Weighted blankets are a term a lot of us may have heard but not fully understood what it is. They are sometimes referred to as gravity blankets as well. We may have seen them be used in school or in therapy sessions but never been explained why a particular child or person needs them. In actual fact, weighted blankets have become more popular over the recent years but they have been recommended by occupational therapists for a long time to their patients. They have been compared to a hug machine as they lightly apply pressure to the body.
What Are They And Who Are They For?
Weighted blankets are heavy blankets that can weigh between 5 and 30 pounds. They are often filled with plastic pellets or glass beads which add weight. The feeling of pressure created by the extra weight in the blanket produces a calming effect on the user. They come in different shapes and sizes and most of the time look like normal blankets.
Weighted blankets are suitable for children and adults but are mostly used by people with sensory processing disorders. This is due to the light pressure and feeling of calm it brings on in the user. They are also used by people who can struggle to settle to sleep so therefore they have a weighted blanket on their bed.
Do Weighted Blankets Work?
There are many benefits of using weighted blankets that can help people of different ages or those who suffer from different medical conditions.
#1 Eases feelings of anxiety and stress
This is the most common benefit of weighted blankets and the reason why lots of people will buy them. The deep pressure sensation caused by the blanket reduces the fight or flight sensation in our bodies and will reduce our heart rate. This is what brings on the calm feeling and helps to alleviate stress and anxiety. The deep pressure therapy also helps to release oxytocin and serotonin, which are “feel good” chemicals our brain creates and make us feel more relaxed.
#2 Helps with autistic traits
Another common use and benefit of weighted blankets are to help reduce and lessen the negative symptoms of autism in adults and children. Suffering from autism can also mean that you suffer from sleeping problems and a weighted blanket helps with those by using deep pressure therapy. Along with improving serotonin levels as mentioned earlier, the blanket also helps to produce melatonin, the sleep hormone.
#3 Assists with focus
For children or adults with ADHD, focus can be a big struggle. A weighted blanket can be used to help combat restlessness and impulsive behaviours that can make it hard to concentrate. Schools have used these before with children with ADHD (whilst sitting on the carpet for example) to help produce that calming and soothing effect which in turn then helps them to focus on the lesson. What is ADHD?
#4 Decrease feelings of anxiety and depression
This benefit is very true when it comes to thinking about users with Alzheimers or dementia. The feelings of fear and depression can be drastic when a patient suffering from this condition is trying to make sense of the world around them and what is happening. A weighted blanket has been proven to decrease these feelings and to help calm users down who are suffering.
#5 Improve sleep quality
Insomnia relief is another well-known benefit of using a weighted blanket. People who suffer from insomnia can struggle to fall or stay asleep. The use of a weighted blanket can help to create that feeling of comfort and secureness which helps users to relax. They also help to decrease movement at night, something which can cause lots of people to wake up.
All clinicians at Oxford CBT are Cognitive Behavioural Therapists or Psychologists, offering evidence-based interventions and support for a range of issues for both young people and adults. If you would like to book an appointment you can do so on our online booking portal. If you have a question please get in touch via our online contact form or call us on 01865 920077