Weighted blankets : Can they really help people with anxiety sleep better?

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Anxiety is one of the most common disorders affecting our population today. As a matter of fact, according to Anxiety and Depression Association of America, each year, around 40 million adult Americans (aged 18 and above) suffer from anxiety.

Therapies and medications are just some of the things people with anxiety turn to as temporary relief, since there is no cure for anxiety.

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Unfortunately, not everyone suffering from anxiety is fond of taking medications just to maintain a focused mind. The good news is, another way of controlling or even decreasing anxiety symptoms have been introduced in the market – weighted blankets.

Weighted blankets were initially used for occupational therapy for children with autism and ADHD. These specialized blankets were designed to help children to calm down, especially after therapy sessions.

Now, a more recent study found out that weighted blankets can ease symptoms of anxiety for adults as well. Depression, insomnia, and panic attacks are just some of the other things weighted blankets can have a positive effect on.

Weighted blankets works by keeping the person grounded. They make use of something called Deep Touch Pressure Stimulation or DTPS. DTPS imitate the sensation felt when getting a massage, being hugged, cradled, or cuddled.

This technique can help a person remain grounded. And just like grounding techniques, weighted blankets can help take down cortisol levels. High cortisol levels are linked to hypertension, mood swings, increased anxiety, insomnia, and even weight gain. Aside from lowering levels of cortisol, weighted blankets can also help the body relax and produce serotonin. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter produced and stored in the brain which helps regulate one’s aggression and appetite. High serotonin levels can help battle anxiety, panic attacks, anger, and even depression.

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A study entitled “Exploring the Safety and Therapeutic Effects of Deep Pressure Stimulation Using a Weighted Blanket” published in 2008 revealed that out of 32 participants, 63% have experienced lowered anxiety levels after using weighted blankets. The same study used weighted blankets weighing 30 lbs.

The weight of an ideal weighted blanket for adults should be around 5 to 10 percent of their body weight. As for children, the recommended weight should be 10 percent of their body weight.

However, even though weighted blankets sound promising, it is not for everyone. Weighted blankets are not suitable for people who are suffering from respiratory problems, circulation problems, as well as chronic illnesses.

There were also some unfortunate incidents of children getting harmed because of weighted blankets, such as what has happened to the 11-year old boy with autism who was from Quebec who reportedly died in 2008 using a weighted blanket.

An occupational therapist from Spiral Foundation in Newton, Massachusetts, Teresa May-Benson, has advised that everyone should be cautious in letting their children use weighted blankets and said that children below 7 years of age shouldn’t be using these blankets at all.

“In psychiatric care, weighted blankets are one of our most powerful tools for helping people who are anxious, upset, and possibly on the verge of losing control,” says Karen Moore, another occupational therapist.

Today, weighted blankets have become much easier to purchase, they can be bought from Amazon or Bed, Bath, and Beyond. There are even numerous video tutorials over the internet on how you can make a weighted blanket at home.

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