Weighted blankets have started to make their way into the mainstream household in the past couple years, but you might be wondering what they are and what they’re used for. In this article, we’ll explore what a weighted blanket is, what it’s used for, and how to know if one is right for you.
What Is a Weighted Blanket?
These blankets differ from the regular blankets you’ll find at the store. While both types are cozy in their own way, weighted blankets are significantly heavier than the average blanket.
Why are they heavier and what makes them heavy?
Inside a weighted blanket, there are pockets that contain different substances used to weigh it down. You can choose between non-organic and organic fillers, and each has their own benefits and drawbacks.
- Smooth pebbles (choose small stones)
- Plastic poly pellets (ABS virgin, which means no toxins)
- Micro glass beads (fine glass beads that have a smooth texture)
- Steel shot beads (large, heavy beads)
- Sand (semi-organic and budget option
- Food (dried beans, corn, and rice)
Some of the fillers, such as smooth pebbles and steel shot beads, have obvious drawbacks like an inconsistent texture causing the blanket to be lumpy, and the stones and beads may crash against each other if not distributed properly. If you have sensory sensitivities with texture and sound, you may want to choose another option.
Organic fillers, including sand, might seem like a better option until you consider the logistics. Presumably, you’ll want to wash your blanket.
When sand gets wet, it clumps and is difficult to dry out. Similarly with food, it’ll be difficult or even impossible to fully dry. Additionally, food like rice, legumes, and dehydrated vegetables will expand in water, stretching out the fabric and causing lumps. It’s also more susceptible to mold and insects.
Micro glass beads are luxury fillers, and plastic poly pellets are a cost-efficient alternative. Both will fill the blanket pockets evenly and will allow you to wash and dry your blanket without harm.
Who Most Benefits From Weighted Blankets?
In the past, occupational therapists were the ones most likely buying and using these for their clients to promote a state of relaxation and calm. Now, however, weighted blankets have moved into the mainstream, and several people use them as a holistic, non-pharmaceutical option to manage symptoms.
People who have any of the listed disorders will most benefit from using a weighted blanket on a regular basis:
- Sensory processing disorder
- Chronic stress
- Chronic pain
- And more…
While these blankets can certainly be incorporated in your daily self-care routine to moderate your symptoms, if you’re taking pharmaceuticals, you do not want to stop taking them without consulting with your psychiatrist or other mental health professional.
What Are the Benefits of Regular Usage?
We saw who the weighted blankets can help, but how does it help?
Lying under a weighted blanket feels like getting a bear hug. It promotes feelings of security and safety. This is called “deep-touch pressure stimulation” or DTPS.
On a brain chemistry level, this type of stimulation can release more oxytocin, serotonin, and melatonin while decreasing cortisol levels.
What does all this mean? Let’s break it down further.
Oxytocin is referred to as the “cuddle hormone.”
- Released during extended hugs of thirty seconds and longer
- Promotes feelings of love and connectedness
- DTPS is like getting an extended hug, which naturally releases this hormone
Serotonin is commonly called the “happy hormone.”
- Promotes feelings of happiness and well-being
- Lack of serotonin tends to cause feelings of depression
- DTPS can trigger your body to send a signal to your brain to create more serotonin
Melatonin is commonly known as the “sleep hormone.”
- Helps regulate your circadian (day-night) cycle
- Released in the presence of external cues (outside darkness)
- Low levels cause you to not be able to fall asleep or stay asleep at night
- DTPS can help encourage melatonin production
Cortisol is the “stress hormone” released by the adrenal glands.
- Short bursts of stress are healthy
- Chronic stress can have devastating results
- Adrenal fatigue (chronic stress) can cause depression and inflammation
- DTPS promotes relaxation and reduces circulating cortisol levels
While weighted blankets won’t “cure” you of depression, anxiety, or other psychological and genetic disorders, regular usage can help you to counteract some of their symptoms.