What is Weighted Blanket Therapy?

~by Hush Blankets

Weighted blankets have been around for some time now, and they’ve recently begun taking the world by storm.

Now, you might have heard an acquaintance raving about their weighted blanket on Facebook or Instagram, or seen one of the numerous online reviews about weighted blankets…

screenshot of The New Yorker article about the Seductive Confinement of a Weighted Blanket in an Anxious Time

Curious to learn more about weighted blankets, and discover what is weighted blanket therapy? In this blog post, we tell you all you need to know about weighted blankets, and how they can bring a sense of calm and well-being to your life.

Ready? Let’s jump right in!

What is weighted blanket therapy?

You’ve probably already heard that weighted blankets help alleviate insomnia, and they also reduce your levels of stress and anxiety. They do this by providing a firm, deep pressure stimulation that’s known as Deep Touch Pressure Therapy (DTP).

Basically, DTP is a form of firm tactile sensory input that provides proprioceptive input to the whole body. In simple language, this form of therapy gives you a reassuring, cocooning feeling, and helps your body to calm down and relax.

girl laying on a couch with headphones on and listening to music

Image source.

How exactly does using a blanket result in DTP? Well, weighted blankets are heavier than normal blankets, and when you drape a weighted blanket over your body, this exerts a light, soothing pressure on you.

At the same time, weighted blankets also produce a pleasurable tactile sensation when you move. If you can't imagine how this might feel like, it's basically the same sensation that you get when someone strokes you gently.

Now, this tactile stimulation triggers the release of neurotransmitters that act to decrease over-arousal and anxiety, including serotonin and dopamine. With more serotonin and dopamine in your bloodstream, you’ll start to relax and feel more “in control”, and this helps you achieve a wide range of benefits, including:

  • Reduced stress levels
  • Reduced anxiety levels
  • More sleep and better quality sleep

Weighted blanket therapy is similar to…

Even if you’ve not come across a weighted blanket before, chances are you’ll have experienced DTP in some way or another.

For instance, if you go for a massage and you feel yourself relaxing and unwinding whilst your masseuse firmly kneads your body, that’s DPT at work.

If you like the feeling of your significant other lying on you and putting their weight on you, and you find this comforting, that’s also DPT working its magic.

Now, while going for too many massages will burn a hole in your wallet, getting a weighted blanket is a quick and easy way of ensuring that you always have access to DPT, and this allows you to tap upon weighted blanket therapy as and when you need.

Feeling exhausted after a long day at work? Just head home and burrow under your weighted blanket -- you’ll instantly start to relax.

Stressed from the amount of things that you’ve got on your plate? Take a quick 15-minute nap under your weighted blanket, and you’ll wake up feeling much better.

How weighted blanket therapy helps with ADHD, Autism, Aspergers, and more

Weighted blanket therapy benefits regular folks who are experiencing stressful situations, and it also helps individuals with specific health conditions, such as:

  • ADHD
  • Autism / Aspergers
  • Sensory Processing Disorder
  • PTSD
  • Restless leg syndrome
  • Fibromyalgia

In the following sections, we’ll walk you through the science of how weighted blanket therapy helps in each of these areas.

Using a weighted blanket to reduce stress and anxiety

We live in a world that’s increasingly fast-paced and hectic, so it’s important to learn how to cope with the stressors that we encounter everyday.

How you do this is up to you -- you might like to relax by listening to classical music, going for a walk, or taking a nice, hot bath…

girl taking a bath in a tub with her leg up

OR you might find that it helps to snuggle underneath your weighted blanket.

Now, weighted blankets have been proven to reduce stress and anxiety, and they even help insomniacs get a better night’s sleep. As mentioned earlier, using a weighted blanket triggers your body to produce more serotonin, and this neurotransmitter helps to regulate sleep.

Here are a few relevant studies to check out:

This study shows that participants who used a weighted blanket experienced increased sleep time, and less movements during sleep.

This study shows that using a weighted blanket helps participants reduce their level of anxiety, and also improves their blood pressure, pulse rate, and pulse oximetry.

Using a weighted blanket to cope with ADHD

ADHD is a neurobiological disorder that manifests in several ways, including impulsivity, hyperactivity, and the inability to sustain focused attention.

As you may imagine, this condition makes it difficult for both children and adults to grapple with day-to-day life.

Kids with ADHD tend to have trouble paying attention, and this negatively impacts their school and home life. Adults with ADHD find it tough to manage their lives; they commonly struggle with being organized, punctuality, and other issues. Both kids and adults suffering from ADHD also have trouble relaxing and falling asleep at night.

girl laying facedown on a bed

Now, how does weighted blanket therapy help with ADHD? In a nutshell, using a weighted blanket can help calm those with ADHD down, and help them fall asleep (or concentrate on their task at hand).

Here are a few relevant studies to check out:

This study showed On-task behavior increased by 18% to 25% in all 4 students while wearing the weighted vest.

This study shows that weighted vests improve in-seat behavior, attention-to-task, and task completion in children with ADHD.

Using a weighted blanket to cope with Autism / Aspergers

Both Autism and Aspergers are developmental disorders that are characterized by:

  1. Difficulty in social interaction and communication, and
  2. Restricted or repetitive patterns of thought and behaviour

Here’s the backstory: until 2013, Asperger’s was seen as a disorder that was separate and distinct from autism.

It became part of an umbrella diagnosis (meaning that Asperger’s was under the autism spectrum) after that -- but today, scientists and medical professionals are divided on whether it should be reclassified as a standalone condition.

Regardless of whether you (or your loved one) is suffering from Autism or Aspergers, consider using weighted blanket therapy to alleviate your symptoms.

man with his legs crossed sitting on a couch with his hand over his head

Interestingly enough, weighted blankets are actually an “offshoot” of squeeze machines, which are deep-pressure devices designed to calm hypersensitive individuals, and individuals with autism.

The inventor of these machines is known other than Dr Temple Grandin, an American professor who’s on the autism spectrum herself.

Now, Dr Grandin chanced upon the idea of using weighted blanket therapy for those with autism back when she was a student, and visiting her aunt at her ranch.

At the ranch, she saw that cows who were getting vaccinated in an inoculation machine grew a lot calmer after they were gently squeezed by the machine. This led her to theorize -- perhaps applying the same gentle pressure would, similarly, help to calm autistic individuals down.

old man in red looking at the camera with lifestock in the background

From here, Dr Grandin threw herself into her research, and eventually created the squeeze machine. In several studies, the machine was proven to reduce anxiety and stress in both autistic individuals, and regular people without any medical conditions.

While the squeeze machine was clearly effective, it was still too bulky and expensive for regular folks to afford. That’s where weighted blankets come in -- these blankets offer the same deep pressure therapy that squeeze machines give you, and they’re also more cost-effective and easier to use.

Here’s a relevant study to check out:

This study shows that children with autism who used a weighted blanket experienced better sleep quality.

Using a weighted blanket to cope with Sensory Processing Disorder

Simply put, Sensory Processing Disorder is a condition in which the brain has trouble receiving and responding to information that comes in through the senses.

Folks with this disorder typically find their immediate environment noisy, chaotic, and overwhelming. Routine noises, sounds and touch may be exceedingly painful for them, to the point where they find it tough to go about their daily activities.

man in front of a laptop with his hands on his head

Image source.

If you’re suffering from Sensory Processing Disorder, or you know someone with the disorder, you’ll understand exactly how disruptive this disorder is.

Thankfully, many folks with the disorder find that weighted blankets help in calming them down, and helping them regain control.

Check it out: in this blog post titled “Must Haves for Kids with Sensory Needs”, blogger Sharla Kostelyk shares how weighted blankets help her kids cope with Sensory Processing Disorder.

Using a weighted blanket to cope with PTSD

People who suffer from PTSD typically feel like they’re in danger, 24/7. These folks are constantly in the “fight or flight” mode, and they experience a faster heart rate and breathing rate, as well as higher blood pressure.

If your body temporarily switches to “fight or flight” mode so that you can deal with a threat, that’s perfectly fine. But if you’re perpetually stuck in this state, this will inevitably wreak havoc on your internal systems.

anxious woman looking out the window while biting on her nails

Image source.

So, what can PTSD sufferers do to regulate their systems, and move out of the “fight or flight” mode? There are various techniques (such as counting and deep breathing) that may come in handy, but many PTSD sufferers also find that using a weighted blanket helps here.

Again, this boils down to the idea of DPT. The weighted blanket provides DPT to the PTSD sufferer, and helps to calm their central nervous system. Their body produces more serotonin and dopamine, and the level of cortisol (the stress hormone) in their body drops.

This helps the individual transition back to their “default” state (the parasympathetic system), which slows their heart rate to conserve energy.

Using a weighted blanket to cope with Restless Leg Syndrome

Those who suffer from Restless Leg Syndrome, also known as RLS, experience an overwhelming urge to move their legs, especially at night. RLS also causes an unpleasant crawling or creeping sensation in the feet, calves and thighs.

woman in bed massaging her legs

Image source.

Some uninformed folks might dismiss Restless Leg Syndrome is “imaginary”, but this is very much a real condition that affects people from across the globe. In the US alone, RLS affects up to 10% of the population, with women being more likely to experience RLS than men.

While researchers are still unable to identify the root cause of RLS, we do know that in most cases, using a weighted blanket does help with RLS.

How does this work? Firstly, weighted blankets help to increase the levels of dopamine in your body, and scientists have previously ascertained that RLS is linked to having low levels of dopamine in your brain.

On top of that, weighted blankets also helps to indirectly alleviate RLS symptoms, by helping individuals to relax and fall asleep. Check out this personal anecdote from an RLS patient who uses weighted blankets to cope with her RLS:

screenshot of a comment from a user sharing about how weighted blankets helped heal her restless leg syndrome

Using a weighted blanket to cope with Fibromyalgia

Fibromyalgia is defined as a rheumatic condition that’s characterized by muscular or musculoskeletal pain with stiffness and localized tenderness.

To be clear, Fibromyalgia is NOT the same as arthritis and joint inflammation; this condition causes soft tissue pain or myofascial pain instead of joint/muscle damage.

woman sitting on a bed holding her lower back and neck

Image source.

Seeing as Fibromyalgia is a chronic pain condition, it unfortunately has no cure. That said, there are ways of managing and easing the symptoms of fibromyalgia, and it’s possible for those with fibromyalgia to reduce their pain and discomfort.

Now, one popular “aid” that individuals with Fibromyalgia rely on is a weighted blanket. While weighted blankets don’t outrightly influence a patient’s condition, they help the patient’s body produce more serotonin. This, in turn, reduces the Fibromyalgia symptoms that patients experience.

Here are a few relevant studies to check out:

This study shows that people with fibromyalgia tend to have low levels of serotonin.

This study shows that using a weighted blanket to apply gentle pressure on patients helps to boost their serotonin levels.

Choosing a weighted blanket for weighted blanket therapy

If you’re thinking of buying a weighted blanket for you or your loved one, note that these come in many different shapes and sizes.

One important factor to consider is the material or type of “stuffer” that’s used to weigh down the weighted blanket. Typical stuffers include plastic poly pellets, steel beads, and glass beads, and unconventional stuffers including sand and even buckwheat.

sand in a glass bowl

Image source.

Generally speaking, we’d say try to go with steel or glass beads. Plastic poly pellets might melt in the wash (under high temperatures), and anything that’s organic will start to rot the minute it comes into contact with water.

Another important thing to get right is the weight of your weighted blanket. For best results, your blanket should be 10% of your body weight. If you’re in between, get a heavier weighted blanket for better results.

folded Hush weighted blanket on a bed

With this guarantee, you can purchase your weighted blanket and “test-drive” it for 100 nights. If you don’t like it, simply ship it back to us within this period of time, and we’ll process a full refund of you -- INCLUSIVE of shipping fees.

What are you waiting for? Get your weighted blanket today, and say hello to better quality sleep, less stress and less anxiety. Your life will never be the same again!

~quoted from HushBlankets.ca