The fast pace and complexity of modern life affect each of us at multiple levels. Whether consciously or subconsciously, we all live in a constant state of stress and this has its own implications. As per the American Psychological Association, over 67% of the population is affected by moderate to high degrees of stress—and this includes teenagers and children as well!
This makes it nothing short of a ‘pandemic’ that needs to be addressed and controlled at the earliest. Managing stress definitely calls for significant lifestyle modifications, but there are certain alternative therapies that can help. Meditation, massages, aromatherapy, regular exercises, herbal products, and other such natural therapies can help in relieving different forms of stress in a safe and effective manner.
Then there are products such as weighted blankets that have long been used by psychiatrists and occupational therapists for treating mental and emotional conditions. The benefits of these blankets are multi-dimensional, making them quite popular as a mainstream relaxation tool used by adults, teenagers, and children.
Based on the principle of Deep Pressure Touch (DPT), these blankets combat stress by activating the “happy hormones” in the body and calming the nervous system.
In this article, we discuss the role of weighted blankets in relieving stress and the multiple benefits they offer for people dealing with stress.
The true definition of “stress”
Before we move forward, let us make it clear that stress is not always bad! In fact, it is our body’s natural defense mechanism that allows us to respond to danger. Our body’s nervous system triggers the ‘fight or flight’ response when it perceives a situation as dangerous or demanding—so we can respond appropriately.
At a subtle level, stress can boost our ability to focus and perform under high-pressure situations. The problem arises when this high-pressure response persists, i.e., when we are constantly working in the “emergency” mode. Chronic or prolonged stress can suppress our basic biological functions including digestion, reproduction, breathing, sleeping, and more. It creates a state of heightened anxiety which in turn puts us at a risk for heart stroke, early aging, depression, and other such health problems.
If stress is overpowering your normal lifestyle, it might be time to switch to natural therapies and aides such as weighted blankets. Through deep pressure touch stimulation (DPTS), these blankets offer multifold benefits, both physical and psychological.
Read on to find out how weighted blankets can help with relieving and controlling stress.
1. Promotes better sleep
As per recent statistics, up to a third of the world’s population, especially in the industrialized economies suffers from poor sleep. And not just the elderly, insomnia affects adults, teenagers and children as well.
Sleeplessness is often a reflection of a troubled mind or body. Whatever be the underlying cause, a lack of sleep can create significant stress and impair your ability to perform your daily tasks. Weighted blankets are a proven and safe solution to helping you sleep better and for longer hours.
The fillers inside these blankets are sewn together in a way that exerts equal pressure all across your body. This results in the release of serotonin, the uplifting hormone of the body that is responsible for inducing feelings of calm, relaxation, and happiness.
When serotonin naturally converts to melatonin, the body gets the cue to rest. Melatonin, also called the sleep hormone, activates the “rest and digest” mode in your body and helps you enjoy deep and long hours of sleep.
A well-rested mind and body is the first step to getting rid of stress. Using weighted blankets as and when needed can improve your sleep quality significantly. You also wake up feeling more energized and relaxed, and better equipped to handle any stressful situations.
2. Reduces anxiety
Anxiety and stress are interrelated. A heightened sense of anxiety can make it difficult for you to relax, sleep, focus, make decisions, or even perform your day-to-day activities. Deep pressure therapy works as a powerful tool in such situations. Psychologists around the world swear by the benefits of weighted products for helping people who are nervous, upset, or on the verge of breaking down.
The cocooning effect of these blankets is a great way to immediately soothe the nervous system. It triggers the release of serotonin and dopamine (relaxation hormones) which in turn regulate the cortisol (stress hormone) levels in the body. As a result, the person feels more grounded and relaxed.
There can be multiple situations that create panic and stress. You could feel such emotions for a prolonged period or episodically, depending on the cause. Next time you feel a sense of anxiety or irritability, try using a weighted blanket to relax your nerves and reduce the intensity of such attacks.
A lot of users say that the deep pressure exerted through these blankets feels like a hug, which works great when you are feeling nervous or insecure. For more portable options, you could opt for weighted lap pads that can be used comfortably even when you are at the office or traveling.
3. Alleviates depression
Depression is a condition often characterized by feelings of sadness and gloom. But for those who have experienced it or are struggling with it currently, this creates massive amounts of physical and mental stress too.
Chronic depression is a result of a chemical imbalance in the body. Typically characterized by low serotonin and high cortisol levels, depression often leads to insomnia, anxiety, and fatigue. While antidepressants work towards artificially increasing serotonin levels in the body, weighted blankets offer a natural and all-encompassing solution.
Weighted blankets help in naturally increasing serotonin levels in the body, which in turn controls the secretion of cortisol. Serotonin further converts to melatonin which promotes sleep. In simpler terms, a weighted blanket improves your mood, reduces stress, and helps you sleep better. Cumulatively these positive changes can counter stress and get you out of the blues.
This is a better option when compared to over-the-counter drugs and anti-depressants that can have harsh side-effects. If you are already undergoing therapy or are on medications, you could still use weighted blankets to complement and supercharge your efforts.
Deep pressure therapy stimulates the sensory points in your body to relieve symptoms of depression and offer lasting relief from emotional stress. Next time you are feeling down, crawl under a weighted blanket for the much-needed comfort and stability.
4. Soothes Pain
Painful conditions such as chronic back pain, fibromyalgia, restless leg syndrome, or migraines create a tremendous amount of physical and mental stress. The underlying causes in each of these cases could be different, but they impair your ability to perform everyday tasks efficiently.
Medically, there are treatment procedures for these conditions, but they involve long-term use of painkillers and other medications. These have their own side effects, some of which are quite unpleasant. Natural support tools such as weighted blankets can offer a lasting and safer solution for relieving pain.
Weighted blankets function as natural analgesics by soothing your nervous system and helping your body relax. The gentle massage helps in loosening up tense and sore muscles, therefore offering relief from pain. You can place the blanket over a sore area for mitigating localized pain or lay it over your entire body for even distribution of pressure.
The added weight of these blankets sensitizes your deep pressure zones and facilitates the release of endorphins—which are your body’s very own “opioids” (natural painkillers). It also triggers the secretion of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that helps with critical functions like relaxing, sleeping, eating, and digesting.
When serotonin converts to melatonin, it can help you fall and stay asleep for longer durations. A good night’s sleep allows your body to rejuvenate and repair the damaged tissues, which in turn can reduce pain and inflammation.
Through these combined benefits, weighted blankets can effectively break the cycle of stress and discomfort in chronic pain conditions.
5. Reduces environmental sensitivity
Loud music, bright lights, noisy or unfamiliar environments can create stress and anxiety for individuals suffering from sensory processing disorder (SPD). Typically, kids with autism or ADHD are over-sensitive to environmental stimuli and have a hard time processing such information.
Weighted blankets can ease the stress created due to sensory overload in these children. Slipping under the cozy comfort of warm and heavy blankets creates a cocooning effect, which in turn instils a sense of security and comfort.
The deep pressure stimulation offers consistent proprioceptive input making the child more aware of his/her environment. It promotes spatial awareness as they are able to feel their body movements within the heavy fabric. By facilitating a better understanding of their body’s location within a space, weighted blankets can significantly improve your child’s ability to process and respond to the environmental stimuli.
Occupational therapy is the main form of treatment for SPD, and weighted blankets can be easily used in conjunction with your regular therapy. They can serve as the go-to tool when your child is feeling anxious or stressed. The gentle pressure exerted through these blankets works evenly across the body’s sensory zones, activating the release of “happy hormones”. This regulates their mood swings and makes the child more receptive towards the people and events in their external environment.
Weighted lap pads, vests, and fidget toys are other options that combine the benefits of proprioceptive input and deep pressure therapy in a compact form and are a great tool to ease the stress related to sensory overload.
6. Reduces nervousness
When stress accumulates in the body or mind for a long time, it affects the functioning of the nervous system. It reduces your ability to focus and leads to nervousness and panic. Counseling, occupational therapy, massages, and anti-anxiety drugs are the common treatment protocols in such cases.
Weighted blankets are highly recommended for people suffering from stress-related nervousness. These can be used with the existing therapies or as a stand-alone comfort tool. The heavy weight of these blankets creates a sense of “grounding” and warmth, which helps the user calm down. This is the most conducive state for any counseling or therapy to show effect.
DPT stimulates the sensory points across the body which results in the secretion of “feel-good” hormones. These hormones reduce stress by soothing the nervous system and invoking a sense of happiness and well-being.
Weighted blankets and lap pads are compact products that serve as the perfect companion for people prone to panic attacks or nervousness. These can be used while sleeping, working, or even traveling to help you stay calm and in control. Frequent use can regulate your sleep cycles, reduce cortisol secretion, and help you manage your emotions better.
7. Promotes grounding
Stress can play havoc on the mind and body, and leave you feeling nervous, detached, and insecure. This is when a product such as a weighted blanket can help. Here’s an example to explain this better.
Imagine hugging a loved one or curling up against a heavy comforter when you are feeling nervous. Doesn’t it bring an instant sense of peace and comfort? This is exactly what a weighted blanket does, albeit in a more scientific and powerful manner.
The added weight in these blankets exerts pressure on your body pushing it downward, creating an immediate sense of “grounding” or “earthing”. This has a deeply calming effect on the body and is a great stress buster, too. Grounding can regulate the cortisol levels (stress hormone) in the body, which in turn improves sleep and promotes well-being.
As per a study published by the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, grounding the body while sleeping can effectively reduce cortisol levels and synchronize its secretion with the body’s 24-hour natural circadian rhythm.
Using DPT, weighted blankets create an “earthing” effect on the body bringing about an instant sense of comfort and security. Deep pressure therapy also triggers the secretion of serotonin and melatonin, the “feel-good” hormones of your body. Serotonin is further known to control the cortisol levels in the blood, leading to a significant reduction in stress levels.
Regular use of weighted blankets can be a great way to combat stress and enjoy the many benefits of “grounding”.
8. Regulates the Autonomic Nervous System (ANS)
Did you know that your nervous system is divided into two modes? Well, it is and these are called the sympathetic nervous system (SNS) and the parasympathetic nervous system (PSNS).
SNS is the one that keeps you alert and focused. It keeps you productive at work, focused while driving, and alert during stressful situations. But when the SNS is active consistently and doesn’t get enough rest, it begins acting up. When that happens, you might feel anxious, exhausted, irritable or have digestion and sleep issues.
Conditions such as autism, ADHD, depression, etc., are a result of an overworked sympathetic nervous system. Kids and adults suffering from these conditions find it difficult to relax and are hyper-reactive.
The parasympathetic nervous system (PSNS) is the body’s coolant. It gets you into the “sleep and digest” mode, relaxes your body and prepares it for rest. When the PSNS takes lead, your body takes the cue to sleep. Your muscles will loosen up, heart rate will reduce and circulation will improve, preparing your body for rest. PSNS activation is normally synchronized as per your body’s circadian rhythm, so you get regular sleep and rest. But stress can distort this cycle and weaken your body’s ability to relax and repair itself.
With weighted blankets, the sensory points across your body are stimulated. It triggers the release of happy hormones such as serotonin and melatonin, that push your body into the PSNS mode. Regular use of weighted blankets helps you enjoy deep and long hours of sleep and regulates the functioning of your autonomic nervous system. The deep pressure relaxes your nerves, bringing in a sense of calm and well-being.
9. Promotes mindfulness
Mindfulness refers to being fully focused towards the present moment. This practice allows you to let go of any stressful thoughts or situations that can create anxiety or nervousness. Your focus is on the current experiences, which allows you to let go of thoughts of the past or future that can create stress.
This is a great way to relax your mind and body and strengthen the functioning of your nervous system. While there are training methods and meditation practices that teach you mindfulness, tactical tools such as weighted blankets can make this process easier.
The deep pressure exerted through these blankets brings your awareness towards your body and its movements. It soothes your nervous system by triggering the release of “feel-good” hormones that promote deep sleep and relaxation.
The therapeutic properties of weighted blankets make them a great tool for achieving a state of mindfulness, which in turn can reduce stress and maximize productivity in your daily lives.
10. Mimics a hug
The therapeutic effects of a hug are backed by science, but it doesn’t really require data to make us believe in the power of a cuddle! From the womb of the mother to the warm hug of our loved ones, we all have experienced the immediate sense of happiness, comfort and security of being physically close to our loved ones.
Weighted blankets with their multiple layers, added mass, and soft fabrics recreate the magic of physical closeness or a tight hug. Wrapping yourself in these blankets will relax your body and trigger the secretion of happy hormones—serotonin and melatonin. These are the neurotransmitters that help you enjoy a deep sleep, positive emotions, and reduced levels of stress.
This perhaps is also one of the reasons that makes weighted blankets popular amongst healthy individuals as well. The “cuddling” effect allows the users to enjoy better and longer hours of sleep, while staying rejuvenated all day. It can also keep the slightest bit of stress under control, keeping you focused and mentally relaxed.
11. Helps teenagers cope
Teenagers faced with peer pressure or the challenges of a new environment find weighted blankets especially comforting. College students are commonly seen dealing with insecurity, fear of performance, lack of confidence and other psychological issues that create a significant amount of stress in their lives.
It is not unlikely to see these youngsters resort to drugs or other addictions to combat their stress and negative feelings. While therapy is an option, not many choose to follow through their sessions diligently. Therefore, a portable and easy to use product such as a weighted blanket can prove to be more effective in these cases.
Teenagers and young adults crave a sense of security and grounding at a regular basis, and weighted blankets work well in that direction. The increased secretion of neurotransmitters such as serotonin and melatonin keeps them positive and calm, improves their focus, and the ability to think logically. It also promotes better sleep which in itself works at a deeply therapeutic level.
Consistent use of weighted products such as lap pads and blankets can improve the social interactions and scholarly performance in young adults, and help them manage their emotions in a better way.
The heavy blanket wraps around the body gently offering a sense of security and warmth, an essential parameter for relieving physical and mental stress.
Buying the right blanket
Finding the right blanket for your needs should not be a difficult task. Just keep in mind this simple rule, “the blanket should ideally weigh 10% plus a pound of your body weight”. This is the perfect size for enjoying the benefits of deep pressure touch therapy without feeling overwhelmed by the weight or warmth of these products.
The most popular fillers are plastic poly pellets, which are non-allergenic and safe to use. Glass beads are a popular option too. Whatever fillers you use, make sure that they are sewn uniformly across the blanket. This ensures that the pressure points across your body are evenly massaged and stimulated, therefore triggering the release of endorphins for stress relief.
There are several popular brands selling customized weighted blankets that can be ordered online. If budget is a constraint, there are DIY videos to help you make your own weighted blanket.
If you prefer a more compact product, opt for weighted lap pads that can be used on-the-go. Remember, these blankets can safely complement your existing treatment plans but it’s best to consult with your therapist before using one.
Dealing with the “silent” killer
Stress and tension are the biggest threats facing modern society today. Whether it is a challenging college project, financial worries, job troubles, health ailments, or an emotional phase, stress can attack people of all ages. If prolonged, it can hamper the critical functions of your body, such as sleep, digestion, logical reasoning, and more.
Weighted blankets can serve as the perfect relaxation tool to help you deal with stress at all levels. It offers the right physiological support needed to combat stress and anxiety from within.
Through deep pressure touch, these blankets can activate your relaxation hormones helping your mind and body to calm down. The gentle pressure soothes your nervous system releasing all negative thoughts and tensions. They promote deep sleep, allowing you to stay productive and rejuvenated in your day-to-day life.
If you or your loved one is dealing with stress, investing in a weighted blanket can prove to be a great choice. From helping you recover from chronic pain and fatigue to coping with anxiety and depression, these blankets can help you deal with stress at all levels so you can live a fuller and happier life.