Do Weighted Blankets Help Anxiety?

Anxiety is a common human emotion which makes you feel nervous, upset, and uneasy. Anxiety disorders differ from this basic emotion by creating a chronic issue which can start to affect your everyday life, and make it difficult to function.

There are different types of anxiety, for example, social anxiety makes it difficult for individuals to walk in large crowds, attend social functions, or even make friends. Panic disorder, causes fear, loss of breath, and quickened heart rate. It can make you feel like you’re suffocating, even while you are breathing.

Symptoms of anxiety disorder include insomnia, muscle tensions, irrational fears, inability to focus, dizziness, and unexplainable insecurities. Using a weighted blanket can help counteract some of these symptoms, by supplying an evenly distributed sensation of pressure across the user.

How Weighted Blankets Work

Weighted blankets come in different shapes and sizes, but one thing they all have in common is the heaviness within them. Instead of the standard stuffing your duvet holds, a weighted blanket is filled with synthetic beads, or other materials which work to create a heavy internal layer. This layer should only be approximately 10% of your body weight.

As the weighted blanket descends onto your body, you will feel a sensation very similar to a hug. This sensation causes your brain to produce the natural happiness chemical called serotonin. The heaviness of the material also induces feelings of calmness, security, and makes it easier to focus on one thing at a time, and relax.

For those who suffer from anxiety, using a weighted blanket can help you detach from inner monologue and distracting thoughts by providing you with a tangible thing on which to focus. It also provides a layer of protection between you and the outside world, making you feel safe in your personal space.

While you may not be able to take your weighted blanket to the shopping mall with you to battle feelings of anxiety in the crowd, you can use it before and after a visit to the store to calm yourself.

The Science Behind Weighted Blankets

Weighted blankets have become popular over the past two decades because of their usefulness in cases of autism, ADHD, and anxiety. Many studies have been conducted to test these blankets with human subjects, and determine how well they work, and why. One such study, published in the Journal of Medical and Biological Engineering in 2012, tested the anxiety blanket theory in a dental office.

Dentist visits can be stressful; statistically, about 15% of Americans will avoid seeing the dentist each year due to fears and anxiety. This translates into approximately 40-million people; that’s a lot of missed appointments. To demonstrate the calming effect of the blanket, researchers invited 15 healthy female volunteers between the ages of 22 and 33 to make a visit to the dentist while using a weighted blanket. Stress reactions were measured by electrodermal activity and a behavioral assessment. The results proved that weighted blankets made a significant difference in anxiety levels throughout the dentist visit.1

Which Weighted Blanket is Best for Me?

Weighted blankets come in a variety of fabrics and colors, and choosing one can depend on your personal style, price point, and what you find comfortable. If the blanket is weighted to about 10% of your body weight, it will work to alleviate sensations of stress and anxiety.

For children, microfleece is a good option, because it is soft to the touch, and still functions as a warm blanket on cold days. For adults, a basic cotton exterior is enough to offer pressure stimulation without any added bells or whistles.

Before choosing an anxiety blanket, you should also look at the washing instructions, especially if you aren’t the type to visit a drycleaner often. Some weighted blankets can go through a standard wash and dry cycle, while others need to be laid flat to dry, and still others are dry clean only.

There hasn’t been much distinction in weighted blanket studies which set one style of blanket apart from another. It will come down to personal preference in the end, so just focus on choosing an anxiety blanket that makes you feel good.

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