Troubled sleepers have a new trend to try: the weighted blanket. The idea behind these 5 to 25-pound blankets is that they apply the same calming pressure as a hug or cuddle. Weighted vests and blankets have traditionally been used as part of occupational therapy for autistic children to alleviate stress, anxiety, and sensory overload. But today, adults and even dogs are getting into the game.
How Do Weighted Blankets Work?
Weighted blankets and vests offer a comforting experience known as proprioceptive or deep touch pressure. Research pioneered by Dr. Anna Jean Ayres and Temple Grandin has shown that deep touch pressure helps the brain to release the neurotransmitter serotonin, which aids in the regulation of some of its functions.
A 2008 study published in Occupational Therapy in Mental Health revealed that the use of a weighted blanket calmed subjects by reducing their anxiety levels, blood pressure, and heart rate. Since then, the use of weighted blankets is growing in popularity to alleviate the symptoms of anxiety as well as obsessive-compulsive disorder, ADHD, and post-traumatic stress disorder.
Deep Touch Pressure Compression Vests for Kids Dogs
Deep touch pressure is also the theory behind compression vests for children and dogs. Worn during the day (vs. blankets which are used mostly at night), compression vests treat the same symptoms of anxiety brought on by disorders like autism in children – and thunder for dogs.
With two wiener dogs that go ape-shit whenever a thunderstorm rolls in, I gave the ThunderShirt a try. It’s a vest that wraps around the dog’s torso, squeezing tightly like a sausage casing – and it worked like a dream. My positive experience with deep touch pressure in dog compression vests made me want to give weighted blankets a try. But there was one problem: they are not cheap.
How to Buy a Weighted Blanket
Prices for weighted blankets start around $75 for Etsy finds, and high-quality products are well over $100 – and up. They should be about 10 percent of your body weight. I wanted to test the idea before shelling out the cash, so I weighed out blankets that I already owned at 10% of my body weight and piled them on my bed.
The result? I loved it. To be fair – I am a cold sleeper who has always loved piling on the blankets. Plus it’s winter, and my home gets very cold at night. I turned my thermostat even lower for this experiment, which might not fly so well in the summer. But sleeping under 13 pounds of blankets made me feel super cozy and relaxed. I didn’t want to get out of bed in the morning. As an unexpected bonus, the weight on top of me helped me to sleep in one position vs. twisting around as usual and waking up with a backache.
Should You Try a Weighted Blanket?
Despite several studies and anecdotal evidence, hard scientific data that proves the positive effects of deep touch pressure does not exist. But weighted blankets might be worth a try if you suffer from anxiety and/or interrupted sleep. Please note, however, that they are not recommended for anyone who suffers from high blood pressure, sleep apnea, or heart or lung issues. You can find weighted blankets on Etsy, Amazon, and at Harkla.
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