One of the latest wellness innovations is the weighted blanket. It is supposed to help with insomnia, restlessness, sensory issues linked to autism and even anxiety. Research shows that these blankets can help with managing these conditions.
So how does it work?
Weighted blankets are heavier than regular blankets. They have tiny chains or pellets throughout that can weigh from 4 to 30 pounds (2-14kg). The pellets, made of sand or plastic, are interlaced in the blanket in a way that allows the weight to be distributed proportionately. This gives the feeling of a giant, comforting hug. As we know hugs help the release of happy hormones which help us calm down, relax and even fall asleep. The weighted blanket gives the sort of feeling of being physically grounded and therefore allows us to focus on calming down.
This idea of sensory stimulation isn’t exactly new in medical practice. Similar ways of calming the nervous system have been used with children with autism and patients that have excessive behavioral issues. Sensory activities such as playing with playdough, watching stimulating lights, listening to, etc. help these individuals calm down. Hand and leg weights that are typically used for fitness activities are often used to help children with autism and ADHD focus on their schoolwork. So this concept of being physically weighted down to help weigh down your thoughts is widely used and effective. But how does it help with anxiety?
Anxiety and its effects
Everyone feels anxious sometimes. It is a normal emotion that occurs when we face dangerous or harmful situations. Anxiety as an emotion is crucial for survival as it triggers the “fight or flight” reaction when we face alarming conditions. However often anxious feelings that don’t seem to go away and even affect a person’s feelings and behaviors can lead to an anxiety disorder. This is a mental health disorder that changes the way the person precepts it’s surroundings, their own emotions and that leads them to behave differently. People with anxiety disorder experience extreme fear and worry that can lead to physical symptoms like headaches, nausea, insomnia or even social and physical isolation.
Statistics state that approximately 40 million adults in the US alone suffer from anxiety. It is also one of the most common psychiatric diagnoses in teenagers, especially girls. What’s worrisome is that less than half of the affected individuals seek help and treatment. Some people rely on pharmaceutical drugs, others turn to alternative medicine, herbs, and food supplements, yoga and meditation are a common choice. One of the most common practices of helping patients that suffer from an anxiety disorder is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT).
Anxiety and weighted blankets
As previously mentioned anxiety can cause the feeling of restlessness, insomnia and increased irritability which can lead to chronic sleep deprivation. In this case, a weighted blanket comes in handy as it not only creates the feeling of a comfortable hug but it actually pushes the body downwards. This triggers a deep pressure touch effect, which is proven to reduce chronic stress and high levels of anxiety.
Some studies have shown that this type of “grounding” of the body helps with reducing cortisol emissions during the night. This is the hormone that triggers the “fight or flight” response, but when it’s produced in big amounts it has negative effects on the organism. A weighted blanket can provide relaxation and provoke happy hormone production. These hormones are crucial when dealing with anxiety or depression.
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