Living with autism, a sensory processing disorder, or mental health concerns like anxiety can be overwhelming. You may have heard about how a weighted blanket can aid in treating these conditions.
Of course, some consumers were concerned that these blankets were more hype than help. However, the medical community is speaking out to support this pressure therapy. Indeed, these blankets can release oxytocin in your brain to help relax your body.
So what do doctors around the country say about this latest calming technique, and is it worth buying one?
Understanding the Weighted Blanket
Before you rush out and buy one of these blankets, you must know how they work. These covers are not like your typical ones. They have a filling of polypropylene pellets that gives them bulk.
Inside, the blanket has tiny pockets that hold the pellets. Thus, they are self-contained. Typically, you buy a comforter to fit the size of your bed. You don’t buy these king, queen, or twin blankets as they must be sized for the person.
How Does the Weighted Blanket Work?
Most households have quite a few comforters, but few have one created by a doctor. The weighted blanket is backed by years of research and the medical community’s support.
Everyone knows how to use a blanket to cover up the body to stay warm. They are soothing on a cold winter night, and even children have a favorite one they carry.
However, a weighted blanket is very soothing. Dr. Grandin was the mastermind behind these creations.
She started Temple Grandin to do autism research. She wanted to create a therapy tool that used the calming effects of a blanket with compression properties. As a young child growing up on a farm, she watched her father use a compression device on their livestock.
Whenever it was time to administer livestock vaccinations, they used this device to calm them so they could give shots more easily. A gentle squeeze made the cows calmer and more manageable.
The device fascinated Dr. Grandin because she was diagnosed with autism. She knew that as a child fighting with a sensory processing disorder, she often felt comfort and relief of her symptoms when she was being held or hugged.
She wanted to create a device that would give the benefits of a hug without the feeling of being smothered. In addition, she needed to create something that could apply gentle pressure to the entire body. Dr. Grandin knew that hugs release oxytocin in the brain and instantly calm those suffering.
So she focused on creating a blanket that would stimulate the happiness chemical to bring the same sensation as that machine used on cows. Her creation struck a chord with the medical community and people around the globe. It worked!
How Do These Blankets Help?
The reason why these blankets help so much is all about the stimulation of that neurotransmitter in the brain. When the body releases oxytocin, we instantly feel a sensation of calm, peace, and happiness. That is because touch can stimulate the production of this chemical. Thus, Dr. Grandin’s blankets can improve a person’s well-being.
Many psychiatrists and counselors have incorporated hugging and cuddling into their therapy. It’s often called deep touch pressure therapy, backed by years of research. Those suffering from anxiety, autism, and sensory processing disorders respond well to this treatment.
Conversely, those with a sensory processing disorder can often find touch unsettling. It can increase their anxiety when someone is in their personal space. However, a weighted blanket is different. It delivers the benefits of the pressure, but no one making unwelcome bodily contact.
Squeeze machines became popular many years ago. They are used in therapy centers around the world. The only problem is these devices come with a hefty price tag that the ordinary person cannot afford.
The weighted blanket brings all the same benefits with a favorable cost that can fit into anyone’s budget.
Who Can Benefit from Weighted Blanket Therapy?
There is a wide variety of health issues that are said to be helped by the use of these blankets. They are as follows:
- ADHD or Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder
- Restless Leg Syndrome
The stimulation of oxytocin can help many medical conditions. Some doctors advise their patients to use these for any issue that can benefit from deep pressure therapy.
Weight Therapy for Those With Sensory Processing Disorder
There are two forms of sensory processing disorder. A person can either be overly sensitive or under-sensitive. The hypersensitive individual will find simple things like grocery shopping unbearable.
They become overwhelmed by loud or constant noises, crowds, and others bustling by them in their space or being touched. Any of these things will send their anxiety soaring. However, those with hyposensitivity are just the opposite.
The hypo sensitive group doesn’t feel anything when presented with stimuli. They are unaffected by touch and don’t sense noises well. Under-sensitive people will seek out touch, and the under-sensitive person avoids it.
Treating someone with sensory processing disorder with pressure therapy will vary on whether they are hyper or hypo sensitive. The blankets work better for hypersensitive people because they have control over the pressure, but research shows it can work for both groups.
For the hyper group, the real benefit is that the pressure comes from a blanket and not a person. The cover can be used only to stimulate areas that they can tolerate and avoid uncomfortable ones. With the hypo-sensitive person, they get that even distribution of pressure they crave.
Weight Therapy for Autism
Dr. Grandin is the most distinguished researcher in the field regarding deep touch therapy. Since she has autism, she could test and see if her creation had benefits or drawbacks, and she could make tweaks where necessary.
She knows that autistic children love deep-pressure stimulation. Things like stroking, holding, or touching, are all excellent activities for them. She relates everything to that squeeze machine she saw as a child. The blanket she created gives just enough pressure touch therapy to calm those with difficult to manage ailments.
Weight Therapy for Anxiety
The ADAA reports that there are more than 40 million people that suffer from anxiety in the United States. Thankfully, it’s a highly treatable mental disorder. Surprisingly, only 37 percent of those suffering get the help they need.
Anxiety can make sleeping impossible, but a weighted blanket can help. As many as 63 out of 100 participants in a study showed improvement in their electrodermal activity, which means they slept better and worried less.
Weight Therapy For ADHD
A medical team from Temple University conducted a study. The goal was to see how those with ADHD responded to weighted therapy. The results were unbelievable. At least 95 percent of participants showed significant improvement.
The people involved in the study expressed a reduction in their tactile sensitivity. Additionally, they displayed fewer behavioral issues.
Weight Therapy for Insomnia
Statistics indicate that about 15 percent of the population suffers from insomnia. Everyone needs sleep, so it’s frustrating when you can’t drift away and relax your mind.
However, deep touch pressure reduces insomnia. In fact, more than 78 percent of people in a study showed that the constant pressure from the blanket reduced their angst and brought on sleep.
Weight Therapy for Restless Leg Syndrome
RLS is a major cause of insomnia. The feeling that the legs constantly need to move is unbearable. Some describe sensations that feel like bugs crawling up and down their legs or numbness from pins and needles. Unfortunately, this condition always strikes at night.
Indeed, the gentle pressure applied from a blanket with weights can calm the sensations in RLS. Additionally, since it calms anxiety and insomnia too, this group got the rest that was much needed.
Weight Therapy for Fibromyalgia
Fibromyalgia is one of the most misunderstood and misdiagnosed conditions around. This autoimmune disorder brings widespread pain throughout the body. However, many people go years without getting the proper diagnosis.
It’s estimated that more than five million people in this country suffer from this condition. Myofascial release is a type of therapy often used on these patients. Gentle pressure helps to relieve pain. The weight-filled blanket can mimic that pressure, which can cause a reduction in symptoms.
Final Thoughts: Getting Pressure Treatment with Weighted Blankets
The medical community stands behind Dr. Grandin and her invention. She’s already significantly impacted the autistic community, and many more suffering from all sorts of ailments are also finding relief.
The real key is that these blankets are affordable. There have always been fancy techniques and machines that require either a great time or money commitment. However, a blanket is something that anyone can use at any time.