Anxiety is a normal part of life from time to time, especially before a big decision, during a life change, or other times of stress. However, anxiety disorders can cause crippling feelings of fear, worry, or restlessness.
There are many ways to manage anxiety disorders. A combination of medication, lifestyle changes and other treatments can help limit the impact of anxiety and its symptoms. Weighted blankets are one example of a treatment that may help.
What are weighted blankets?
The weight of a weighted blanket will depend on the intended user. For example, children may use a smaller, lighter blanket.
Weighted blankets are blankets lined with evenly distributed weight. The weight varies based on who the intended user is and size of the blanket.
This special type of blanket is designed to be warm and to provide gentle pressure to a person, mimicking the feeling of being held.
The sensation may have a positive effect on people's moods. As a result, weighted blankets are gaining in popularity as an alternative means of combating anxiety and other sensory disorders.
Weighted blankets may offer many benefits to the user. The even pressure is said to imitate "deep pressure touch stimulation."
This deep pressure touch has a calming, soothing effect on people's moods. In a similar fashion, weighted blankets have demonstrated similar effects for people with anxiety.
Weighted blankets have several effects on the body that are positive, including:
Mimicking a hug
Research has shown that hugs may make a person feel at ease. When people hug, the body releases the hormone oxytocin. This hormone helps reduce blood pressure, slows the heart, and provides a feeling of relaxation.
The weighted blanket essentially imitates the warmth and security that a hug provides. Both the blanket and hug use a gentle, firm pressure that goes deep within the body giving a sense of repose that allows the body to relax.
Researchers have found that pressure put on the body in certain areas triggers the release of chemicals in the brain, including serotonin, that trigger a reduction in stress while improving mood.
Release of melatonin
Melatonin is a hormone that promotes sleep and helps regulate the sleep cycle. The hormone is linked with the production of serotonin, so the pressure that triggers this chemical will also lead to melatonin production.
The pressure of the weighted blanket may provide a comfortable environment for a person to fall asleep in.
Theoretically, the blanket is thought to create a sense of being swaddled, and the physical connection that the person feels with the blanket gives a sense of warmth and safety. As a result, the mind eases and the body can relax.
Other ways weighted blankets may help
Weighted blankets were originally developed as a treatment for some of the anxiety tendencies associated with people diagnosed with autism.
However, weighted blankets may be used to reduce or manage the symptoms of:
- post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- sleep disorders
- nervous system disorders
There are no major risks associated with properly used weighted blankets. Before using, a person should read the warnings provided by the manufacturer.
Additional caution may be needed when considering using a weighted blanket on a child. This is because the pressure the blanket provides may feel overwhelming if it weighs too much.
Homemade or store bought?
Making a weighted blanket at home may reduce costs and be a fun project for people who enjoy doing crafts.
People who are good at crafts may be interested in making their own weighted blanket at home.
For some, the idea of creating a weighted blanket is a fun challenge. For others, a homemade weighted blanket may be a way to reduce costs.
Whatever the reason, people considering the choice between purchasing a premade blanket versus making a weighted blanket should take some of the following into consideration:
Getting weight right in a homemade blanket may be difficult. Buying a premade blanket can help with getting the right weight for the person using it.
Manufacturers have to follow strict guidelines for their products. Therefore, the materials used need to pass certain criteria that help ensure safety and quality.
By contrast, some guides for making weighted blankets at home may use some questionable material. Those looking to make a weighted blanket at home should research several methods of creating blankets before purchasing materials and deciding on one method.
Time vs. cost
It may save money for a person to purchase the materials and make a weighted blanket. However, creating the weighted blanket will mean time spent crafting it.
For some, this may be a suitable trade off. However, for those looking to save time, the extra money spent may be worth the cost.
Purchasing a new weighted blanket means the product is likely to come with a limited warranty to replace the blanket if it is defective. There is no such protection with a homemade blanket.
If a person makes a blanket at home and messes up, they will need to fix it or start over. This can waste time and money, especially if a person gives up and purchases a blanket after all.
Other home remedies
Weighted blankets offer a potential at home method to treat and cope with anxiety. They have been, and are likely to continue to be, researched for their effectiveness in reducing symptoms of anxiety.
For inventive people, making a weighted blanket offers a potential project to focus on. However, for those looking to save time, there are a number of places to find and purchase weighted blankets.
For people looking to reduce anxiety, weighted blankets are one of many potential at home treatments. Some additional at home remedies may also reduce anxiety either:
- without the use of medications
- in addition to medications
As always, a person experiencing anxiety, or similar disorder, should discuss plans for treatment with a medical professional.
The following are some potential at home remedies that may be worth looking into further:
Lavender oil is a popular option for aromatherapy that may help reduce anxiety.
Aromatherapy is a popular option for people looking to reduce anxiety. Aromatherapy often uses natural extracts from plants to produce strong smells that trigger the body to react positively.
Oils extracted from lavender, for example, reportedly help reduce anxiety when used as part of aromatherapy. Lavender triggers the body to release natural chemicals and hormones in the brain that promote relaxation.
Eating a well-balanced diet rich in vitamins and minerals can help improve anxiety. People should avoid caffeine, alcohol, and added sugars, which have all been shown to increase anxiety.
Also, spikes in blood sugar can cause anxiety attacks, so avoiding extreme hunger or foods high in sugar is a good plan.
Increasing outdoor time
Getting out in the sun safely for about 15 minutes a day can have a positive impact on mood. The sun's rays trigger the body to produce vitamin D, which helps anxiety levels.
Exercise releases chemicals called endorphins in the brain that promote positive feelings.
Following general recommended guidelines for exercise can have a positive effect on both anxiety and overall health and wellness.
However, a person should consult their doctor before beginning a new exercise routine to make sure it is suitable for them.