For years, occupational therapists have been using weighted blankets to help children with sensory processing disorders. Known for theircalming effect, it’s no wonder that weighted blankets have recently gone mainstream.
Weighted blankets use the same effects of swaddling a baby or a hug from a loved one. They put pressure on the body’s sensory receptors, which immediately calms the mind and body.
But how can something as simple as a weighted blanket have such a positive effect on our emotional wellbeing?
The Science Behind Weighted Blankets
Designed to weigh 10% of your body weight, adults weighted blankets evenly distribute weight across your body. This Deep Pressure Therapy has a profound effect on a section of the nervous system called the Autonomic Nervous System (ANS).
The ANS controls unconscious actions, such as breathing, digestion, and heart rate. This system can be further broken down into two divisions. The Sympathetic Nervous System (SNS) is responsible for the body’s “fight or flight” response. When the body is under a perceived attack, the SNS releases hormonesthat increase blood pressure, blood sugar, and breathing.
The second division of the ANS is the Parasympathetic Nervous System (PSNS). This division is the compliment to the SNS. It calms the body down by decreasing blood pressure, heart rate, and breathing.
Research shows that evenly distributing weight across the body compresses the nervous stem. This Deep Pressure Therapy actually reduces “fight or flight” activity, while increasing PSNS activity.
Benefits of Weighted Blankets for Adults
Now that we understand the science behind weighted blankets for adults, let’s take a look at how they can affect our daily lives.
Helps Combat Anxiety & Stress
Anxiety affects 40 million adults in the US alone. With the stresses of a modern lifestyle, that number is rising at an alarming rate.
A huge factor in stress and anxiety is high cortisol levels. When cortisol levels are elevated, the body is forced into “fight or flight” mode. Levels are supposed to return back to normal after the brain no longer believes the body is in danger.
However, those who suffer from anxiety know that they are always on high alert.
By incorporating Deep Pressure Therapy into your daily routine, you can reduce cortisol levels by 31%.
Natural Mood Booster
In the same study, researchers also found that Deep Pressure Therapy increased serotonin by 28% and dopamine by 31%. These “happy hormones” have a direct and positive effect on mood and behavior.
This mood boost happens naturally, making weighted blankets a great supplement to medication.
People with insomnia and other related sleep disorders know that if their mind isn’t calm, it is impossible to fall asleep. Increased serotonin and dopamine levels help calm anxiety and racing thoughts before bed.
Serotonin is also crucial for melatonin production. This hormone tells the body when it is time to go to sleep. When melatonin production is high, sleep is deeper and more effective.
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