Weighted Blanket Therapy: For More Than Sleep

A weighted blanket does more than just keep us warm at night. They provide a wide range of health benefits extending from the physical to the psychological. The key to their effectiveness lies in relaxation-inducing effects. While essential oils and meditation have all been known to provide stress relief, weighted blankets have now joined the ranks.

Now trending, weighted blankets come in any number of colors, sizes, weights – and price ranges (up to hundreds of dollars). With that kind of price tag, companies selling weighted blankets hope the positive effects are worth the investment. So what’s the science behind this “snug as a bug in a rug” phenomenon?

We know about the body’s 5 major senses: sight, touch, smell, taste, and sound. However, when it comes to how our bodies take in information, it far exceeds those established methods. One of them is through the body’s proprioceptive system, which sends messages to the brain based on the information it gets from our muscles. From how far down you need to bend to do a squat, to how tightly you should hug your grandmother, it’s all information being taken in by your body proprioceptively based on muscular strain or pressure.

Just as hugs do, weighted blankets stimulate the proprioceptive system. The therapeutic use of weighted blankets operates on the same idea as “deep touch pressure” therapy or DTP. Research has shown that the physical sensation of pressure prompts the body’s relaxation response, slowing a rapid heart rate and easing sweating or heavy breathing. It’s deep touch pressure that disarms our body’s stress response. A 2009 review published in the Journal of Child and Adolescent Psychopharmacology revealed the power of squeezing to be beneficial across college students, those diagnosed with ADHD or autism — even animals.

But the benefits of weighted blankets as a therapeutic tool don’t stop there. In addition to increased quality of sleep and decreased levels of anxiety, research has shown that weighted blankets may have the ability to reduce physical pain — specifically in the muscles and joints. Individuals diagnosed with fibromyalgia, restless legs syndrome (RLS), or arthritis, all of which are often characterized by painful inflammation, have been known to benefit from the use of weighted blankets as the compression reduces blood pressure. They also induce the production of hormones such as serotonin, oxytocin, and dopamine, putting the body in a relaxed state and easing painful symptoms.

Related: “Trigger Points: Self-Treatment for Pain Relief”

In addition to the numerous physical and mental health benefits, there are some fun additional perks to weighted blankets: heightened focus and concentration in the classroom, increased alertness, even easing the fear of flying.

If you’re looking to create a well-rounded, holistic wellness regimen, consider throwing in a little weighted blanket therapy alongside your other daily health practices. At the very least, you’ll sleep better!

-Erin Marie

Photo by Sdf Rahbar on Unsplash

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Originally from Connecticut, Erin McCluskey is a freelance writer, actor, and filmmaker living in New Orleans, Louisiana. Erin graduated from Tulane University in 2013 with a double major in Psychology and Theater Performance. Her educational background in psychology has enabled her to work within the mental health field specializing in emotional and mental wellness through crisis support and coping skills development. When she’s not working, Erin enjoys creating her own original sketch comedy pieces and seeking out all the best cheese boards the city has to offer.

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