Anxiety has plagued human beings for thousands of years. Anxiety served us well when we were hunter-gatherers. It would keep us alert in unfamiliar territory to protect us from potential threats, and give us the adrenaline necessary to survive attacks from animals and enemy tribes. But today, most of us have the luxury of living protected lives, never having to worry about an imminent lion attack or famine.
Today, however, our minds have become restless, and societal pressures and the explosion of computers and handle held devices have disconnected us from our true natures, causing a rise in anxiety and other mental health disorders. “By the time we reach 40, half of us will have experienced a mental health problem and 1 in 5 people will struggle with a mental health issue in a given year”. These numbers are staggering, and they have been on the rise in the last 50 years,
So how do weighted blankets treat anxiety? Well, let’s explain the history of weighted blankets, then we’ll dive into how they treat anxiety.
Weighted blankets were originally invented to be used in Psychiatric hospitals. Doctors would use the weighted blankets to calm their patients down during periods of extreme stress. The doctors found that the blankets dramatically calmed their patients down, and would allow their patients to be more receptive during times of treatment.
After word got out about the effectiveness of weighted blankets for treating anxious patients in mental health hospitals, the autism community began using weighted blankets for autistic children. Parents of autistic children began purchasing weighted blankets for their autistic children and found this to be a cheap and safe alternative to other methods that were being used to calm down their autistic children during times of stress.
So how do weighted blankets treat anxiety? Well, the heavy weight of the blanket tricks your brain into thinking you’re being hugged. When someone hugs you, dopamine, serotonin, and oxytocin are released in your body. This results in a feeling of pleasure from the dopamine, elevated mood from the serotonin, and feelings of bonding and social adhesion from the oxytocin. The increase in these happy chemicals causes a decrease in activity from Hypothalamus/Pituitary/Adrenal (HPA) axis, the area responsible for triggering the anxiety response.
The heavy weighted of a weighted blanket feels just like a hug. Using deep pressure stimulation, the blanket calms you down and promotes positive feelings.
One study surveyed 32 anxious adults who used a weighted blanket as a therapeutic tool to calm down. The reports found that “63% of the patients reported lowered anxiety after use” and “78% of the patients preferred the weighted blanket as a calming modality” instead of medication and other methods.
An Australian study reported that “individuals who used the weighted blanket reported significantly greater reductions in distress and clinician-related anxiety than those who did not”