This Month In Life
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Health and Fitness News

Need a Heavy Hug?

Try sleeping under a weighted blanket.

Ever just feel like you need a hug? Maybe you’re sad, scared, or anxious and a warm embrace would bring you comfort and reassurance. This is the theory behind weighted blankets. Made of soft fabrics and filled with evenly distributed small, plastic pellets, weighted blankets weigh anywhere from 4 to 30 pounds.

Originally designed to help people with autism and recommended by psychiatrists and therapists, weighted blankets are now used in the mainstream community to help relieve symptoms of anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, sleep disorders, and more. Could you benefit from one?

Helps You Relax

People with autism and other sensory or nervous system disorders like the feeling of weight on their bodies. Hence why they often love being in water. The even pressure experienced by water or a weighted blanket is like a hug that reduces levels of the stress hormone cortisol. Lowering cortisol brings a sense of calm, improves focus, and boosts one’s mood.

At the same time you’re lowering cortisol, weight on the body signals the brain to release serotonin, a hormone that relaxes and calms the body. Similar to the security and warmth of a hug, weighted blankets also trigger the release of oxytocin, a hormone that slows heartbeat, lowers blood pressure, and brings relaxation.

Relieves Anxiety

How many nights do you lie in bed while your mind is wide awake with anxious thoughts? If you deal with big decisions, work stress, or financial problems, you may find it difficult to fall asleep. Or maybe you struggle with an anxiety disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, or post-traumatic stress disorder that causes fear and restlessness. Whatever the cause, you may find yourself reaching for sleep-inducing or anxiety-relieving medication on a nightly basis. But you may not have to any longer. Instead of relying on medication, you may want to try sleeping under a weighted blanket.

Improves Quality of Sleep

More serotonin means more melatonin, the hormone that helps regulate your sleep cycle. Like swaddling a fussy baby, the pressure and warmth of the weighted blanket makes you feel secure and safe so you’re able to fall asleep faster, stay asleep longer, and move less in your sleep. So sleep tight with a comforting weighted blanket.

Boosts Productivity

People have found weighted blankets or vests to be useful during the day as well as at night. In fact, one study of kids with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder showed that kids who wore a weighted vest while completing tasks were better able to stay on task and complete tasks faster than those not wearing a vest. Anyone who has trouble focusing or completing projects may benefit from a weighted vest. Sound strange? Yes. But increased productivity doesn’t.

Safety Concerns

Weighted blankets seem harmless for teens and adults. However, they may be dangerous for young kids. To date, two deaths have been connected to the use of weighted blankets. A 9-year-old boy with autism died after getting rolled up in a blanket and a 7-month-old infant died of SIDS while using a weighted blanket. Unless recommended by your therapist, do not use a weighted blanket on a child younger than 8 years and keep young users under supervision while using the blanket.

Where to Find

Most local department stores won’t carry weighted blankets. Because they’re still relatively uncommon, you’ll likely need to order one online—and they’re not cheap. Ranging between $100 and $300, you may want to try sleeping under a mound of blankets first to see if you like the feel before buying a weighted blanket.

Some people save money and make their own weighted blanket by filling it with small, weighted pellets or denim. When making your own blanket, it’s important to make it the right weight for the person who’ll be using it. Too heavy can be suffocating and too light may not make a difference.