A weighted blanket is a blanket filled with hypoallergenic, non-toxic polypropylene pellets. The pellets are sewn into self-contained small pockets that are evenly distributed throughout the blanket. These pellets give the blanket its weight, which should generally be around 10 percent of the user’s body weight, give or take a few pounds depending on the individual’s needs and preferences.
Created to mimic the benefits of deep touch pressure therapy, weighted blankets have been shown to help ease anxiety, increase oxytocin in the brain and help individuals with sensory processing disorders feel more relaxed. DTP, as shown in the Journal of Medical and Biological Engineering, is about gently applying pressure to the body, which releases a calming chemical in the brain called serotonin to relax the nervous system.
Weighted blankets are perhaps most closely associated with sensory processing disorder and related conditions like autism, anxiety and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). However, weighted blankets may help with a wide variety of other health issues.
One study found that 63% of patients reported lower anxiety after use and 78% preferred the weighted blanket as a calming modality. A study from the Journal of Sleep Medicine and Disorders found it easier to settle with increased sleep duration, decreased movements and more “refreshed” feeling afterwards.
Researchers at Temple University found that 95 percent of participants with ADHD in a study improved when they received sensory intervention. The interventions offered included deep pressure touch therapy and a variety of strenuous exercise. As one researcher stated, “We found significant improvement in sensory avoiding behaviours, tactile sensitivity, and visual auditory sensitivity in the group that received treatment.”
Myofascial release, which involves the application of firm but gentle pressure over the fibromyalgia pain points can help sufferers find some relief from their pain. Weighted blankets can mimic this pressure, which may help fibromyalgia sufferers experience a reduction in symptoms.