Weighted Blankets For Anxiety: The Ultimate Guide [2020 Update]
Everyone has feelings of anxiety at some point in their life, but some people find it hard to control their worries. If this sounds like you, or someone you love, you may have heard that weighted blankets could help. We’ve pulled together this definitive guide on weighted blankets for anxiety to help you understand what a weighted blanket is, the top five reasons a weighted blanket can help kids or adults with anxiety, how to choose the best blanket for you, and much more.
In this guide (click each to go straight to the section)
- What is anxiety, and how can it affect people’s daily lives
- What is a weighted blanket, and how do they work
- The top five reasons a weighted blanket can help kids or adults with anxiety
- Reviews from customers who’ve bought a blanket for someone with anxiety
- How to choose the right weighted blanket, and what to consider
- Some helpful tips we’ve collated to help people with anxiety take control
Anxiety is what we feel when we are worried, tense or afraid – particularly about things that are about to happen, or which we think could happen in the future. A lot of people feel anxious at one time or another, particularly during stressful events or changes that can have a big impact on our life. It can be experienced through our thoughts, feelings and physical sensations. Anxiety affects 6 million people in the UK (3 million with depression as their primary problem and 3 million with an anxiety disorder).
Anxiety is a natural response in our bodies, part of our evolutionary fight-or-flight response to situations we perceive to be threatening. In most cases, practicing self-care can be a big help in reducing feelings of anxiety, however it can become a mental health problem when it impacts your ability to live life fully.
Anxiety can often develop for no apparent reason, however overactivity in areas of the brain involved in emotions and behaviour, an imbalance of brain chemicals like serotonin which are involved in the control and regulation of mood amongst other factors can play a role. Different life situations can trigger anxiety including exhaustion or a build-up of stress, long work hours, unemployment, pressure from work or study, money issues, bereavement, loneliness, bullying or abuse.
People experience anxiety differently; however typical symptoms can include:
- An unshakable sense of dread
- Always feeling ‘on edge’
- Difficulty concentrating
- Noticeably strong, fast or irregular heartbeat or shortness of breath
- Muscle aches and tension
- Trembling or shaking
- Difficulty sleeping, or insomnia
Symptoms may cause sufferers to withdraw from social contact, for example not seeing friends, family or refusing to go into work, to avoid feelings of worry and dread. This can make you worry more or increase a lack of self-esteem.
Weighted blankets are designed to be heavier than a regular blanket and are available in varying weights and sizes. You should consider the height and weight of the wearer when choosing which weighted blanket is most suitable for your needs (you’ll find more on this further on this page).
Weighted blankets can simulate being hugged, triggering the release of feel-good hormones and chemicals naturally produced in our bodies. These help the wearer feel relaxed and calm, alleviating some of the symptoms of anxiety, and therefore helping the wearer get to sleep faster or properly relax during downtime.
Weight is provided by glass beads sown inside the blanket. These tiny beads mean the blanket shapes around the wearer’s body, providing a hugging-like sensation and what is known as Deep Touch Pressure therapy. Neurotransmitters can be triggered by this, releasing feel-good hormones such as serotonin, which work to naturally relieve the symptoms of anxiety, stress, insomnia or depression.
Deep Touch Pressure therapy has been the subject of many scientific studies. These have found that DTP, simulating a hug or cuddle, can produce oxytocin. This chemical is directly linked to human bonding and is an important neurotransmitter that helps individuals feel calm and relaxed.
Furthermore studies have demonstrated that DTP can raise levels of serotonin. This assists with mood regulation and helps us feel calmer. If you struggle with anxiety and resultantly struggle to sleep or find yourself stressed throughout the day, you may find a weighted blanket helps you relax and get to sleep faster. Whilst serotonin can be promoted by 5-HTP in sleeping tablets, pills can cause headaches, daytime grogginess or generally be ineffective.
DTP can also promote the release of melatonin. This is a hormone naturally produced in our bodies that is linked with the production of serotonin. More specifically melatonin promotes sleep and helps regulate the overall sleep cycle.
1. Increased levels of serotonin which improve calmness
Low levels of serotonin have been associated with depression, and can be a result of life stressors including exposure to prolonged periods of stress, poor diet, hormone changes or even a lack of sunlight. Through the lens of biochemical diagnoses, higher amounts of serotonin can help regulate anxiety, happiness and mood. As Deep Touch Pressure therapy has been shown to increase serotonin production, weighted blankets which stimulate this should be explored by those looking for a natural way to help relieve their anxiety symptoms.
2. Decreased levels of cortisol for improved stress response
Whilst Deep Touch Pressure therapy can help improve serotonin levels, studies have also shown that it can reduce cortisol levels. Cortisol has been described as our bodies alarm system – it’s our main stress hormone and, amongst other things, regulates blood pressure, boosts energy and controls our sleep/wake cycle. For most people cortisol is released as a response to certain situations however for those who, for example, are under constant stress, too much cortisol production can lead to a number of health problems, including anxiety, depression, headaches and trouble sleeping. Weighted blankets provide DTP and therefore offer a natural way to decrease this stress hormone, and can lead to an improved mood, more efficient sleep and feeling better physically. Exercise, getting more sleep, deep breathing exercises and eating healthy foods are all-natural ways to regulate cortisol production.
3. Weighted blankets help people have a calmer night’s sleep
A good night’s sleep has so many benefits – reduced feelings of stress, improved memory, better mood, greater concentration and improved mental health, amongst other things. Anxiety can particularly affect sleep, as feelings of worry keep people awake or make their heart race which stops them relaxing and falling asleep. As a lack of or poor quality sleep can reduce our bodies ability to appropriately deal with the biochemical causes of anxiety, lying awake can make individual’s feel even worse.
Studies have found that weighted blankets have a positive impact on sleep, both objectively and subjectively, where a number of physiological and behavioural measures were improved. For example, participants in one study who used a weighted blanket said they had a calmer night’s sleep and moved less. Again weighted blankets therefore offer a cost-effective non-medical approach and complimentary tool to improve sleep quality.
Whatever causes your anxiety, getting a better night’s sleep is strongly believed to help alleviate and help you deal with symptoms. Through promoting increased levels of serotonin production, weighted blankets can help individuals struggling with anxiety enjoy a calmer, more restful sleep.
4. Reduction of activity in the nervous system
As those with anxiety know, symptoms can be physical and so studies have been completed to review the impact of weighted blankets on the autonomic nervous system, or the way blankets can make people feel.
Weighted blankets have been shown to decrease activity in the nervous system, due to the effects on the vagus nerve which is involved in regulating heart rate and blood pressure. Various studies support this, including one conducted in a dentist office which studied the effect of Deep Touch Pressure on patient anxiety whilst undergoing treatment. They found that blankets appeared to shift the autonomic nervous system response, by having a positive effect on the patient’s heart rate variability, which is often used to help measure physiological response to stress.
A further study on the effectiveness of weighted blankets revealed 63% of participants reported lower anxiety after use, whilst a huge 78% of people preferred the weighted blanket as a tool to relieve anxiety. Additionally, 33% of participants saw decreases in their nervous system activity.
Finally a study which used weighted vests (a popular alternative blankets due to their potential for use in classrooms for children) found that DTP was “capable of eliciting changes in autonomic arousal”. In context this means that participants had physiological changes as they calmed down because of the weighted vest.
5. A natural way to relieve symptoms of anxiety
People are increasingly looking for natural alternatives to medication to improve their health and wellbeing. Studies have demonstrated that Deep Touch Pressure can raise levels of serotonin. This assists with mood regulation and helps us feel calmer. If you struggle with anxiety and resultantly struggle to sleep or find yourself stressed throughout the day, you may find a weighted blanket helps you relax and get to sleep faster. Whilst serotonin can be promoted by 5-HTP in sleeping tablets, pills can cause headaches or grogginess. Whilst you should always talk to your GP, weighted blankets offer a cost-effective, natural way to help handle the symptoms of anxiety.
Having sold thousands of blankets, here’s just a sample of what some of our customers have said about buying a weighted blanket to help with anxiety:
“Got this for my wife as an early Christmas present. She suffers from Anxiety and has been recommended a weighted blanket. She has had it 2 nights and has slept through, claiming it is the best thing she has ever owned. The cover is fantastic and has sensory bubbles which she likes. This was cheaper than most alternatives but still expensive. However from the response I have had I would highly recommend.” Mr J Benstead, 6 December 2018
“First few nights using the weighted blanket. I suffer from really bad sleep and anxiety. I had a heavier blanket which I returned as I couldn't move under it. This is alot better and I can move. Last night I managed 6 hours sleep which is unheard of at the moment.” Zara, 12 September 2019
“I bought this lovely weighted blanket for my teen daughter who is autistic and suffers from anxiety and sleep problems. She loves her blanket she has been using it every day since I purchased it,she told me it makes her feel safe like a hug.She even sits watching tv wrapped in it. I’m over the moon as I have seen a improvement with her sleep and anxiety.” Sue, 20 June 2019
“I have used this blanket for a solid month now and I love it! My friends have more expensive ones and honestly the quality is similar (if not better). I have anxiety, depression and a mood disorder and this has helped me to feel more safe when I have bed-bound periods - plus I feel cosier in bed in general! I would 100% recommend to anyone in my situation. Thank you” CS, 19 September 2019
Weighted blankets should generally be 10 percent of the wearer’s body weight, however individual preference may mean people prefer a lighter or heavier blanket. Below is what we typically recommend:
Wearer’s weight: 7-9st
Recommended blanket: 10lbs
Wearer’s weight: 9.5-13st
Recommended blanket: 15lbs
Wearer’s weight: 14-17st
Recommended blanket: 20lbs
It’s important that weighted blankets aren’t so heavy that the wearer struggles to move freely underneath it, however it should be heavy enough to enjoy the benefits of Deep Touch Pressure. If you find your blanket isn’t heavy enough, or you become used to its weight and want it to be heavier, try folding it over – Isaac blankets fit double sized beds, so you’ll still be fully covered whilst sleeping under it.
Our blankets comfortably fit double beds and are 60” x 80” (152cm x 203cm). Blankets should cover your body from the neck down, without a lot left over. Depending on the height of the wearer, our double blankets will likely be most suitable.
If you plan to sleep under a weighted blanket, be sure it doesn’t hang over the sides of the bed. This can cause the blanket to slide off the bed and end up on the floor during the night.
Weighted blankets typically have two components – the inner weighted blanket, and a removable cover. We recommend buying a cover to protect the inner blanket. Due to the weight, most inner blankets are not suitable for machine washing so it’s important you avoid spills or accidents if possible. A removable, washable cover will help to extend the life and use of your inner blanket by keeping it protected.
Although some anxiety is normal, it’s time to act when it snowballs and begins to have a significant impact on quality of life. We’ve researched some ways you can help your child or yourself take control and better manage symptoms of anxiety:
- Talk to your child about their anxiety or worries. Reassure them and show them you understand how they feel. Teach your child to recognise signs of anxiety in themselves and to ask for help when it strikes.
- Focus on exploring solutions with your child, rather than promoting avoidance. Talking about different options, rather than just the things that could go wrong, will help build resilience and understanding.
- Regular exercise is good for emotional and physical health, so keep your child active. Better yet it’s not just a short-term fix as your child can experience relief for hours after exercise.
- Practice simple relaxation techniques with your child, such as taking deep, slow breaths. Some meditation and mindfulness apps offer exercises or stories for kids that they may find helpful.
- As a natural sedative, alcohol can help you handle symptoms of anxiety at first, however it’s a short-term fix that doesn’t address the reason people anxious. You should therefore avoid alcohol for a period of time to see how much better you feel.
- Stop smoking – research suggests nicotine and other chemicals in cigarette smoke alter pathways in the brain linked to anxiety. Again cigarettes offer only a quick fix to a complex situation and encourage an unhealthy dependence.
- Ditch caffeine and get some sleep. Caffeine can cause nervousness and jitters, neither of which are good if you’re feeling anxious. Sleep is one of the best ways to help your mind and body tackle anxiety, so avoid caffeine which can keep you awake. You can read more about getting a better night’s sleep here.
- Try a meditation or mindfulness app, as the practice has been shown to relieve anxiety and stress, and act as an antidepressant. Practice deep breathing and aim to achieve a sense of calm and groundedness in the moment.
- Try aromatherapy, as studies have shown they can help you relax and sleep. Some essential oils to try are bergamot, lavender, clary sage and grapefruit.
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