What Is A Weighted Blanket And How Does It Work?
A weighted blanket is exactly what the name indicates. It’s a blanket that has additional weight added to it. While that may seem odd, those weights are incredibly useful. Their purpose is to provide deep pressure therapy when draped over the shoulders or lap or when covering the body in bed.
According to the science behind that therapy, weighted blankets use deep pressure therapy to provide the user with a calming effect. That can reap a variety of results, including:
- A sense of calm for several hours afterward
- An improvement in the quality of sleep
- Improved ability to sleep longer hours
- Overall reduction of anxiety
- An increase in happiness
- An improvement in social interactions
- An improvement in the ability to communicate
- Better ability to focus
- Decreased incidences of seizures
- Reduction in hypersensitivity to touch
- Increase in the ability to endure a public environment
- Reduced incidences of self-injury
The Science Behind Deep Pressure Therapy
It may seem far-fetched that just a little weight in a blanket can provide such benefits. But it’s all based on science. See, deep pressure therapy has a great impact on your autonomic nervous system, also known as your unconscious actions. These include your breathing, blinking, digestion, and heart rate.
But along with that is your body’s fight or flight reaction, which is also known as your sympathetic nervous system. All of this works by the release of hormones that cause you to breathe faster and your blood sugar and blood pressure to rise when you’re feeling stressed or nervous.
There’s also another aspect to your complicated nervous system: the parasympathetic nervous system. This is the section that allows your body to relax by slowing your heart rate and breathing, as well as lowering your blood pressure. It’s triggered as you enjoy those peaceful, serene moments. For example, when you enjoy a bubble bath you feel relaxed because your parasympathetic nervous system has been triggered.
But your sympathetic nervous system is triggered, activating your fight or flight mechanism, when you feel stressed. This makes getting calm quite difficult. As a result, you have difficulty concentrating, thinking, and sleeping. By applying deep pressure therapy, you balance out your autonomic nervous system. This decreases your fight or flight reaction while activating your calming mechanism and regulating your emotions. These benefits can be achieved because the pressure of a weighted blanket provides your brain with input that releases serotonin, or the hormone that calms the body.
To put it in basic terms, think about a time you may have been so angry that you wanted to fight. Your face turned red, your blood boiled (so to speak. Actually, your blood pressure and blood sugar became elevated), you felt sweaty, you couldn’t think straight. All you could think of was going after the person who just wronged you. Fortunately, someone intervened by holding you back. They wrapped their arms around you and held you in their grip until you calmed down. And you did calm down, thanks to their big bear hug. That was deep pressure therapy in action. With that light pressure surrounding your body, you were able to calm down and think more clearly. Your blood pressure normalized, too.
A less dramatic example is when you go to the doctor for tests. When the radiologist puts a protective bib on you, you get relaxed, even sleepy, right? That’s because the heavy material in the bib that’s designed to protect you from the x-rays is also providing you with deep pressure therapy. Yep, the weight of that heavy material covers your body and acts as a bear hug.
Both of these examples are deep pressure therapy in action. And a weighted blanket works exactly the same way.
Blame It On Hormones
That sounds great, but still a little confusing. So let’s look a little more closely at just how hormones affect your mental, physical, emotional, and overall health, along with just how a weighted blanket can be used to keep them balanced.
Serotonin: Serotonin is the chemical your nerve cells produce to signal each other. It’s made of essential amino acid tryptophan and hangs out mostly in your digestive system, while also working its way into your central nervous system’s blood platelets.
You get serotonin from your diet, with such foods as nuts, red meat, and cheese. When you don’t get enough tryptophan, your serotonin levels decrease. That causes mood swings, depression, or anxiety.
Serotonin impacts each part of your body and is responsible for a lot of key daily functions. When your levels are out of balance, your physical, mental, and emotional health can be affected. Serotonin influences each function of your body, including your motor skills and emotions. It naturally stabilizes your mood and the chemical helps your sleep, eating and digestion.
In addition, serotonin:
- Maintains your bone health
- Heals your physical wounds
- Stimulates nausea
- Regulates your anxiety
- Decreases your depression
- Helps you sleep better and more soundly through the night
When serotonin naturally balances your mood, you feel:
- More able to focus
- More content
- Less anxious
But low levels of serotonin can adversely impact the above functions. While taking supplements can restore these levels, doing so could also cause side effects. That can include anything from increasing agitation and mood swings to affecting your cardiovascular system. Fortunately, weighted blankets enable your body to naturally produce enough serotonin to restore and maintain your overall health – with no side effects – thanks to the deep pressure therapy they provide.
Melatonin: Melatonin is another hormone in your body that regulates its functions. This one plays a role in your daily sleep and wake cycle, which is also called your circadian rhythm. The production and release of melatonin in your brain is synchronized to the time of day by producing more when it’s dark outside and producing less when the sun is out.
Melatonin works by producing more in mid-evening, after the sun goes down. Your levels then remain elevated throughout the night, while it’s dark. As the sun rises in the morning, your melatonin levels decrease, which causes you to wake up naturally.
Your melatonin production cycle is easily influenced by your environment. For example, during wintertime, the days are shorter and it’s dark outside much longer. So your body can start producing the hormone either earlier or later in the day. That can interfere with your natural sleep cycle, causing you to become fatigued, lethargic, or moody.
But other environmental factors can influence your melatonin levels, as well. Food is also a factor, with cow’s milk, rice, olives, tomatoes, cherries, and walnuts containing a healthy dose of the hormone. When you consume these foods, your body absorbs the melatonin they contain. This causes you to feel calm and relaxed and helps restore your body’s balance of the hormone. But not everyone eats a balanced diet. Children and adults, alike, can be picky eaters or simply choose unhealthy food choices. So the deep pressure therapy of a weighted blanket is a great way to encourage the natural production of melatonin, allowing you to get a good night’s sleep.
Another impact on the production process of melatonin is aging. Melatonin production decreases as you get older, and the hormone can also be taken as a supplement. It’s often taken in pill form to address sleep disorders. Although it might be safer than other sleep medications, a melatonin supplement can also have side effects. That can include headache, drowsiness during the day, stomach cramps, moodiness, dizziness, and depression. That only makes matters worse when striving to manage depression, anxiety, insomnia or any number of issues. Fortunately, deep pressure therapy with a weighted blanket can help your body restore its melatonin production cycle naturally and without any side effects. This makes one less thing to worry about when addressing sensory disorders or any number of issues connected to sleep.
The Scientific Research
When Swedish researchers studied the effectiveness of weighted blankets, they found that participating adults who suffered from moderate insomnia while using weighted blankets for two weeks reported sleeping more soundly through the night and did so without turning in the bed as much. They attributed this to the use of weighted blankets.
Scientists have also examined how weighted blankets impact people who suffer from mental health issues. A 2015 study revealed that when participating adults used a weighted blanket, 63% reported a reduction in anxiety and 78% said they preferred using a weighted blanket as a method of calming down.
The deep pressure stimulation a weighted blanket provides is a valuable, all natural, form of managing sleep disorders, anxiety, post-traumatic stress, depression, and sensory disorders in both children and adults. Our weighted blankets enables you to consistently get that necessary weight distribution with an innovative, Patent-Pending design that keeps them intact and clean for your overall health and peace of mind.