Do weighted blankets work for anxiety?
In recent years, there have been a lot of solutions offered to help with anxiety and other mental health disorders that can impact an individual’s life. Some of these solutions work for a variety of problems or circumstances, for example, anxiety and autism, and can help relieve restlessness, worry, or nervousness, as well as other problems.
One particular solution that has become popular in the last few years is the use of weighted blankets to promote comfort and reduce anxiety. Weighted blankets are popular among many people with different issues, however, do weighted blankets work for anxiety? Let’s take a look.
What is a weighted blanket?
The first thing to consider is: what is a weighted blanket? It is simply a blanket that is heavier than normal that can have different sizes and weights. Weighted blankets can be purchased from many different companies (You can click here to check the price on one of the best quality brands ) or can be made by adding extra weight to a normal blanket. A weighted blanket is associated with positive effects and is soothing for many.
The proposed mechanism behind a weighted blanket’s soothing effect is referred to as “deep touch pressure”. Deep touch pressure is a type of sensory input that is associated with relaxing effects. Deep touch pressure is a type of input that is normally associated with physical contact, like hugging, stroking, holding, or squeezing and…
…being hugged or held by someone else is intrinsically comforting and relaxing. This response to physical contact begins since we are infants because that is how we naturally respond to contact with our parents. We feel reassured by this type of touch because it makes us feel comfortable and secure.
Do weighted blankets really work for anxiety? It’s starting to look good…
Deep touch pressure is an approach that is based on the idea that this type of stimulation is relaxing. It has been used to work with anxiety in people who have disorders associated with sensory perception or anxiety and other psychological disorders. DTP has several benefits. It is easy to implement. It is non-invasive and does not require significant time or effort investments on the behalf of the client. It can be effective and improve anxiety according to research.
The weighted blanket is a therapeutic intervention within the DTP approach. The blanket can indeed help regulate and reduce anxiety and using the blanket have a significant effect on the brain. It promotes activity in the parasympathetic system, which is part of the autonomous nervous system.
We have two systems, the sympathetic and the parasympathetic. The sympathetic system is in charge of the fight-or-flight response. When we perceive something to be dangerous, the system activates and changes the arousal levels of our body. This means that our heart rate rises, our breathing becomes faster and more shallow, our pupils dilate, and so on.
These changes occur frequently when we experience anxiety, because, in the case of anxiety disorders, we tend to evaluate different type of stimuli as dangerous, which means that our body responds to them by activating the sympathetic system…
…however, the sympathetic system should not be active for long. It is meant to be activated when there is danger but not for prolonged periods of time, because it is stressful and tiresome for the body.
The parasympathetic system has the opposite effect. It is the system in charge of restoring balance to the body and shutting off the sympathetic system when the dangers are passed. The parasympathetic system can be activated by signals that there is no danger. For example, changing one’s breathing consciously can be a way of activating this system.
The weighted blanket increases activity in the calming part of our nervous system
A weighted blanket acts upon the parasympathetic system. Research shows that it helps increase activity in the parasympathetic division of the autonomous nervous system and reduce activity in the sympathetic division of the autonomous nervous system.
Anxiety is conceptualized by different authors as being a “misfiring” of the fight-or-flight response. The person perceives danger where there is no danger, so their body responds by activating the corresponding mechanisms, which means that the person is on high alert and their body is functioning in “crisis mode”.
Effective interventions against anxiety are those that act upon this response and help reduce the arousal associated with the sense of danger. One common example of this type of intervention are breathing techniques. Breathing techniques promote relaxation because the person consciously changes the way in which they breathe. By breathing more deeply, they regulate the activity of their sympathetic system in order to promote parasympathetic activation and reduce the arousal that they feel.
Do weighted blankets work for anxiety? Yes, and they are easy to use…unlike other tools
Weighted blankets have a similar effect, however, the advantage is that they act on their own. The person does not need to make a significant effort to focus or to relax because the blanket acts upon their body. This can be especially helpful for those who have a hard time focusing their mind or using other techniques.
It can be effective for situations where the person needs to relax, for example, before bed, or for situations where the person is overwhelmed. Weighted blankets have even been used to help people with cognitive impairments to reduce anxiety because their effect is on the sensory receptors of the body, not on the mind.
Overall, this means that weighted blankets, essentially, send a signal to the brain showing that the person is safe, which means that they can relax and it helps reduce anxiety on a physiological and neurological level.
Weighted blankets can be remarkable effective for anxiety and the carry over effect also makes the next day better with reduced anxiety
The mechanism behind using a weighted blanket is very simple and effective against anxiety. We are conditioned, since childhood, to respond to this type of physical contact and pressure positively, because it stimulates close physical contact with someone who is hugging us. This creates a feeling of safety on an emotional level but, beyond that, it sends a signal to our brain that we are safe and that there is no danger…
…weighted blankets can be very helpful for individuals who struggle with insomnia and can be a remarkable effective tool for anxiety both at night as well as the following day as the carry over effects last for many hours. This is probably because of the increase in serotonin we get from using weighted blankets…
…so even if not having the blanket with us daytime, the use of weighted blankets leads to a decrease in anxiety levels every hour of the day…
…nighttime as well as daytime.
Warning!…what you need to know
Weighted blankets are not recommended on children under 3 years of age. Also, when ordering a blanket, make sure you order the right weight for your body weight. Here are som general guidlines:
- Bodyweight 50-70 lbs = blanket weight 4-7lbs
- Bodyweight 70-110 lbs =blanket weight 6-12lbs
- Bodyweight 110-140 lbs =blanket weight 8-15lbs
- Bodyweight 140-160 lbs = blanket weight 10-17lbs
- Bodyweight 160-180 lbs = blanket weight 12-20lbs
- Bodyweight 180-200 lbs = blanket weight 14-22lbs
- Bodyweight 200+ lbs = blanket weight 22- 22+ lbs
If you are interested in learning more about weighted blankets and learn what they cost you can
click here to go to the Mosaic weighted blanket webpage (they are the leading brand)
Thank you for reading the blog post “Do weighted blankets work for anxiety?”
-Natural Health Evolution Team-
Chen, H., Yang, H., Chi, H., & Chen, H. (2012). Physiological Effects of Deep Touch Pressure on Anxiety Alleviation: The Weighted Blanket Approach. Journal Of Medical And Biological Engineering, 33(5), 463-470.