Can a weighted blanket help calm anxiety?

Here’s what we’ve found.

Overview

According to the National Institute for Mental Health (NIH), data from the National Comorbidity Study Replication (NCS-R) shows that an estimated 62 million American adults, which is about 19.1 percent of the population, experienced an anxiety disorder in the past year.  Even though anxiety is one of the more treatable mental health conditions, less than 40 percent of people with anxiety actually receive treatment.

Wide Variety of Anxiety Disorders

There is a wide variety of anxiety disorders, each differing by the objects or situations that cause them but sharing features of excessive anxiety and parallel behavioral interferences.  Panic disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, agoraphobia, specific phobia, social anxiety disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and separation anxiety disorder are some of these anxiety disorders.

Luckily, there are alternatives to receiving treatment.  For some, it may only work as a supplement to treatment. And, what might that be?  A weighted blanket!

What is a weighted blanket?

Weighted blankets are heavy blankets – different than the kinds of blankets people usually buy.  These specialty blankets can be used as therapeutic aids. Weighted blankets are known to improve mood, reduce stress, and promote restful sleep.

Studies show that people who use weighted blankets seem to prefer it over a regular blanket.  The blankets feel nice, deluxe and like a big hug – which is the reason why some call it their “weighted anxiety blanket.”  

An Anxiety Blanket?

Why is it sometimes referred to as an anxiety blanket?  After or during a stressful event, these blankets are perfect for those who just need a hug or want to nurture themselves.  Weighted blankets provided a deep pressure touch (DTP) that can help children, adolescents or adults feel “grounded.”  

A weighted blanket is exactly what it sounds like – a blanket that is weighted.  These weighted blankets typically range from 4 to 30 pounds. For many people who have disorders such as anxiety, weighted blankets could provide an alternative to medication or other types of treatment.  This does not work for everyone, though. Most people only use their heavy blanket to supplement their existing therapies. Research has shown that weighted blankets can help lessen symptoms and make the surroundings more enjoyable.

Benefits of a Weighted Blanket

Weighted blankets may offer many benefits in many situations to the user.

Because there is no over-the-counter cure to poof away your anxiety, it is important to have healthy coping habits to turn to.  For you, that may be deep breathing…possibly a hot shower, cuddling up next to a fire or even wrapping up in a weighted blanket.  The key is to find the habits that work for you.

Weighted blankets can help both children and adults.  

In a good weighted blanket, the weight is evenly distributed across the body when used.  For example, the J&M Weighted Blanket is filled with glass pellets. These glass pellets provide the smoothest weight distribution as the weight of each individual pellet is almost identical – giving you just what you need for the production of serotonin and melatonin.

Deep Touch Pressure

The science behind these blankets is called Deep Touch Pressure or DTP.  DTP distributes gentle pressure on the body, helping children and adults reach a state of relaxation or a sense of “grounding.”  

Effects of Grounding

The effects of grounding are astonishing.  Most people state that they just simply ‘feel better’ – a greater peace instilled within themselves and a sense of calmness with reduced stress levels.   Studies show that a weighted blanket can help a person reach a “grounding” state. With grounding, nighttime levels of cortisol are reduced. Cortisol is produced when the brain feels attacked, triggering the fight or flight response.  Stress can spiral these cortisol levels, which in turn has a negative impact on the immune system. An increase in blood sugar levels and the adverse effect on the digestive tract has also been shown. Cortisol levels that don’t drop back down to normal levels naturally can cause obstacles.  These include but are not limited to:

  • Anxiety
  • Insomnia
  • Depression
  • Weight gain.

Triggers a Release in Neurotransmitters

Luckily, heavy blankets for anxiety help break this vicious cycle in cortisol levels.  This deep pressure touch triggers a release in neurotransmitters dopamine and serotonin, which are the uplifting hormones produced in the brain.  These awesome hormones aid in combating stress, anxiety, and depression.

In 2006, a 32-person study in Occupational Therapy in Mental Health discovered that 63% of participants reported lower anxiety after using a weighted blanket.  This was compared to lying down with no blanket at all. 78% reported that they felt more relaxed with the blanket.  

Weighted Blankets for Adults with Anxiety

NIH states that of the adults in the past year that experience any anxiety disorder, the degree of impairment ranged from mild to severe.  An estimated 22.8% had serious impairment, 33.7% had moderate impairment, and the rest (43.5%) experienced mild impairment.

Anxiety disorders can interfere with daily activities such as job performance, school work, and relationships.  

Using Weighted Blankets at Work

One way adults utilize their heavy blanket for anxiety is at work.  Folded up, this blanket can serve as a lap pad throughout the day – making it invisible to your coworkers (not that it is something to hide).  Using it on your lap doesn’t even rob you of all the amazing benefits. It can keep you warm AND provide relaxation during even your highest stress hours.  

Weighted Blanket for Panic Disorders

According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA), panic attacks, also known as anxiety attacks, occur unexpectedly, sometimes even when waking up from sleep.  Panic disorder typically begins in adulthood, but that does not mean that there are not children who also have panic disorder or experience panic-like symptoms. Panic disorders can cause people to miss work, go to the doctor often and avoid situations where they worry they might experience a panic attack.  What many people don’t realize is that this disorder is real and highly responsive to treatment. Used as a supplement to treatment, the J&M weighted blanket has been effective in helping adults feel grounded when feelings of being out of control to come on.

Weighted Blanket Use in Nursing Homes

Studies have found that weighted blanket use is safe for healthy adults, having no effect on vital signs like pulse and blood pressure.  Many nursing homes are starting to introduce the use of weighted blankets to those with anxiety or agitation.

Weighted Blankets for Children and Adolescents with Anxiety

NIH states that an estimated 31.9% of adolescents aged 13-18 experience a type of anxiety disorder.  Of that 31.9%, about 8.3% had severe impairment. This same prevalence was similar across age groups.

One study that dove into Deep Touch Pressure (DTP) by looking at weighted vests found that even for short periods of use, the fight or flight response was reduced.  While under the typically stressful situation, the weighted vest aided the parasympathetic nervous system in relaxing the body. These same results are found in studies on weighted blankets.  

Weighted Blanket Use in Elementary School

One way children and adolescents can use a weighted blanket to their advantage would be when experiencing generalized anxiety disorder symptoms, such as feeling restless, having difficulty concentrating, being irritable, having muscle tension, or having sleep problems.  For example, an elementary special education classroom in Nebraska ordered several weighted blankets to use during nap time for restless students. The special education director stated that the weighted blankets transformed the classroom – helping the students sleep soundly during nap time.  

As always, it is important to talk to your doctor or therapist before making the decision to purchase a weighted blanket for your child’s anxiety.  Weighted blankets, however, are not safe for children under one year of age.

Children or Adults Who Experience Anxious Feelings

People with anxiety disorders are not the only ones who get anxious.  Having anxious feelings about an important event or life change is completely normal.  It is when it becomes more than the occasional worry or fear that turns into an anxiety disorder.  For those who occasionally experience anxious feelings, it is just as important to adopt healthy ways to manage or reduce anxiety.

For those that experience occasional anxious feelings, at home remedies may be looked at for reducing anxiety.  In addition to a J&M Weighted Blanket, a well-balanced diet, aromatherapy, regular exercise and getting outside might aid you in poofing away some anxious feelings.  

The Answer to My Anxiety Problems?

We can’t promise you anything, but it is most definitely worth trying – and from our experience, our customers are glad they did.  The JM Weighted Blanket has helped many people of different ages, ranging from all over the spectrum.

If you are experiencing ongoing and excessive habits that start to hold you back in life, it is a good idea to look for what the underlying cause may be.  In treating anxiety – with the help of healthy lifestyle changes, a therapist, medication, or maybe a combination – you can rid or at least limit the impact of anxiety and its symptoms.  Just keep in mind that not all coping mechanisms work the same for everyone, so try to not get discouraged if what worked for your friend doesn’t work for you.

Conclusion

Again, weighted blankets should not be a substitute for effective therapies for anxiety or insomnia.  If you are currently in treatment, make sure it is okay with your doctor or therapist before buying a weighted blanket for anxiety.  It is always possible that people with battling disorders such as panic disorder or agoraphobia may have a reverse response, causing more anxiety, to the weighted blankets’ sensation.

Disclaimer: The content on this website is not intended as a substitute for medical advice. Talk to your doctor or healthcare provider before undertaking any type of therapy or treatment.  

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