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How Do Weighted Blankets Work?



SLEEP SCIENCE

4 minute read
wonderful weighted weaves girl in napper red

It’s likely that you have been hearing more and more about the benefits of weighted blankets, but you’re not too clear on the inner workings of the blanket itself. You probably want some clarity in regard to how they really work. Well, the science is actually pretty simple! In a nutshell, the extra pressure that a weighted blanket puts on your body helps to produce more of your relaxation and sleep-promoting hormones, which can reduce anxiety, lessen pain, and help with insomnia. If you want the details, keep reading. We get into the nitty-gritty of it all.


yellow blanket



The magical effects of deep touch pressure


Deep touch pressure, aka DTP, is what you experience when embraced in a long hug from a loved one. When you get a much-needed massage. OR when a baby gets swaddled, but I doubt anyone reading this remembers how that feels. Anyway, all of the above is similar to the sensation a weighted blanket delivers. Have you ever felt SO relaxed following a few peaceful hours at the spa that you feel the need to take a nap in the lobby? That’s DTP in action! It works by activating pressure points in your body, which leads to increased production of serotonin.

Serotonin is the hormone that makes you feel good. When you have a lot of serotonin coursing through you, your mood is improved, you feel relaxed, and you sleep better. This is because serotonin is also one of the precursors to melatonin, our most potent sleep-promoting hormone. One last, but prominent hormone that’s increased through DTP is oxytocin, which is also known as the “love hormone”. Oxytocin gets produced when you have physical contact with others close to you or when you bond with others not as close to you. This is similar to the comforting hug-like feeling that the Napper gives you.


How do weighted blankets help with stress reduction?


While weighted blankets increase several good hormones, they can also reduce the presence of problematic ones as well. Cortisol, our main stress hormone, is a tricky one. Most of us either have too much or too little of it. Too much cortisol and you are likely feeling stressed, high-strung or wired all day; too little cortisol and you are going to feel fatigued, operating with low energy from sun-up to sundown. What we want is a sort of Goldilocks situation with cortisol—we want it a tad higher in the morning to help wake us up, and then a nice, balanced decrease throughout the day, leading up to bedtime.

Suffice to say, a high cortisol level will surely interfere with you dozing off and getting a good night’s rest. Using a weighted blanket can help to lower your cortisol levels, which will reduce the amount of time before you’re able to relax and fall asleep. This is beneficial both in the short-term (like on Sunday) and the long-term, as chronically elevated cortisol levels are linked to some major health problems. While cortisol is a normal and necessary hormone, when it remains too high for years on end, certain diseases are more likely to develop, including high blood pressure, heart disease, insulin resistance, and obesity.


girl in bed



How do weighted blankets help with pain reduction?


It’s fairly common for those with chronic pain to undergo a vicious cycle of pain and sleep. Simply put, increased pain leads to worse sleep, and lack of sleep leads to more pain. A weighted blanket can remedy both, relieving pain and improving sleep quality by activating (you guessed it!) DTP. Fibromyalgia is a common disorder that is accompanied by pain, and weighted blankets can help to relieve some of those bad feels. The increased production of serotonin as well as increased sleep time and quality of rest can result in an improvement in symptoms from fibromyalgia and other afflictions like Restless Legs Syndrome.


Bearassentials

• Weighted blankets deliver a sensation known as Deep Touch Pressure (DTP), which is similar to that of a long hug from a loved one, a much-needed message, or being swaddled as a baby (as if any of us remember what THAT feels like).


• The added pressure a weighted blanket puts on your body helps to produce more of your relaxation and sleep-inducing hormones, which can effectively reduce anxiety, alleviate pain, and help with insomnia as well as restless leg syndrome.


• Cortisol is our main stress hormone, and it’s a tricky one to manage. Most of us either have too much or too little of it. Too much cortisol and you are likely feeling wired. Too little cortisol and you’ll be feeling fatigued. What we want is a sort of Goldilocks situation with cortisol (random, but accurate analogy).

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Did you know?
Among other causes, Restless Legs Syndrome is often the result of an iron deficiency. So, pull a Popeye and scarf down some spinach!



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