience a sudden onset of fear and terror that result in a full-blown panic attack.

Even in mild cases, these feelings of tenseness, worry, and nervousness can interfere with a restful night’s sleep at night and make it hard to concentrate during the day.  It can even cause rapid heart rate, digestive issues, and chest pain.

Ongoing anxiety can make it hard to relax and enjoy the simple pleasures of life like family, hobbies, and or simply experiencing still, calming happiness that comes from watching a beautiful sunrise or your children at play.

It may surprise you to learn that general anxiety and more serious anxiety disorders are the most common mental/emotional issues people face.  In fact, anxiety disorders affect nearly 30 percent of adults at some time in their lives.    

 

The good news is that anxiety is typically very treatable.

If you feel like anxiety is a significant problem in your life, you should first see your doctor to make sure you don’t have a physical problem that’s causing it.  If your doctor thinks you could benefit from medical help, they may prescribe a medication or have you sign up for some talk therapy sessions.

However, given the choice, most of us try to avoid having to take prescription drugs for a condition that might be successfully treated with natural approaches.

 

Drugs can have a wide range of downsides.

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People who take anti-anxiety drugs often experience unpleasant side effects like insomnia, rashes, headaches, joint and muscle pain, stomach upset, nausea, and diarrhea are most common. They also can decrease interest in sex and interfere with performance and enjoyment.  And there’s also the danger of becoming physically dependent on the drugs.

Naturally talk to your doctor if you’re currently taking an anti-anxiety medication before making any changes but in the meantime, you might want to look into some non-medical, natural, alternative ways to deal with it.  Ones that you can even use alongside of doctor-prescribed treatments.

   

Here are 5 natural ways to reduce anxiety….

  • Exercise – This one tops every list.  And no wonder.  Exercise lowers stress hormones such as cortisol and helps release mood improving endorphins.  Choose something you like to do like yoga or tennis.  Not a big exercise fan?  Pick an activity that would fit easily into your life or one that you could do with friends like walking.
  • Cut back on caffeine – High doses of this stimulant found in coffee, tea, chocolate, and energy drinks can increase anxiety.
  • Avoid alcohol – Drinking a glass of wine or neat whiskey may calm you at first, but when it wears off your anxiety will still be there.
  • Stop smoking – Many people find puffing on a cigarette relaxing but research suggests nicotine and other chemicals in cigarette smoke affect areas in the brain linked to anxiety.
  • Try aromatherapy – Fragrant oils extracted from bergamot, lavender, clary sage, and ylang ylang added to a warm bath or the air with a diffuser can help you relax, improve sleep, and even reduce heart rate and blood pressure.

 

Plus one more – sleeping under a weighted blanket

Many of the above anxiety-reducing strategies are very helpful – and healthful.  But what if you can’t imagine giving up your morning coffee, cocktails with friends, or an occasional smoke on the back porch?

A weighted blanket may be the best choice and the answer you’ve been looking for.

If you’ve ever enjoyed snuggling under a big pile of covers on a cold winter’s night you may have experienced some of the soothing pleasures that a weighted blanket provides.  That pressure known in therapeutic circles as “earthing” or “grounding,” has been found to have a deeply calming effect for some people.

Sometimes called gravity blankets, weighted blankets were once only used by therapists and psychiatry clinics.   In recent years they’ve moved into the mainstream and luxury bedding markets. The benefits of weighted blankets include helping to relieve symptoms of anxiety and promote a better night’s sleep in adults and older kids.

 

Deep pressure touch can be deeply relaxing.

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The idea behind weighted blankets is something called deep-pressure touch or stimulation which causes the release of serotonin and dopamine.   Serotonin and dopamine are two neurotransmitters that can make people feel more calm, peaceful, and relaxed. 

Weighted blankets have a long history in the autism community that began with the animal scientist and autism advocate Temple Grandin.   As a young girl with autism, she spent time on a relative’s ranch and found that cows became calmer when they walked through a narrow chute that pressed on their sides.  She found the same benefit from deep pressure touch.   She later developed a “hug box” for humans that later evolved into things like “thunder shirts” for dogs and weighted vests and blankets for humans suffering from anxiety.

 

What’s the evidence that weighted blankets reduce anxiety?

The fact that weighted blankets have been successfully used in therapeutic settings as sleep and calming aids for over 20 years and their growing popularity in the marketplace are a pretty good subjective gauge of their effectiveness. Although scientific research is not definitive, some studies have indicated that weighted blankets do help promote a sense of calmness and well being 

In fact, a 2006 study done by Occupational Therapy in Mental Health on 32 people found that a full 63% of participants said they felt a lower level of anxiety after using a weighted blanked – compared to just lying down without a blanket.  And 78% of them reported feeling more relaxed in general.

“When I slipped under the blanket, I felt like I was wrapped in a cocoon, as if the blanket were hugging me. *** Although it was possible for me to shift onto my side, the blanket was definitely more snug than my regular comforter, and I felt like it encouraged my body to stay still. Normally, I’m pretty restless in bed, and the act of moving around makes my mind wander. But, because I couldn’t physically move as much, I noticed that my thoughts weren’t racing as much either. I was able to just focus on the present, and that made it easier to fall asleep. I didn’t wake up once in the middle of the night, which is very rare for me and after 7 hours of solid sleep, I felt so refreshed that I didn’t even need to stop for my iced coffee on the way to office.”   Christina Heiser-- quoted in an article on NBC Better nbcnews.com

 

How to know whether a weighted blanket will help reduce your anxiety?

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The true measure of the success of treating anxiety with an adult weighted blanket or a weighted blanket for kids is to try it for yourself.

The beauty of using a weighted blanket or cooling weighted blanket to manage anxiety is that it doesn’t have many - if any - downsides.   

Unlike some treatments, a weighted blanket doesn’t require you to use it for an extended period of time before it begins producing results.  The very first time you slip under the comforting weight of a 10 lb weighted blanket, 15 lb weighted blanket or a 20 lb weighted blanket, you might begin to feel its calming effects.  Effects that will last all night and reward you in the morning with a feeling of being rested, relaxed, and ready for the day ahead.

There’s no risk of physical addiction - although some people say they love their weighted blanket so much they couldn’t imagine living without it!  You can use it as much or as little as you like, at night – or during the day when you feel like you could use a comforting “hug” to decompress from a stressful situation.

It couldn’t be easier to use. Just lie down, pull your weighted blanket up around you, and sink into a peaceful, grounding experience that can slow down racing thoughts and help you get to sleep or simply “live in the moment” free of worry and anxiety.

At its heart, a weighted blanket is just another kind of bedding that will blend beautifully with your bedroom décor and won’t draw attention to itself as an anxiety calming remedy. It will simply be a cozy, calming refuge you can look forward to relaxing in whenever you need to.