Weighted blankets reduce stress, improve sleep

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Weighted blankets reduce stress, improve sleep

"I have been sleeping better and feelings more well-rested when I use my weighted blankets," said senior Abby Lanz.

Sharee Roman

"I have been sleeping better and feelings more well-rested when I use my weighted blankets," said senior Abby Lanz.

Sharee Roman

Sharee Roman

"I have been sleeping better and feelings more well-rested when I use my weighted blankets," said senior Abby Lanz.

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Toddlers have long used blankets or stuffed animals to help them feel secure.

Now adults with insomnia, depression, anxiety, or a desire for better sleep are reigniting that feeling of security in the form of weighted blankets.

According to SensaCalm, a weighted blanket producer, weighted blankets take the soothing, calming comforts of a regular blanket and combine it with a therapy tool originally pioneered by autism researcher, Temple Grandin. As a young person, Dr. Grandin saw cows being led through a compression device designed to hold them in place for their vaccinations. She noticed that the cows became calmer and more docile when they were gently squeezed.  

Using the squeeze machine concept, manufacturers developed a therapy tool otherwise known as the weighted blanket. It works by applying gentle but firm pressure throughout the body.

The weight of the blanket acts as deep touch therapy, and activates deep pressure touch receptors located all over your body. ”

Recently, weighted blankets have gained popularity among people desiring better quality sleep.  It’s a safe and effective non-drug therapy for sleep and relaxation. Hospital units use weighted blankets to calm and promote deep, restful sleep. In a similar way to swaddling an infant, the weight and pressure on an adult provide comfort and relief. Weighted blankets are typically “weighted” with plastic poly pellets that are sewn into compartments throughout the blanket to keep the weight properly distributed. The weight of the blanket acts as deep touch therapy, and activates deep pressure touch receptors located all over your body. When these receptors are stimulated, the body relaxes and feels more grounded and safe, and clinical studies suggest that when deep pressure points are triggered they actually cause the brain to increase serotonin production.

Senior Abby Lanz received a weighted blanket as a gift from her mother over winter break because of her anxiety.

“I have been sleeping better and feeling more well-rested when I use my weighted blanket. My favorite part is the fact that it feels like a hug,” Lanz said.

My favorite part is the fact that it feels like a hug.”

— Abby Lanz

Similar to a hug, a weighted blanket stimulates the release of oxytocin — the happiness chemical in the brain. Studies have shown that hugging can produce oxytocin, which boosts an individual’s sense of well-being. In fact, the benefits of hugging and cuddling are so well-known that they’ve been incorporated into various forms of therapy.

While weighted blankets appear to be useful to sleep quality, the cost can be an issue. Depending on the quality and brand, the prices range from 70 dollars to 250 dollars. The price is hefty, but the solution is to make your own. All you need is fabric, plastic pellets from a fabric store, and a sewing machine. By devoting some time, you can evade the 250 dollar price tag.

Overall, weighted blankets provide people who want a better quality of life the opportunity without medications or alternative methods. After all, they are safe and effective.

This piece was originally published in the February print edition of The Rubicon.

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