It is an accepted fact that a weighted blanket can help people who have problems sleeping. They are also used by those who suffer from anxiety and stress, for ADHD and autism sufferers, and for a number of other conditions where the calming effect of a weighted blanket can be helpful. So, what are weighted blankets, and why do they have this effect?
Before we go on to talk about the science involved – and we will keep it simple – here’s a bit about what a weighted blanket is. Simply, if you think of it as being like a duvet cover, but inside is not a duvet. What is in there are thousands of small glass or plastic beads or discs. These are sewn into a series of pockets covering the whole area of the blanket.
It’s these discs or beads that provide the weight. The weight of a blanket can be anywhere from 5lbs to upwards of 30lbs, and it is designed to be spread evenly across the body while you sleep. You can buy weighted blankets for couples or for solo use. So, how do they work?
How does a weighted blanket work?
The idea behind the weighted blanket is that it pushes down on your body when you’re in bed. Think of it as a sort of replacement for a hug! This is a natural comforting device.
The effect is that of a well-known and proven relaxation therapy that is used for people with stress, anxiety and a number of other problems. This is known by various names, but usually as deep pressure stimulation (DPS). DPS is given by a trained practitioner who applies light pressure to certain parts of the body, and it’s here that science plays a big part.
DPS stimulates what is known as the ‘parasympathetic nervous system’. Our nervous system reacts to stressful situations naturally, by inducing its ‘alert’ state; this is what produces anxiety and stress.
When the parasympathetic nervous system kicks in, it releases endorphins: these are the ‘happy hormones’ that help us feel calm, relaxed and stress-free. In replicating DPS, a weighted blanket creates a similar sort of effect. It’s like being cocooned in your favourite duvet on a cold winter night, knowing you are protected from the outside world.
Choosing a weighted blanket
That is a simple explanation of how and why a weighted blanket works, so how do you choose one? We mentioned earlier that they come in a wide range of weights. Medical advice says to find the right weight for you, take your body weight in pounds, and divide it by ten. Medical advice says to find the right weight for you, take your body weight in pounds, and divide it by ten, or use the weighted blanket weight chart here.
Then, add two to the result. That’s the weight of blanket that will work for you. So, if you weigh 120lbs, you need a blanket weight of 14lbs.
If you think that a weighted blanket may help you, you should look more closely at the advice you can find online, and find one that is the correct weight. It could be the key to the first good night’s sleep in a long time.
Helen Bradfield did her degree in psychology at the University of Edinburgh. She has an ongoing interest in mental health and well-being.
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