In one way or another, the Coronavirus pandemic has affected each and every one of us. Whether you’re a mother trying to simultaneously work remotely and homeschool your children or you're a college student finishing up your last semester, we’re all experiencing high stress levels. A popular item that can be very useful in these times of high anxiety is a weighted blanket.
What Exactly Is a Weighted Blanket?
Chances are, you’ve already heard of weighted blankets since they’ve grown in popularity over the past few years. Basically, a weighted blanket, also known as a gravity blanket, is a therapeutic blanket that can weigh anywhere from five to 25lbs. The weight comes from an evenly distributed amount of plastic poly pellets, micro glass beads, or steel shot beads that are sewn into the blanket.
Basically, a weighted blanket, also known as a gravity blanket, is a therapeutic blanket that can weigh anywhere from five to 25lbs.
It’s recommended to use a weighted blanket that weighs 10% of your body weight, plus a pound or two. For example, if you weigh 100lbs, you would want to use a weighted blanket that weighs 11 or 12lbs. A weighted blanket can be used by almost anyone, from children as young as four years old to the elderly.
The Science behind Weighted Blankets
You may be wondering how a weighted blanket can be therapeutic. Although weighted blankets are frequently used by occupational therapists during sensory integration therapy to help alleviate symptoms for people with sensory processing disorder, Autism, or ADHD, they can also be used for people who experience anxiety, panic attacks, and depression. Through deep pressure, weighted blankets help people stimulate the release of dopamine and serotonin, which are neurotransmitters known to make people feel more relaxed.
Through deep pressure, weighted blankets help people stimulate the release of dopamine and serotonin, which are neurotransmitters known to make people feel more relaxed.
The concept of applying a therapeutic tool to alleviate anxiety was originally pioneered by Dr. Temple Grandin, an Autism researcher. When she was a young girl, she noticed that cows became calmer when receiving their vaccinations when they were being gently squeezed by a compression device designed to hold them in place. As someone on the spectrum herself, Dr. Grandin recalled similarly feeling less anxious when she was gently held and hugged as well.
Weighted Blankets Can Help During Quarantine
During this pandemic, using a weighted blanket can be incredibly useful in alleviating stress, anxiety, and fear. Some research suggests that the slow and gentle pressure from a weighted blanket can help stimulate parts of our brain’s limbic system, which is responsible for the way we process our emotions and fear. Using a weighted blanket is essentially like getting a wonderfully long hug, and let’s face it — we could all use a good hug these days. Since we're practicing social distancing and not able to physically hug our loved ones at the moment, a weighted blanket is a great substitute for now.
Some research suggests that the slow and gentle pressure from a weighted blanket can help stimulate parts of our brain’s limbic system, which is responsible for the way we process our emotions and fear.
In addition to serotonin, using a weighted blanket also helps increase your production of melatonin, a naturally occurring hormone that regulates our sleep-wake cycle. The two of these together increase the feeling of relaxation and sleepiness, which can lead to you falling asleep more easily and getting a better quality night’s sleep. Quality sleep is especially important right now because it will help you with your productivity, energy, brain function, and overall mood during the day.
During this time, we need to protect our own mental health by alleviating our stress and anxiety levels when possible. Whether that’s through the use of a weighted blanket, a great workout, or a nice soak in the tub, we all need to do what works best for us to get us through this difficult time.
Think of it this way. Although we aren’t able to see the light at the end of the tunnel just yet, it’s important to have a flashlight — and some extra batteries — to help get us through this long tunnel. When we finally make it out of the tunnel, we will be ready to handle anything that comes our way.