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SNHS Spotlight: Positive Effects of Weighted Blankets

Staying up late at night unable to fall asleep is a sign of insomnia or anxiety. Although a typical bed cover traps heat, it does not include any particular benefits to help a person struggling to sleep. Fortunately, a recent at-home therapy innovation is transforming an ordinary blanket into one that promotes serenity and ease. This product fills a blanket with plastic beads or pellets to result in a weighted blanket. Blankets can vary in weight from three pounds to thirty pounds; experts recommend using a blanket that is equivalent to ten percent of a person’s body weight. The blanket imitates the feeling of a tight hug, which places intense pressure on the body. 

Positive health effects arise from this therapeutic method, especially in individuals suffering from anxiety, depression, insomnia, ADHD, and autism. In a study by Swedish researchers, 120 adults with diagnosed psychiatric disorders participated to test weighted blankets for four consecutive weeks. Participants in the control group were given a 1.5-kilogram blanket, while the other participants slept with an 8 weighted kilogram blanket. After the four week period, 60% of participants benefited from the study with their Insomnia Severity Index reducing by 50%. Furthermore, 42% of weighted blanket participants were in remission, meaning they achieved a score lower than seven on the ISI scale. In comparison, the control group only had 3.6% of participants in remission. Some participants chose to continue the study for 12 months. At this point, 78% of participants were in remission, and 92% were responders. Altogether, the investigation resulted in higher productivity in the day, improved sleep, and minimized symptoms of depression, tiredness, and anxiety. 

Image credits: health.clevelandclinic.org

Two other studies examine the effects of the weighted blanket on anxiety. In the first study, 32 adults wore the weighted blanket for a mere five minutes, and 63% reported reduced stress. Another study records 60% of a group of people hospitalized for mental health emergencies had a decrease in anxiety. However, researchers do suggest other means of long term treatment for people with severe anxiety. The weighted blanket does relieve stress, but it will not cure all mental disabilities. 

The weighted blanket experience can be compared to acupressure and massages as it appeals to the touch senses. These therapeutic techniques give an alternative to other psychiatric remedies such as medication. Dr. Mats Alder, a consultant psychiatrist in the department of clinical neuroscience at the Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm, Sweden, claims the deep pressure stimulation increases parasympathetic arousal of the autonomic nervous systems, which prompts a calming ambiance. Recently, there has been a surge in sales of these blankets, which people can expect as the mental health issue amplifies. I have personally purchased one of these blankets to test out, and I, too, can attest that the results are remarkable.

Works Cited:

“Anxiety and Stress Weighing Heavily at Night? A New Blanket Might Help.” Harvard Health, http://www.health.harvard.edu/mind-and-mood/anxiety-and-stress-weighing-heavily-at-night-a-new-blanket-might-help.

“Do Weighted Blankets Work?” Health Essentials from Cleveland Clinic, Health Essentials from Cleveland Clinic, 26 Jan. 2021, health.clevelandclinic.org/can-weighted-blankets-banish-nighttime-anxiety/.

By: Elizabeth Muzilla-Fullem’22, SNHS Member

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