How Weighted Blankets Can Help With Insomnia, Anxiety, And Sensory Processing Disorders?

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How Weighted Blankets Can Help With Insomnia, Anxiety, And Sensory Processing Disorders?

Blankets are excellent for coverage and warmth; many people love to curl up with one when watching television, reading a book, or even sitting at the office.

Lately, weighted blankets have grown in popularity since many describe them as feeling like a big hug that cuddles, calms, and helps lull people to sleep easier. However, a heavy weighted blanket can do so much more than provide warmth and security for rest.

Weighted blankets are typically filled with tiny plastic pellets that add to their weight so they feel heavier when draped across you. They are also more expensive than your average blanket. The gentle pressure that they provide your body goes as far as helping people dealing with insomnia, stress and anxiety, and even sensory processing disorders.

How Weighted Blankets Work

The weight of a blanket works similarly to a swaddle to a baby. It helps to calm you down by activating the parasympathetic nervous system, which lowers the heart rate when you are stressed or scared. Many people equate the feeling of a weighted blanket with a wraparound hug and paired with a cuddle pillow, you’ll feel any worries or stresses from your day melt away.

The correct amount of pressure from the blanket can vary. Some blankets are explicitly made for younger children and only have a few extra pounds of extra pressure. The ones more suited for adults can have up to 20 pounds or more added pressure.

How Weighted Blankets Help With Conditions

Weighted blankets utilize “pressure therapy” to provide calm pressure across your entire body. Here are some conditions that weighted blankets can help alleviate.

Insomnia

The pressure stimulation from a weighted blanket helps stimulate the production of the mood-boosting hormone serotonin. In addition, it decreases levels of cortisol – the stress hormone, and simultaneously increases the levels of melatonin – the sleep hormone. 

The blanket can help improve your overall sleep quality and help you sleep more quickly, so you’re not tossing, turning, and waking often. You’ll wake up feeling more rested and refreshed, ready to take on the next day.

Stress and Anxiety

If you’re stressed and anxious, you may also suffer from insomnia. These feelings interfere with your rest and affect your nervous system, making it overact and causing problems like increased heart rate and shortness of breath.

Anxiety can disrupt daily life and cause you to worry long into the night. The pressure from weighted blankets puts that nervous system into a “rest” mode, which helps reduce symptoms of anxiety like quickened heart rate and breathing. The calmness can melt away the stresses you’re feeling and bring relief.

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)

Difficulty with social interactions is an effect of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), but the results of the high functioning levels can also create problems in multiple situations. Individuals with ASD sometimes suffer from sensory processing issues, with stimulations like loud noises or touching that feel too intense.

The pressure that a weighted blanket can give those suffering from ASD can provide a sense of security and comfort. It helps reduce those feelings of over-stimulation to help bring relaxation in those high noise or tense situations.

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)

Children who have ADHD have difficulty with self-control at times when they may need to sit still or pay attention. It can cause issues, particularly at school, that can impact their learning and cause problems.

Focus is very challenging for those with ADHD, and any amount of distractions can cause someone to lose concentration easily. Fidgeting and squirming are everyday activities that occur, so sitting still is hard. With a weighted blanket, children have improved emotional regulation and attention. The blankets can help them avoid becoming distracted and help them remain on task.

Consider a Weighted Blanket

As always, it would be wise to experiment and try different pressure levels to see what best suits you before you purchase. You don’t want one that doesn’t offer enough pressure, and at the same time, you don’t want a blanket that will make you feel as if you’re suffocating. 

If you’ve ever felt anxious or worried, and it’s kept you awake at night, it’s worth trying a weighted blanket to give you that sense of relief. If you have a child who has ADHD or ASD, it might be helpful to talk to your doctor or healthcare specialist about the benefits that a weighted blanket can provide. They may prescribe other changes to work alongside the weighted blanket, such as a nutrition or exercise plan.

Try a weighted blanket if you suffer from or have suffered from any of these conditions. You don’t necessarily have to have a problem trying it out; you may simply want to feel more calm and secure when going to bed at night. Improve your overall sleep quality and health with the addition of a weighted blanket in your bed.

About the Author

Jared Levenson is a former binge eating wrestler turned Zen Buddhist Monk, Internal Family Systems counselor and nutrition wellness coach. He's helped hundreds of people through universal meal principles and internal family systems to make peace with food, stop binge eating, and find true health and wholeness.

@jared_levenson

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