Societal pressures and the explosion of computers and handle held devices have caused 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 have been on the rise in the last 50 years.
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.
The popularity of weighted blankets to treat anxiety then spread to the autistic community. Parents of autistic children began purchasing weighted blankets for their children and found this to be a cheaper and safer alternative to other methods being used.
So how do weighted blankets treat anxiety? The heavy weight of the blanket tricks your brain into thinking you’re being hugged. 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.
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.”