Growing up, many of us had a stuffed animal, a pillow, or a blanket to soothe us to sleep at night. Hugging our "sleep aid" tight made us feel safe and comfortable, as we developed an attachment to it. Now, parents and kids alike who have anxiety, learning disabilities, or trouble sleeping can seek solace in a "new" health trend: a weighted blanket.
Weighted blankets have been used as a therapy tool to provide a sense of tranquility in people with a wide range of health disorders.
In the infographic "Everything You Need To Know About Weighted Blankets", Harkla, a children's educational resource company, explains a weighted blanket is exactly like a regular blanket, but with extra weight on them. They come in various shapes and sizes, and come in a variety of fabrics and fillings ranging from flannel to glass beads. People with sleep disorders, anxiety disorder, ADHD, sensory processing disorder, and autism, can benefit from weighted blankets.
The blanket provides extra pressure on the body, known as deep touch pressure (DTP), which is gently distributed throughout. The benefits of DTP can be reaped via hugs, weighted vests, blankets, stuffed animals, or lap pads. DTP increases the release of serotonin — a chemical in the brain thought to regulate anxiety, happiness, and mood — and reduces activity in the nervous system.
DTP's effects on serotonin and the nervous system can have a calming effect on kids, and adults like, with various health conditions. For example, a 2011 study found using DTP in the classroom helped children with ADHD improve their in-seat behavior, attention, and task completion when wearing a weighted vest. Similarly, another study found weighted blankets helped reduce anxiety in dental patients who were in high-anxiety situations. The blanket was able to cause physiological changes in the patients’ nervous system, which helped them feel more relaxed at the dentist.
When it comes to sleep, a weighted blanket can help increase serotonin in the body via DTP.
Serotonin production is necessary to release melatonin — the sleep hormone — which helps determine when we go to sleep and wake up based on our circadian rhythm. This means it'll be faster to fall asleep; reduce anxiety; go into deeper sleep; and move less throughout the night.
In order to get the full benefits of a weighted blanket, it's best to select a blanket that has the right amount of weight. A general rule of thumb is to calculate 10 percent of our body weight and add one to two pounds for a weighted blanket. For example, a child that weighs 50 pound would be matched with a six to seven-pound blanket. However, weighted blankets are also a matter of preference; some individuals may feel comfortable with one that is heavier or lighter than the recommended range.
Look at the infographic down below to learn about the other benefits of weighted blankets, and the various health conditions they can alleviate.