Q&A: Can Weighted Blankets Help Me Sleep or Calm Anxiety?
What are weighted blankets and what are they used for?
A weighted blanket is a therapeutic blanket that is made with weights to provide proprioceptive input to the body. Proprioception is the ability to know where your body or body part is in relation to the space you are in, like knowing that your arm is raised overhead without looking at it.
Proprioceptive input is essential for us to live and interact with our environment. When used correctly, the deep pressure from a weighted blanket may help provide a comfort or calming effect.
What are some of the health benefits of using a weighted blanket? Can they help me sleep or help calm anxiety?
Research has shown that weighted blankets may be beneficial for those with anxiety, ADHD, autism, dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, sensory processing issues, restless leg syndrome and sleep issues.
How well do weighted blankets work?
Weighted blankets help simulate a deep pressure touch (DPT), which is a type of therapy that uses hands-on pressure to reduce chronic stress and high levels of anxiety. DPT can promote relaxation and trigger the release of dopamine and serotonin, which are naturally occurring chemicals in the brain that help you resist depression, anxiety, and other mood disorders.
Cortisol is a hormone released during times of stress that increases heart rate, blood pressure, blood glucose and muscle tension. At night, if our Cortisol levels are elevated, it can pose a challenge when trying to achieve a restful night’s sleep. It has been shown that the weight from a weighted blanket may help provide a feeling of calm by pushing the body downwards. This effect can help increase sleep satisfaction.
Are weighted blankets safe for both kids and adults?
Yes, under the supervision of a trained individual such as an occupational therapist, weighted blankets are safe to use with both kids and adults.
With the recent increase in popularity, weighted blankets are becoming more of a mass population item. It is important to remember that weighted blankets are, in a sense, not one size fits all. There are many things that need to be taken into consideration such as:
- The goal of using a blanket.
- Pre-existing cardiac issues.
- Respiratory precautions.
- The person’s weight in relation to the weight of the blanket.
- History of trauma.
- Any orthopedic considerations, such as fractures.
- Weight lifting precautions.
How do I choose the right blanket weight for me or my child?
In order to choose the appropriate type of weighted blanket, it is recommended that the parent obtain a referral from their primary care provider to an occupational therapist, or to speak personally with an occupational therapist who has experience with use of therapeutic weighted devices.
A child is at risk for injury if the wrong weighted blanket is used. A general guideline when deciding on your blanket’s weight is to multiply your child’s body weight by 10% and add 1-2 pounds, depending on preference.
After the appropriate weight is determined, an occupational therapist will then develop a plan of treatment for the child while using the weighted blanket, such as length of use and in what situation would it be needed.
Adults can use the same guidelines for determining the weight that should be used for their blankets.
About the Author
Laura Essenmacher, OT, is an Occupational Therapist at Cone Health Outpatient Rehabilitation Center at Reidsville