Weighted blankets have quickly grown in popularity to provide a therapeutic effect when used to sleep under, or wrap yourself in. First conceived as a means to address sensory disorder issues, years of research and advances in technology have resulted in a product that is not only a solution to sensory issues but can also aid in a wide variety of other mental and physical problems.
The key to its effectiveness lies in the materials being used to work effectively in a manner to trigger a body response. This article explores the science behind this therapeutic product, what it entails, what is the best filling for a weighted blanket, and why it is an excellent option for just about anyone who chooses to use one.
The Science Behind Touch Therapy
The theory behind Deep Touch Pressure Stimulation (DPS) came about during the 1980s in response to studies surrounding autism. The hypothesis at the time was related to the relaxation in children that was observed after periods of the firm, gentle squeezing or holding. This idea was supported and furthered by research done by Professor Temple Gradine , who has lived a life with a sensory disorder, pertaining to her own experiences and physiological responses in livestock.
DPS relaxes the nervous system which releases the natural chemical serotonin. Serotonin is responsible for triggering the brain to relax. This lowers your heart rate, lowers respiration, and increases blood flow- all responses that allow your mind and body to heal. When the body is stressed, no matter whether it is due to chemical imbalances, disorders, sensory issues, or just regular exposure to stress and anxiety- serotonin levels are often found to be lacking. This is especially true for certain disabilities and disorders, requiring therapies to help with raising those levels for the person to work through their stressors.
Here’s the easiest way to naturally increase serotonin in your body.
How Weighted Blankets Help
Weighted blankets are designed to evenly distribute weight over your body. This creates a firm hold that still allows you to move against it with ease if desired. The materials conform to your body curves and sinks against you to help stimulate multiple pressure points all at once. This form of touch therapy allows for a release of serotonin, allowing your body to relax.
There are many benefits to using one such as the reduction of stress and anxiety, easing of insomnia and depression symptoms, managing and calming autism and other sensory processing disorders, supports chronic pain issues, boosts mood and focus… and more. You don’t have to have a chronic problem or issue to use one either, nor do they require any special therapy or doctor’s orders. In fact, weighted blankets are quite easy to find both online and in stores. Just be sure to always purchase the proper weight in relation to your own body weight.
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|Body Weight (lbs)||Blanket Weight (lbs)|
What Weighted Blankets Are Made of
Almost all weighted blankets are designed to be used with a duvet cover of some sort and use an outer cover of cotton, bamboo, or polyester blends to provide a comforting feeling. Inside you will generally find a thin layer of polyester or polyfoam that encompasses quilted baffle boxes of fill. These boxes are sewn to help evenly distribute the weight to provide the malleable heft. This fill is what creates the mouldable weighted feel they provide, with some filling options more favorable and effective than others.
Weighted Blanket Filling Options
There are quite a few different fillings you may find in a weighted blanket, as well as fillings sold in bulk for you to make your own. Not all are equal, however, and care should be taken in what is used to avoid problems with moisture and possible mold and mildew accumulation.
— Micro Glass Beads
These are by far the most favored fill. They resemble larger grains of sand and are heavier than their counterparts, allowing you to use less of them to achieve the same weights. Their size is also very conducive to movement and feels smooth through the layers of the blanket- which furthers their support of sensory sensitivities.
— Plastic Poly Pellets
Plastic poly pellets are small, round beads that are similar in appearance to very tiny pebbles. They are very effective and are a favored filling second only to glass beads, but if not used with a thick enough casing, they may be noticeable in how they move and feel.
Sand is an inexpensive filling but should be cleaned very well to remove any organic particles before use. It also can clump when it comes in contact with moisture, so care should be taken in how it is protected and washed. It is also incredibly fine and can leak if not secured properly.
— Steel Shot Beads
String and long-lasting, the smooth surface of the micro steel shot allows them to move against one another well. They are slightly larger than glass beads, meaning you don’t need as many, plus they work well for thinner casing materials. Because of their size, they do not leak easily, but their movements may be noticeable if thicker padding is not used.
— Rice or Millet
Rice, millet, or other fine grains can also be used, but care must be taken to keep them dry as they absorb moisture and can rot. They are very effective and provide soft, uniform movement and weight distribution.
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Weighted blankets are some of the most effective products to aid in the release of serotonin available to the public. These are a wonderfully therapeutic option for anyone suffering from stress and anxiety, sensory disorders, or anything creating problems with focus and attention. Easy to purchase or make, these blankets require the proper filling to create the molding weight that triggers touch therapy techniques.