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Weighted blanket benefits: sleep, anxiety, and autism

Weighted blankets are set to be the biggest wellness trend of 2020 as people slowly discover the various benefits of weighted blankets, from better sleep and reduced anxiety, to helping with symptoms of various health conditions.

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Here are all your questions answered along with my honest review, and the verdict from the mother of an autistic child.

I purchased one from Tranquillow and absolutely love it. They are a start-up, with their weighted blankets on Amazon — and they are definitely one of the best weighted blanket UK brands as they include a weighted eye mask, ear plugs, and have great customer service — not that I had any problems, but I reached out to them for this blog post.

What is a weighted blanket?

The heavy (and incredibly soft) blankets have the science of deep touch pressure (DTP) on their side, with benefits going far beyond a good night’s sleep. DTP triggers various responses from the body’s nervous system, including the release of serotonin (often referred to as ‘happy hormones’) which is necessary for the body to then release melatonin — the sleep hormone. Something as simple as a hug counts as DTP!

If you want to know more about the science behind weighted blankets and deep touch pressure, check out these studies:

Weighted blanket benefits

According to Tranquillow, it can help both adults and children who live with or experience autism, ADHD, restless leg syndrome, cerebral palsy, fibromyalgia, post-traumatic stress disorder, and high blood pressure. The effects of DTP help the body to fall asleep, as well as soothing anxiety and various symptoms of ill mental health.

How does it work? When you’re stressed or anxious your heart beats quickly, the hormones released by the nervous system in response to the pressure of a weighted blanket put the body into a resting mode, and a low heart rate will also make you feel calmer. All of these effects help with stress, anxiety and sleep.

READ ME: Can sound baths wash away your stress?

People with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) have a harder time with self-control and are easily distracted. By activating a powerful sense of touch with a weighed blanket, those with ADHD are less likely to be distracted by other sensory stimulus like sounds. While a weighted blanket isn’t something children can use in class, you can also buy weighted vests.

People with autism benefit from all of the above — not only are they prone to stress and anxiety, especially in social situations, but things like sound and touch can be a much more intense experience for them so weighted blankets can be a comfort and relaxer. And while most of us will find hugs comforting, many people with autism don’t like to be touched so weighted blankets can provide this comfort.

How to use a weighted blanket

This is up to you. The more of your body you cover, the better — I notice the strongest effect when my chest is covered, or it is wrapped around me. It doesn’t need to be used only for sleep — use it whenever, wherever, and reap the benefits. If you are using it in bed, it doesn’t matter what position you sleep in either.

How heavy should it be?

Choosing a weighted blanket has very little to do with size. The blanket should be approximately 10% of your body weight, which will distribute evenly across you, so it is not advised that the blanket be shared. It should be able to cover your whole body, but if it is too big then when you’re lying down the weight won’t be on the body so you will lose the benefit.

The Tranquillow weighted blanket is perfect because it is a little bit smaller than a double, so you’re well covered and it can be used at night in place of a duvet (in the summer at least, you may not be warm enough in winter).

READ ME: Three ways to prioritise your mental health

How do you wash a weighted blanket?

This might vary according to the brand, but Tranquillow blankets can be machine washed on a cold setting.

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REVIEW: Will a weighted blanket help me sleep better?

I have been a bad sleeper my entire life and I do not exaggerate. I can recall many a sleepless night from my childhood spent listening to the rest of the family go to bed one by one (I’m the youngest) or waking up in the middle of the night for hours.

My inability to sleep well goes beyond my memory; my mother has often told me that even as a baby I didn’t sleep well and stopped napping pretty quickly compared to others my age. 

I chose the 7kg blanket, which is more than 10% of my weight but the option below would have been too low. I had been wary at first, of feeling trapped or claustrophobic and the founder of Tranquillow warned me some people need about a week to get used to weighted blankets.

On delivery I was shocked at the weight of it, but once spread across my body it didn’t seem like much at all. It was soothing and has definitely helped, after a few nights I began falling asleep faster, and now I am surprised to write I want an even heavier blanket.

REVIEW: Will a weighted blanket help with symptoms of autism?

I don’t have autism, or know anyone who does, so I sought out somebody to give me their verdict.

Nicki Rodriguez’s eight year old son Harrison, who has an autism diagnosis as well as sensory processing disorder and global development delay, has been benefiting from a weighted blanket for a while.

“He started off with a weighted blanket to help calm his anxiety as the pressure makes him feel secure and relaxes him. He uses it for sleep but more so when he is anxious in the daytime. It didn’t take him any time to get used to it — it had effect immediately, the pressure of the weight calms him down.”

See more health and fitness features here.


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