The quality of sleep is the main precursor that determines a person’s optimal health, everyday performance, energy levels, and mood. Our bodies require enough sleep and a regular sleep-wake cycle following the natural biorhythm of the body in order to stay alive and healthy. Although our natural biorhythm is closely predetermined by the 24h day and night cycle, a modern-day person is far from obeying the natural sleep-wake cycle.
As the lights have allowed us to prolong our daily functioning into the evening and late into the night, as a modern population we humans tend to suffer from a disrupted sleep-wake cycle and completely opposite habits to what our body naturally requires. Accordingly, people are getting familiar with how the lack of proper sleep negatively affects the body through a myriad of physical illnesses and psychological disorders that become very common.
Apart from irregular sleep and sleeping problems, the unhealthy habits that lead to these problems also cause a lot of stress and anxiety that additionally affect one’s health. Taking all this into consideration it was only a matter of time when will humans, as a whole, start adopting therapeutic tools in everyday life. One of these therapeutic tools, the weighted blanket, is intended to offer support to people suffering from insomnia problems and serious life disbalances that affect the physical and mental health, ultimately causing anxiety issues and depression.
Proven to be very beneficial and used in acute psychiatry for decades, the weighted blanket has entered the mainstream use in many modern forms providing the same benefits.
Weighted blanket as a therapeutic tool uses weight to stimulate changes in the nervous system. The weight as the trigger to changes should be evenly spread over the blanket’s surface in order to be felt on each body part. Moreover, resembling a regular one, the weighted blanket is filled with microbeads made from plastic or glass and distributed across the surface resulting in a particular overall weight of the blanket.
The weight of the blanket, one is supposed to use, can be determined using a simple equation. A blanket should weigh 8-12% of the person’s specific body weight. The number determined with the use of percentage is not ultimately the precise one. For the user to find the perfect weighted blanket that can provide the benefits, it should also take into consideration the size of the blanket. If the overall weight of the blanket is 25lbs it will be felt differently if spread over a twin size of a queen-sized weighted blanket.
Therefore, choosing a blanket wisely is important as using the proper weight is essential for the effects to kick in and make some serious changes inside the body in order to deliver all the benefits expected. Let’s take a look at the effects the use of these blankets induces.
When put onto the body, the weight puts a gentle pressure onto the skin surface. This pressure, also known as the deep pressure touch stimulation (DPT) is the main trigger that induces the changes. Moreover, the pressure stimulates the nerve endings underneath the skin and they start sending signals to the central nervous system. Under the influence of the weight, these signals tell the central nervous system that the body is safe and secure. These stimulation provided by the blanket, resemble the natural one, the one that the hug and nearness of another person’s body provide.
The soothing and comforting feeling of the hug is universal for all humans and animals. Therefore, the weighted blanket resembling the same effect triggers changes in the nervous system that activate the functioning of the parasympathetic system, ultimately resulting in feelings similar to that the hug provides i.e. safety, relaxation, feeling of satisfaction, and calmness.
The effect of the weighted blanket, as mentioned above, triggers the activation of the parasympathetic nervous system or also known as the “rest and digest” state of the body. These part of the central nervous system uses the so-called “hormones of happiness” – the serotonin, dopamine, oxytocin, and endorphins. Once the levels of these hormones in the bloodstream rise the body starts entering its resting phase, thus promoting the feeling of calmness, satisfaction, deep relaxation ultimately leading to deep sleep.
The weighted blanket’s effects are instant. Once put onto the body the blanket acts as a sort of a switch putting the body into the rest and digest phase. The hormonal changes that take place are powerful chemical reactions resulting in the beneficial feelings mentioned above and they can’t be solely overruled by worrisome or stressful thoughts. Simply put, the blanket will act as a shield, defending your body from the outside’s world stressful influences that disrupt the normal balance between sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system regular switches.
The effects and changes the use of a weighted blanket provides it’s beneficial in many ways. Primarily, it will easily re-establish the disbalance in the functioning of the nervous system or as mentioned above, the regular switch from sympathetic (fight or flight) to parasympathetic (rest and digest) system in the body. Moreover, prolonged stress and nervousness, despite the cause, result in increased secretion of stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline. Once the levels of stress hormones in the body are very high, the nervous system can’t easily get back in balance and activate the rest and digest state. Moreover, this is why prolonged stress and trauma prevents people from relaxing and often result in insomnia. Simply put the body can’t enter the resting phase. However, as mentioned above the blanket will act as an instant switch supporting the body to activate the secretion of the opposite hormones, which will calm, relax, and soothe the feeling of stress.
With all of the explained above, prolonged stress can easily be aid with regular use of the blanket. Moreover, the symptoms of anxiety and depression that are directly linked to stress and lack of “happiness hormones” in the bloodstream will also be decreased.
Disrupted sleep and sleeping patterns will benefit in a way that the blanket also induces the production of the sleep hormone – melatonin. Moreover, serotonin, one of the happiness hormones that are secreted at the command of the parasympathetic system, is a precursor to melatonin. Prolonged use of the blanket will result in regulated levels of melatonin that can easily put the body in sound sleep on a regular basis.
One benefit from regular use of the blanket is applicable to all people out there despite the health condition. Sleeping with a weighted blanket provides deep, undisrupted, and restoring sleep. The quality of the sleep directly affects the immune system that when properly supported will prevent the development of illnesses and better coping and strongly fighting an existing health problem or disorder.