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Anxiety is a serious issue among adults in today’s world and it is one of most common mental disorders in the USA. Anxiety is a general term and it covers a number of disorders which includes panic disorder, social anxiety disorder, phobias and generalized anxiety disorders.

About one-third of anxiety patients never receive any kind of medical treatment even though it is highly treatable. Anxiety can disturb the patient’s life causing fear, depression or/and restlessness. Apart from conventional medication, there are few other methods that can positively affect the treatment procedure.

What are Weighted Blankets?

Weighted blankets are one of the unconventional treatments which have proven to be helpful for anxiety patients in various scientific researches recently. These blankets are not your ordinary blankets. They are heavier and made for the specific purpose of helping the patients suffering from certain disorders.

According to Karen Moore, an occupational therapist in Franconia, these weighted blankets are one of the most powerful tools to help anxious people who are on the verge of losing control.

Weighted blankets are made in such a way that they are lined with equally distributed weight. These blankets provide gentle warmth and pressure to the body. They are becoming very popular due to their amazing impact when dealing with patients suffering from anxiety and sensory disorders.

How exactly are they helpful?

Weighted blankets are useful for adults with anxiety in a number of ways. These blankets, “weighted” with plastic poly pellets or glass beads sewn into compartments, create pressure on the body which can imitate Deep Pressure Touch Simulation. This special type of touch soothes the mind. According to a recent study, the use of weighted blankets resulted in 63% reduced anxiety levels among the patients along with 78% of the patients opting for a weighted blanket as a calming source.

Hug like feeling

According to recent studies, hugs produce a positive effect on the body. When we hug,  our bodies release a hormone known as oxytocin, which is helpful in reducing blood pressure and heartbeat, resulting in relaxation of the body.

Weighted blankets provide the warmth and comfort of a hug to the patients, therefore, providing relaxation to the body. The gentle pressure on the body also stimulates the release of serotonin which, some researchers believe, is responsible for mood balance.

Weighted blankets can also help the body to release melatonin, a sleep-promoting hormone which is also responsible for maintaining the sleep cycle. The melatonin production is directly associated with the release of serotonin.

Deep Touch Pressure Simulation

Various scientific studies have proven the benefits of this great product. Through a study conducted in 2012, researchers found out that the deep touch pressure created using weighted blankets helped to lower the anxiety in dental environment and provided evidence of positive clinical effects of deep touch pressure. This research proves the point that a physiological reaction occurs when the deep touch pressure is applied to the body. A group of researchers who published their work in 2008 reported that majority of the patient who used weighted blankets reported having lower anxiety levels.

Lowering Anxiety levels in adults

During a research published in Journal of Occupational Therapy in Mental Health, 30 patients suffering from anxiety were kept under a controlled environment to study the effects of weighted blankets. All the patients were adults and the safety measures included pulse rate, blood pressure and pulse oximetry monitoring. According to the results, 60% of the patients showed a decrease in their anxiety level while using weighted blankets which provides weight to the argument that these blankets should be used as a proven treatment for anxiety and sleep disorders.

Improving Sleep

The balanced pressure of the weighted blanket, which is different for every person according to his/her weight, provides a feeling of being swaddled, a physical connection that helps the person to fall asleep.

The warmth of the blanket and connection on certain body parts helps the mind to relax and the body to ease up. All of these factors combine to provide the patient with a comfortable environment in order to sleep well. A balanced sleep cycle not only helps the patient to follow a proper routine but also helps to solve a number of health issues such as digestive issues.

Additional benefits

Weighted blankets can provide treatment to patients with anxiety, but they can also be helpful for people suffering from autism. The gentle pressure of the weighted blankets can be effective in dealing with nervous system disorders and calming the autism patients. They can also be used to treat post-traumatic stress disorder and cure sleep disorders.

These special blankets help in providing calmness, relief and therapy treatment for the following disorders:

  1. Sensory disorder: The patient with a sensory disorder of any kind can get help from these blankets due to the release of serotonin and melatonin initiated while sleeping.
  2. Sleep disorders: The deep touch pressure therapy is quite useful for anybody suffering from a sleep disorder.
  3. Insomnia: The deep touch pressure helps in the release of serotonin and melatonin, which can really help the patient to sleep and stay asleep. The regular use increases the chances of the patient to develop a proper sleep cycle.
  4. RLS: The patients suffering from Restless Leg Syndrome could benefit from the gentle pressure provided by these blankets. The balanced weight of the blankets put pressure on certain body parts that help reduce the pressure on the brain resulting in calming the body parts. In this way, the restlessness is reduced and the patients can have proper sleep.

Choosing the weighted blanket

Choosing the right kind of weighted blanket is an important decision and is an investment. In the process of selection, it must be remembered that the weight and the material of the blanket are of utmost importance.

Proper weight

The weight of the blanket should be +/-10% of the body weight of the patient. It is one the main factors ensuring the desired outcomes of the use of the weighted blanket. As the name suggests, the whole procedure is connected with the weight being exerted by the blanket on the body. The release of useful chemicals in the body is associated with the right amount of pressure being put by the weighted blanket.

Potential Threat

There is no particular potential threat of using a weighted blanket as an adult if you follow the 10% rule. It is advisable not to use the blanket specified for adults as a treatment for the children. Contact a doctor before buying a weighted blanket in case of:

  1. Any kind of heart disease.
  2. Menopause issues.
  3. Respiratory problems.
  4. Blood pressure regulation issues.
  5. Circulation problems.

Conclusion

Weighted blankets have scientifically proven to create a positive impact in the lives of the people suffering from anxiety. The use of these blankets lowered the anxiety levels of the majority of the patients within a few days.

A weighted blanket is an investment and the benefits overweigh the money required to buy it. Nothing is more precious than the peace of mind and a healthy body. With regular exercise and a proper diet plan, the positive impact of a weighted blanket can be increased.

Consulting a doctor should be considered necessary before using a weighted blanket if the person has a medical condition. Refrain from using weighted blankets in case of respiratory, circulatory or temperature regulation issues.

References

  1. Anxiety disorders. (2016, March). Retrieved from https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/anxiety-disorders/index.shtml
  2. Mullen, B., Champagne, T., Krishnamurty, S., Dickson, D., & Gao, R. (2006, November 2). Exploring the safety and therapeutic effects of deep pressure stimulation using a weighted blanket. Occupational Therapy in Mental Health, 24(1), 65-89. Retrieved from https://www.researchgate.net/publication/233228002_Exploring_the_Safety_and_Therapeutic_Effects_of_Deep_Pressure_Stimulation_Using_a_Weighted_Blanket
  3. Novak, T., Scanlan, J., McCaul, D., MacDonald, N., & Clarke, T. (2012, October). Pilot study of a sensory room in an acute inpatient psychiatric unit [Abstract]. Australasian Psychiatry, 20(5), 401-406. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23014117
  4. Mullen, B., Champagne, T., Karishnamurti, S., Dickson, D. and Gao, R. (2017). Exploring the Safety and Therapeutic Effects of Deep Pressure Stimulation Using a Weighted Blanket. [online] Taylor & Francis. Available at: http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1300/J004v24n01_05 [Accessed 17 Sep. 2017].
  5. Yung Chen, H., Yang, H., Chi, H. and Chen, H. (2011). Physiological Effects of Deep Touch Pressure on Anxiety Alleviation: The Weighted Blanket Approach. [online] http://www.jmbe.org.tw. Available at: http://www.jmbe.org.tw/files/1961/public/1961-5094-1-PB.pdf [Accessed 18 Sep. 2017].