September 12, 2020
Touch Starvation: What It Is & How A Weighted Blanket Can Help
When we’re asked to re-evaluate even the simplest forms of physical contact like hugs, handshakes, or high-fives, a weighted blanket can help keep us mind-healthy as we figure out this new social distancing reality.
While physical contact is often seen as just another part of our society, it’s actually an absolute necessity to keep our mental and physical health in check.
Around the globe, everyday greetings take on many forms – from clapping your hands in Zimbabwe, sticking out your tongue in Tibet, to rubbing noses (and sometimes foreheads) in New Zealand and air kisses on the cheeks in France. Underpinning all these little rituals is a fundamental reliance on physical touch.
In 2018, over 35 million Americans lived alone, depending on the world outside their doorstep to provide the warmth of physical interaction. Many more of us now spend weekdays on the couch, swapping a gym class for the Olympics of online shopping, and weekend get-togethers are about as exciting as a Zoom happy hour can get.
Given that social interactions are now mainly happening in the cloud and human touch is harder to come by, this new reality can put us out of balance. We come bearing good news, though – the benefits of weighted blankets can help you cope and keep your inner calm.
To better understand the unique challenges of isolation, and how weighted blankets can help us weather this lonely storm, let’s talk about:
- The importance of physical touch
- The science behind hugs
- What is touch starvation?
- What happens when you’re skin hungry?
- Deep touch pressure benefits of weighted blankets
The importance of physical touch
The importance of human touch in those first moments after being born boosts almost every aspect of our health. A selection of studies put together by Unicef shows how physical contact helps regulate bodily functions like heart rate and body temperature in newborns and reduces stress and anxiety in parents.
The importance of physical touch doesn’t diminish throughout the years – the range of functions skin (our largest organ) fulfills, is fascinating. Besides shielding us against the sometimes dangerous outside world, it can also help us communicate an array of emotions like anger and fear, gratitude and sympathy, happiness, and sadness. Studies show how all these feelings are expressed and understood through touch.
Let’s dig a little deeper into the science behind our favorite tactile exchange – hugs.
The science behind hugs
As eloquently put by Asim Shad, executive vice chair of Baylor College of Medicine, “human beings are wired to touch and be touched.” Holding hands, cuddling, and hugging – all these tactile exchanges release our “feel good” hormones, like oxytocin, dopamine, and serotonin.
These hormones don’t merely make us happier and improve our immune system, but as new research suggests, it goes well beyond that. Increased oxytocin levels make us more trusting of each other, positively affect social behavior, and even play a role in our appetite!
So what happens when all this physical contact is taken away?
What is touch starvation?
Lacking our usual forms of physical touch for weeks on end puts an immense amount of stress on the mind – to the point where it can become quite unhealthy. This condition is known as touch starvation.
Touch starvation, also known as affection deprivation, can severely impact quality of life. While the first telltale signs of suffering from touch starvation revolve around mental health, it can also evolve into physical ailments.
What happens when you’re skin hungry?
Affection deprivation can manifest in many ways, from persistent bouts of loneliness to feeling more stressed, anxious or depressed, and mood swings. If left unchecked, studies indicate that touch starvation can eventually lead to difficulty sleeping, personality disorders, damaged immune systems, and compromised general health.
Knowing this, it’s becoming clear how prolonged self-isolation, while helpful in preserving our collective health, can be challenging for those of us being deprived of physical contact.
With so many aspects of our health affected by touch starvation, it’s useful to know a few natural ways to help remedy it – and that’s where the science behind weighted blankets comes in.
Deep touch pressure benefits of weighted blankets
Deep touch pressure (DTP) benefits have been known for decades, with research linking deep touch pressure therapy to lower anxiety levels, reduced stress, better sleep, and improved overall mental health. Weighted blankets draw on the fundamental science of deep touch pressure to bring about these benefits. While it can never replace hugging our loved ones, sleeping under weight can help avoid some of the harmful side-effects of touch starvation.
With having to adjust to new social distancing norms and the general uncertainty of the future, mental health is already at risk. Our knitted weighted blankets’ therapeutic benefits can bring restorative rest and offer much-needed support when we’re feeling touch starved.
Weighted blankets can also work wonders when combined with other sure solutions that help prevent touch starvation, such as massaging your hands or feet, or, best of all, cuddling under the weight with your pet companion.
• Our skin not only shields us from the dangers of the outside world but helps us express and understand a range of emotions through physical touch.
• Touch starvation, also known as affection deprivation, can be harmful to mental health and, if left untreated, may lead to physical ailments.
• Weighted blankets mimic the feel-good effect of physical contact through deep touch pressure, making our weighted Napper a natural, easy-to-use tool to navigate your way through the challenges of isolation.
Did you know?
In severe touch starvation cases, people can exhibit signs of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) – incidentally, one of the conditions weighted blankets were first used to help treat.