It’s yet another night of tossing & turning… just can’t get comfortable… can’t get to sleep. Maybe the day’s stresses keep running through your mind… or maybe you just can’t settle down… too restless… You might sip a bit of chamomile tea, and that might help. Turn on some relaxing music… take a hot bath… every trick you can think of, but you still don’t get to sleep easily… or you wake up at 3 am, cursing the alarm clock.
Trying to find the right solution, you discovered the therapeutic blanket, aka, weighted blankets. A heavy blanket has helped many people who have sleep problems. Also referred to as a pressure blanket, gravity blanket, or more simply a weighted blanket. The heavy blanket creates a sense of being swaddled. The physical connection that you feel provides warmth and security, helping the body relax. Weighted blankets act like a hug, using a technique called deep pressure stimulation (DPS) to make the user feel more secure. This is a deep touch pressure applied to the body — by hands, tools, or blankets — that can relax the nervous system.
Temple Grandin first discovered deep pressure therapy when searching for something to ease the anxiety of children. She wanted to provide something that didn’t feel confining or restricting, so she came up with a “hug machine” that applied gentle pressure to the body. When she did this, she noticed a release of oxytocin in her patients. Using this research, weighted blankets were developed. They give a similar experience to the “hug machine” by lightly pressing on the body and stimulating a similar release of oxytocin.
Weighted blankets act as a form of deep pressure therapy that can increase the amount of dopamine and serotonin in the brain. These are “feel good” chemicals that can cause the user to feel a sense of calm, happiness, and well-being.
Weighted blankets have also been used to reduce or manage the symptoms of:
Research shows that a weighted blanket creates a type of physical connection that has an abundance of positive effects on hormones governing the nervous system, affecting both mood and stress levels.
Weighted Blanket Benefits
Because weighted blankets are a form of deep pressure therapy, they provide many of the same benefits, including an increase in serotonin, a reduction in heart rate, and much more:
1. Creates a Calming Effect
People who use weighted blankets often report a calming modality, and for this reason, it’s often used for people who are stressed or have a disorder that makes them hyperactive. Weighted blankets have been helpful for calming everyone from college students to animals.
2. Improves Daytime Social Interactions
Weighted blankets have been found to improve social interactions during the day for users, mainly because they are able to get restful sleep the night before.
When a person isn’t able to get a good night’s sleep, it impacts every aspect of their life — including social interaction and performance in other areas like school or work. When a person gets their sleep back, they often get their life back too.
3. Increases Serotonin
Serotonin impacts the sleep-wake cycle by regulating sleep stages and impacting the depth of sleep. Deep pressure touch has been shown to stimulate the release of serotonin, helping the user sleep more peacefully and soundly.
4. Reduces Nighttime Movement
If you find yourself tossing and turning at night, having a weighted blanket on top of the body while sleeping can help reduce movement. Studies back up this claim — the ‘cocooning’ provided by a weighted blanket can reduce movements during the night, leading to a more restful sleep.
5. Promotes a Happier Mood
If you’re feeling irritable or depressed, you may not be getting enough mood-lifting brain chemicals. Serotonin, the hormone that affects mood disorders, is also considered a brain chemical.
Deep pressure stimulation (via a weighted blanket) can boost levels of serotonin, research shows. This same deep pressure also reduces levels of the stress hormone, cortisol, which also helps the body to relax. A weighted blanket can serve as the hug you need to improve your mood and ease your sadness.
6. Reduces Heart Rate
Touch therapy has been found to decrease heart rate. A weighted blanket simulates touch therapy, providing similar benefits. The calming, grounding effect can be helpful for stopping symptoms of anxiety or other illnesses that induce a quickened heart rate.
7. Increases Feelings of Security
Weighted blankets — especially when wrapped around the body to create a swaddling effect — have demonstrated increased feelings of security. This feeling can help in other areas of your life including improving sleep and even helping with sleep anxiety.
8. Improves Communicativeness
Another observed benefit of deep pressure stimulation includes increased communicativeness — particularly in children on the autistic spectrum. The feeling of safety and grounding may have something to do with this benefit.
9. Improves the Mood (**Worth Mentioning Twice**)
Using a weighted blanket can lead to overall improvements in mood. This is because the pressure of a weighted blanket increases the production of the feel-good hormone oxytocin. Combined with a decrease in cortisol (the stress hormone), this can have a significant impact on a person’s state of mind.
10. Induces and Improves Sleep
Findings show that people who use a weighted blanket often notice they stay asleep longer, have fewer disruptions during their sleep, and experience overall improved sleep. There have also been reports that a weighted blanket can help people fall asleep faster.
11. Eases Pain
Many people say that a weighted blanket helps relieve pain, so they can stop the cycle of painkillers. There is also evidence that a weighted blanket helps relieve dental pain. A weighted blanket, aka ‘gravity blanket’, helps “ground” the body during sleep by pushing it downwards. This grounding may create the deeply calming effect that people report. Also, because the blankets simulate deep pressure touch, both chronic stress and anxiety are reduced.
A study in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine suggested that grounding the human body during sleep can help improve cortisol levels, especially in women, which improved their sleep and reduced stress, insomnia, and pain.
12. Helps Students Focus (and Aren’t we ALL students learning everyday)
School, as well as learning as an adult, can be challenging.
Over the years, educators and occupational therapists have encouraged the use of weighted vests and lap pads. Researchers believe that the firm yet gentle pressure helps relieve anxiety and keeps one focused; they also sleep better.
Overall, the deep pressure stimulation from a weighted blanket provides a calming, soothing effect that is conducive to sleep. This allows the tense, anxious, restless person gets the sleep they need. And if you have pain, this special blanket can help relieve your discomfort so you can get plenty of rest. People suffering from arthritis, fibromyalgia, and other painful conditions have found relief in sleeping with a weighted blanket. Growing numbers of people are finding that this special type of blanket is a good alternative to life-long sedative-hypnotic medications (sleeping pills) at night. By promoting the ‘calming’ hormones and neurotransmitters, a weighted blanket helps to calm both the body and the brain.