Anxiety and insomnia often go hand in hand, one affecting the other and vise versa to create an uncomfortable situation both day and night. Despite all the steps you may take to help alleviate the worst of your symptoms, if your body is still physically tired you most likely continue to struggle with the effects of these issues.
Many people have found relief each night by using weighted blankets, but still, more are hesitant to try them out due to high price points and the fear of being drawn in by a gimmick fad. This article discusses the science behind what weighted blankets are and why they can be effective in relieving feelings of stress, anxiety, and insomnia in many who try them. Using weighted blankets for anxiety and insomnia is not as crazy as you might think, and may in fact be the solution you have been searching for.
Effects of Anxiety and Insomnia
Anxiety can cause insomnia and vise versa and is often caused by normal and healthy emotions that arise due to stressful situations. Many people deal with anxiety on their own through healthy life choices and find that given some time will pass on its own. Although it may cause tension, worry, and create physical changes such as raised blood pressure, it is typically not something to worry about unless it becomes debilitating or is not alleviating despite taking steps to help it do so.
Severe anxiety or anxiety disorders are often due to mental health issues and will interrupt daily functions. It is important to seek a doctor’s help if this is the case, and although you should continue to create habits to help alleviate your anxiety, you may need a professional prescription or counseling to help you cope. When left untreated it can lead to a disrupted lifestyle, depression, and even long term health issues.
Anxiety is often the cause of insomnia, which is a sleep disorder that makes it difficult to fall asleep or stay asleep. In turn, a lack of sleep can stress you mentally and create anxious situations. Sometimes medications can create insomnia, so it is important to try and pinpoint what is causing these symptoms so you can begin to address them.
What is a Weighted Blanket?
A weighted blanket is a blanket that has been specially designed to contain the weighted filling, such as small plastic pellets or glass-like beads. They are sewn to hold the filling in a consistent manner and are generally encased in a softcover. With weights of 15 pounds or more, they have become increasingly popular to help with sleep disorders, stress, and behavioral issues in children.
They are considered therapeutic and first made their debut within the special needs community. As results from studies used with autistic children became more widely known, the benefits of weighted blankets for the general population became an interest as well. If the best-weighted blankets for anxiety were working on young children with these issues, then why not on adults? The design of these blankets are made to stimulate the nervous system, as described below, and can be beneficial to anyone who uses them.
It is not uncommon to find weighted blankets of various fill, including plastic, glass, rice, and millet, and are designed to utilize various materials. It is not uncommon to find bumpy Minky materials for sensory touch, thick kinds of cotton for adult use, or even cooling linen. They also may be sewn as a solid, single blanket, or be created to serve as a duvet with an accompanying duvet cover or your own duvet cover option. These are not made to cover a bed like a traditional blanket and are made for a single person to use.
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Most blankets start around 5 pounds for young children and can go up to 25 pounds for larger adults. It is important to choose a blanket that corresponds with your size to allow your body to move when needed but be ‘held’ into a relaxation state which is where the scientific ‘magic’ begins. Use this chart to determine the weight you should use:
|Body Weight (lbs)||Blanket Weight (lbs)|
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Serotonin and Deep Touch Pressure
Serotonin is the body chemical responsible for the promotion of relaxation. It sends signals to the brain when released to lower the heart rate and respiration to allow increased blood flow and deeper sleep. Certain disabilities, such as autism, and disorders or imbalances surrounding depression, anxiety, OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorder), PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), and bipolar issues are low in this chemical, compounding their emotional and physical responses.
Weighted blankets apply deep touch pressure (DPS) stimulation that has been found to increase serotonin levels in those who are lacking. The weight of the blanket conforms to the body and creates a stable, but firm pressure. This relaxes the nervous system to trigger a serotonin response. It also allows the sympathetic nervous system, the one that causes emotions related to stress and anxiety, to relax and let the parasympathetic nervous system to take over. This means your body goes from a more alert state to rest and digestive state.
Benefits of Deep Pressure Therapy
Obviously, being able to calm the mind and body has great benefits, especially for those who struggle to do so on their own. Getting the sleep you deserve is also crucial to your mind and body and improves your ability to cope, cognitive function, memory, physical healing, and organ health. With this comes an increase in measurable qualities, such as:
- Energy and motivation
- Impulse control
- Decreased anxiety
- Improved social interactions
- Positive communication
- Feelings of well-being and happiness
- Better focus and completion of tasks
- Lowers incidences of seizures
- Improved toleration of specific situations
Weighted Blankets for Sleep Issues
You don’t have to be struggling with a disorder to take advantage of DPT practices, however. If insomnia is becoming an issue, or you find yourself dealing with stress and anxiety due to life situations, or similar, then the use of a weighted blanket to apply these techniques may be the answer you have been seeking. A weighted blanket is definitely effective for anyone who decides to use it as described in this weighted blanket sleep study:
The Journal of Sleep Medicines and Disorders published a study in 2015 that tracked 31 adults suffering from chronic insomnia. Over the course of 3 weeks, their sleep was recorded in their normal bedding, with a weighted blanket, and then again with their normal bedding to track the differences that occurred. Over 80% of the participants said they liked the blanket and the data showed they spent less time awake and slept longer with the blanket than without. It also showed that they were able to settle into sleep faster and cycle through their sleep without interruption- allowing them to wake feeling more refreshed.
Weighted Blankets for Anxiety
Obviously, as this article has highlighted, anxiety and insomnia are not mutually exclusive of one another, but it is possible to suffer from anxious feelings and thoughts, and anxiety disorders without suffering from debilitating insomnia. Regardless of this, a weighted blanket is highly effective in treating anxiety and anxiety-related traumas.
The best-weighted blankets for anxiety can be used for more than just sleeping. Being wrapped in one has shown to have similar effects on the nervous system to decrease distress, reduce anxious thoughts and movements, suppress OCD tendencies for brief periods of time, and increase endorphins (feel-good hormones) in those using them.
You may want to read: How to Fall Asleep with Anxiety
To get a more detailed, personal overview of what one of the best weight blankets for insomnia and anxiety can do, take a look at our own Gravity Blanket review for general anxiety and insomnia relief. Our own trials have shown success in their use, and if you suffer from any form of anxiety or insomnia, you may want to consider using one to see if it helps alleviate your symptoms.
The science behind the weighted pressure they apply to your body is well-founded with continuing studies in their use with various disabilities. The stimulation of the body to influence how our mind reacts is a fascinating subject, and being able to apply this science to the comfort of your own home is an awesome opportunity to create a healthier atmosphere.