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How weighted blankets help reduce stress & anxiety



6 minute read

SLEEP SCIENCE

How weighted blankets help reduce stress & anxiety

6 minute read
wonderful weighted weaves girl in napper red

Life is full of events and situations that are stressful. Perhaps it’s a wedding to plan, bills piling up, or a job that’s putting extreme demands on your mental health.

While stress can be temporary, many people deal with ongoing anxiety that can feel never-ending. Either way, the feeling of uneasiness and worry is a serious matter that can impact one vital piece of your overall health and wellness: your sleep.

Anxiety can lead to extreme restlessness, making it difficult to fall asleep and stay asleep at night. That means while others are off counting sheep and recharging their brain cells, you’re wide awake counting your worries instead. If this has ever sounded like you, a weighted blanket may be just what the doctor ordered.

But we know what you’re thinking - How exactly do they work? And will they really help to reduce stress and anxiety? Well, you’ve come to the right place, and we’ll answer those questions now.


The science behind weighted blankets


While weighted blankets have recently soared in popularity, they’ve actually been around for quite a while. For the past 60 years they’ve been used mostly by occupational therapists and those dealing with the special needs community. Today, they’re catering to a much broader range of people, specifically those with high anxiety levels or insomnia (which often go hand in hand).

The theory behind a weighted blanket is pretty simple and straightforward. “Grounding” or “earthing” your body, aka pushing it downwards with the help of substantial weight, helps you to feel more relaxed. In return, this reduces feelings of tension or dread and allows you to drift off into dreamland with greater ease. Pretty cool, right? If the concept of earthing sounds a little hippy-dippy, stay with us!

Diving a bit deeper, the actual science behind weighted blankets and their ability to “ground” us comes from something known as Deep Touch Pressure (DTP). There are multiple research-backed benefits of DTP, including increased serotonin (the happy hormone), increased melatonin (the sleep hormone) and decreased cortisol (the stress hormone).


A closer look at serotonin


Let’s take a closer look at serotonin for a minute. Serotonin is a chemical produced by our nerve cells, and it acts like a transmitter, sending messages between the cells. It’s mainly found in the brain and intestines, but it’s also present in your central nervous system and blood platelets. Since it’s found in these key areas of the body, it influences a variety of psychological and bodily functions.

Serotonin works in conjunction with other systems to regulate our blood pressure, heart rate, and mood. This last part is key, especially when it comes to mental health. It’s considered to be a natural mood stabilizer, helping to control anxiety and feelings of happiness.

Low levels of serotonin have been linked to depression, and deficiency has also been linked to anxiety and insomnia. A pretty powerful chemical, wouldn’t you agree?

When Deep Touch Pressure causes serotonin levels to spike, it produces a calming effect that takes over the body. Serotonin then naturally converts into melatonin, which is the hormone that tells your body it’s time to drift off into dreamland.


Reduced cortisol levels


With serotonin levels up, and melatonin naturally flowing, your body is now primed for a deeper, more restful sleep. Another key element in this chemical equation is cortisol, which is your body’s natural stress hormone. It’s also been referred to as the body’s built-in alarm system, working with your brain to control your motivation levels, fear sensors, and mood.

When we’re stressed, we tend to have higher levels of cortisol in our bodies. Constant stress is essentially keeping your cortisol switch permanently ‘on’ - which increases your heart rate, blood pressure, and sends other body systems into high gear. It can also, as you may have guessed, make it harder to fall asleep and stay asleep.

Scientists conducted a study to specifically measure the biological effects of weighted blankets on the human body during sleep by measuring cortisol levels and reporting on sleep, pain, and stress. The results? Weighted blankets significantly reduced cortisol levels during night time sleep, reducing sleep dysfunction, pain and stress.

When cortisol levels drop, there’s an improvement on overall physical and mental comfort. Basically, Deep Touch Pressure can have some really powerful effects on the nervous system. You can read even more on DTP here.


We all love to be cuddled


On top of all of this science, the feeling of a weighted blanket simply provides a sense of warmth, relief and security. It’s often been described as being quite similar to that of a hug, and who doesn’t want more of those? It’s a wonderful sensation, and it makes sense as to why our bodies crave it.



This type of stimulation has always provided comfort, even from a very young age - just think of how we swaddle babies to transition them from womb to world. The same sort of concept applies here to people who may be struggling with stress or anxiety.

A weighted blanket works to tell our bodies that we’re safe and able to relax. Who knew that a little bit of pressure (the physical kind, not the kind you get from your overly demanding boss) was the ticket to greater, more impactful sleep?

Yes, weighted blankets have been getting quite the support and applause, and we don’t just mean from satisfied customers (although we’re very grateful for our raving reviews). Experts from the American Sleep Association, Harvard University, and The Cleveland Clinic have all already acknowledge the benefits a weighted blanket can have on anxiety and other disorders like ADHD and Restless Leg Syndrome. In fact, a study published by Occupational Study in Mental Health revealed that 68% of their test group reported lower anxiety after using a weighted blanket.

This of course doesn’t take away from the fact that knowing how to cope with stress and anxiety is an essential life skill to learn. Along with wrapping up in your weighted blanket and establishing a healthy sleeping routine, try out some other strategies, like talking to a therapist or picking up meditation. Here are a few quick tips for dealing with stress and anxiety:


Eat well


We all know the benefits of eating well. Try to load up on nutritious food each day, like fresh fruits, vegetables and lean proteins, and don’t skip any meals (this can wreak havoc on our bodies). And be sure to always stay hydrated!


Limit caffeine and booze


Alcohol and caffeinated beverages can exacerbate anxiety. You may have already noticed they can cause the jitters. Reduce your intake or stay away from these beverages entirely and instead replace them with something like non-caffeinated tea or sparkling water.


Exercise


Regular exercise can be so beneficial to the body and mind. Similar to the affects from a weighted blanket, a good sweat session also releases endorphins that work to improve mood and reduce stress.


Avoid procrastination


Procrastination can be one of the biggest causes of stress. Stay on top of your priorities by setting realistic deadlines and getting organized.


Say no and let go


Learn to know when it’s time to simply step back or let things go. We’re often too quick to say “yes” and prioritize others above our own health. Give yourself a break every now and then. You deserve it.


Spend time with family and friends


Social support can always be helpful through stressful times. Don’t be afraid to reach out, whether it’s for a shoulder to cry on, an ear to vent to, or a hand to hold. Or maybe you just need a good laugh.



Did you know?
Chocolate can actually help increase serotonin levels, and many foods, like grapes, strawberries, and tomatoes, have been known to increase your melatonin levels.


Bearassentials

• The actual science behind weighted blankets and their ability to “ground” us comes from something known as Deep Touch Pressure (DTP). There are multiple research-backed benefits of DTP, including increased serotonin (the happy hormone), increased melatonin (the sleep hormone) and decreased cortisol (the stress hormone).


• Studies have shown that weighted blankets reduce cortisol production throughout the night, reducing sleep dysfunction, pain and stress.


• Weighted blankets are one way to help deal with stress and anxiety, but there are many things you can do, like talking to a therapist, improving your diet, cutting down on caffeine, or trying meditation.

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Did you know?
Chocolate can actually help increase serotonin levels, and many foods, like grapes, strawberries, and tomatoes, have been known to increase your melatonin levels.



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