Weighted blanket girl

How Do Weighted Blankets Work?

Have you ever wondered...

  • Do weighted blankets work for adults?
  • Will a weighted blanket help my child sleep?
  • How do weighted blankets work?

Here is a simple explanation on how a weighted blanket can benefit you or your loved one.

The nervous system in our bodies send information to our brains through many senses including touch.  Not all types of touch are alike.  Some touch sensations are interpreted by our brains as being “dangerous” and our brain sends a message to our muscles to move away from the object touching us….like a mosquito landing on our arm.

On the other hand, a deeper, heavier, even pressure touch is recognized by most people’s brains as “soothing” and “nonthreatening.”  This comforting touch can be provided by a relaxing massage, a loving hug, caressing a dog, or by a weighted blanket.  Touch and gently applied pressure has a powerful psychological and physical effect.  Evenly distributed weight within a blanket can provide this “deep pressure stimulation” also known to experts as “proprioceptive input.”

The deep pressure stimulation experienced when using a weighted blanket can lower arousal and research has shown that it decreases the activity of the body’s sympathetic nervous system also known as the “fight or flight” part of our nervous system.

At the same time, this deep pressure stimulation increases the activity of the parasympathetic nervous system, which is sometimes known as the “rest and digest” system.  When this system is active, it lowers heart rate and blood pressure, and increases relaxation and a calm feeling.

In 2015 a study was made on the effects of deep pressure stimulation from weighted blankets in which was found a 33% reduction in stress.  Among the participants, 63% reported feeling a decrease in anxiety, and 78% said they found using a weighted blanket a preferable way to increase their level of calmness.

The changes in our nervous system when deep pressure stimulation is applied by a weighted blanket can result in a cascade of changes to hormones in our bodies.  As a result of these hormone changes, anxiety lowers and feelings of calmness increase.

Deep pressure stimulation may increase the hormone oxytocin.  This is the hormone that stimulates feelings of attachment and closeness, and produces a deep sense of calmness.

Research has shown that deep pressure stimulation increases the “feel good” hormone called serotonin.  Serotonin helps stabilize mood and regulate energy levels as well as contributing to regulating sleep-wake cycles.  When serotonin is lacking, it can lead to insomnia, anxiety, and depression.

Serotonin is the “precursor” to melatonin, which is the key hormone to promote healthy sleep.  The body converts serotonin to melatonin through a chemical process and if serotonin levels are low, the levels of melatonin will be low too.

Weighted blankets are not a cure-all, but they are a wonderful tool to help adults and children de-stress, relax, decrease anxiety and improve sleep without having to use drugs.

Hopefully this simple explanation of how a weighted blanket works will help you make an informed decision about how a weighted blanket would benefit you or a loved one.

Merna Jennings

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