Anxiety is a terrible condition of life, and all of us experience it from time to time. Before making a big decision in life, or during a significant life change, or during any other stressful events, we always succumb to anxiety disorder. While mild to moderate anxiety helps you to focus your energy, attention, and motivation, severe anxiety and hyperactivity disorder lead to a feeling of confusion, helplessness and extreme worry that are out of proportion. Overwhelming anxiety inferring with your daily life is not normal and needs help.
A combination of lifestyle changes and medication can limit the impacts of anxiety and related symptoms. Weighted blankets have been getting lots of attention recently because of their proven effectiveness to relieve stress, anxiety, ADHD, and even for autism and sensory processing disorders.
So what is AHDH?
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder or ADHD is a complex neurobehavioral disorder characterized by impulsive disruptive behavior and inattention.
Though medication might help, a combination of therapy and medication often works best. ADHD rarely looks the same in two people as it can appear in two very distinct ways or as a combination of both. People with a hyperactive type of ADHD acts very hyperactively as if a super powerful motor drives them. Whereas the inattentive subtype gets easily distracted and forgetful, they quickly lose tracks of day to day activities and conversation with regularity.
How is a weighted blanket useful in managing AHDH?
Before getting into the effect weighted blankets have on Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, let’s look into what is a weighted blanket. A weighted blanket is pretty much what it sounds, which is a heavy, comfy blanket. Weighted blankets differ in what fabric is in use for making the blanket and blankets come with poly pellets, glass beads, rice or millet filling.
Weighted blankets are specially designed to be warm, and lines with evenly distributed weight and the required weight varies according to the person who uses it and the size of the blanket.
The science behind weighted blankets
The underlying science of weighed blankets is the deep touch pressure it provides on the body mimicking the feeling of being hugged. The sensation of being held can have a positive effect on the mood of people who have ADHD. For the same reason, weighted blankets have been gaining popularity as an alternative way of combating anxiety and other disorders.
Sensory weighted blankets consist of pellets and carry roughly around 10 % of your body weight. The weight it carries allow harnessing the power of deep pressure touch by gently distributing it across your body while you rest.
This proprioceptive input relaxes your nervous system by increasing serotonin and melatonin levels and decreases the level of cortisol and is helpful for those who have Hyperactivity Disorder.
Both serotonin and melatonin control different functions in your body like mood, appetite, and sleep. Whereas, cortisol, which is a steroid hormone, regulates energy by choosing the right amount of substrate, like carbohydrate protein of fat body needs to meet the demands. However, high cortisol level which happens during acute stress conditions which contribute to suppressed immunity, hypertension, high blood sugar, carbohydrate cravings, etc.
Who benefits from using weighted blankets?
Honestly, anyone like adults or kids having Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder can benefit from using sensory weighted blankets. We all have sensory systems that can cause dysfunction due to several environmental and genetic factors. You can find many who suffer from Sensory Processing Disorder. However, it is not recommended to use weighted blankets on infants under age three, for physical and cognitive reasons. The benefits of weighted blankets are vast and worldwide.
However, using weighted blankets for kids with ADHD remain as a matter of debate as there are chances that it might pose a hazard to children. On safety angle, it is recommended to use weighted blankets for kids only if they are able to remove them independently.
These chemicals are proven to decrease anxiety and stress but as each person’s sensory system respond in different ways, try it out to know how the pressures of weighted blankets affect them.
Benefits of weighted blankets
Feeling skeptical how a heavy blanket can make a significant difference in the overall quality of your life? Here are some benefits of weighted blankets.
No matter what your age is, weighted blankets lower your anxiety level and help you reach in a stress-free state. The amount of work it does depends on how your sensory system responds to it. To see that in real time, grab a weighted blanket next time when you feel stressed out or experience severe sleep problems as many things are going on in your head.
The soothing effect a weighted sensory blanket offers a more relaxing environment by giving the feeling of swaddled tightness while sleeping. It not only help you sleep soon, but it also helps to provide you with sound and uninterrupted sleep throughout the night. The close physical connection offers a sense of safety and warmth, putting your body and mind to relax.
Eliminates pre-sleep stress
If you are someone who finds it difficult to fall asleep, and once you start sleeping, you can have an uninterrupted sleep. Wrapping yourself in a cozy weighted blanket helps to reduce pre-sleep stress and puts you into immediate sleep especially if you suffer from severe sleep problems. The reason behind this is a reduction in cortisol level once you use weighted blankets. Reduced cortisol production means less stress to your immunity system and overall calming your whole body.
It improves transition times:
Children who have Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder will find the weighted blankets handy for inducing sound sleep and helps to transit from hyper activeness to a low energy level.
Some schools also incorporate a transition time session in which they used weighted blankets to help Kids with ADHD transition into the class. The same thing can be used in various scenarios at home too. When your child is coming home after school or from play, ask your child to get inside the weighted blanket to have a calming effect. It can also be used in adults who find it difficult to transition from their state of energy to a normal one.
Calms down the nervous system:
Weighted blankets for adults cause effective neurochemical changes, and along with that, it holds power to calm down your nervous system and to improve it’s functioning.
The best way to alleviate obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) symptoms is to improve your serotonin production either through therapy, medication or other natural methods. Weighted blankets are known to enhance your serotonin level meaning you can free your mind to soothe OCD.
Releases feel-good hormones and chemicals:
Anxiety due to stress is a reason by chemicals or hormones produced in your body, the deep pressure touch provided by weighted blankets release feel-good hormones like serotonin and dopamine, which are responsible for keeping you in a good mood. These two beneficial neurotransmitters combat depression, anxiety, and stress to keep you calm and relaxed.
People who have ADHD often struggle to focus during the day-to-day activities, especially in work or studies. Children who are suffering from ADHD issues find it difficult to sit in classrooms for long hours. The use of weighted sensory blankets has been proven to improve the sensory stimulation in children and also improves their fine motor skills, especially in autistic children. For kids, using a weighted vest in the daytime and weighted blanket at night can make a lot of difference.
Who should not use a weighted blanket?
While having so many impressive health benefits, it is not for everyone. As most weighted blankets for adults keep you warmer than a standard blanket, it can pose a health risk for people who are sensitive to temperature changes.
If you suffer from chronic heart ailments or have respiration issues or problems regulating your body temperature, it is recommended to talk to your doctor before using a weighted blanket.
People who have asthma an obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) should not use heavy blankets. OSA is often associated with abdominal obesity, which increases the effort required to breathe. The same thing also occurs in asthma patients and having extra weight in the front of the body makes it difficult to breathe. However, in all cases, a good study on the subject will always be better. It is recommended to try it yourself if you are suffering from any ailments mentioned above and see yourself the impact of weighted blankets on you.
How heavy should it be?
We all know weighted blankets are heavy cozy blankets that keep you slightly warmer than a regular blanket. But, how heavy should a weighted blanket for adults be? The weight of a weighted blanket and the severity of symptoms you want to alleviate holds significance in determining the Wight of your blanket. While most people use weighted blankets weighing 5 or 10% of their body weight, some people benefit from using a slightly heavier or lighter blanket deepening on several other factors.
For instance, some people find it more effective when they use a lighter blanket whereas, some needs a slightly heavy blanket to reap the benefits. If you are not sure what kind of weighted blanket you should get, do not hesitate to talk with your therapist or doctor for some expert advice.
Guidelines for buying weighted blankets:
- Your weighted blankets must be about 10% of your body weight but don’t just blindly stick on to it. Consider the real comfort when you use it.
- If you want to use weighted blankets for a medical reason, it would be better to consult your doctor or therapist.
- Choose the fabric of your weighted blankets according to your preference. If you prefer a particular material that makes you cool, go for quilt fabric, but on the other hand, it is not very soft. Flannel is a soft fabric, but it might get hot at night and avoid it if you are a woman going through menopause or struggle with hot flashes.
- Make sure you pick a weighted blanket that is both machine washer friendly and dryer safe and does not come with special care instructions. As heavier than regular blankets, it is not very easy to wash it by hand if it comes with special care needs.
Cons of using weighted blankets:
As you might have guessed, transporting heavy blanket is a difficult task. Hauling it up the stair is quite a challenge as it might be more than a foot deep. Moreover, if you have pets or infants at home, it becomes significant to monitor their use of a weighted blanket. Toddlers or pets under 50 pounds shouldn’t be using it and getting stuck under a heavy blanket is something you must avoid.
Tips to find the right weighted blanket for ADHD
The common question is ‘what weight is ideal,’ and it is a quite challenging one to answer as it is all about personal preference. While some with ADHD finds the maximum weight to be the ideal one, others may see that to be too much. So here is a detailed explanation about how to choose the right weighted blanket to deal with ADHD.
Adults who look for weighted blankets to fight anxiety tends to choose a weight at the top of their weight range, i.e., 18+ pounds. Most people say that when they are at the peak of anxiety, they crave for the weight of another human or pets on them. However, that doesn’t mean that you probably have to choose a heavy blanket weighing as much another human being. Consistent pressure is what you are craving, not necessarily a double weight.
If you are sensitive to deep pressure touch or you suffer from any other respiratory ailments, you could try out something in a low weight range like 12-17 pounds.
Generally, seniors have more weight based on their body mass, but often their strength is very low. A blanket of more than 12 pounds will be challenging for old people. It is essential to choose a weight on which you can be independent to remove it without any help. For safety reasons stay away from weighted blankets that you can not remove even if they offer extra comfort.
For sleep comfort without anxiety:
Some people may not suffer from anxiety or ADHD symptoms but just use weighted blankets for sleep comfort alone. For that kind of people, a blanket in the weight range of 8 to 14 pounds is sufficient. Your weighted blankets should be heavy enough to offer comfort instead of the therapeutic effect.
For kids with ADHD:
Using weighted blankets for Kids with ADHD or who suffer from anxiety disorders can be a little tricky as they are not old enough to communicate how useful the weighted blankets are for them. A weighted blanket weight around 2 to 3 pounds would be more than sufficient for small children or choose something of size 40×50 inches which provide good coverage.
For treating autism:
People who have autism have the same preference as those with anxiety when it comes to having a feeling of being held. For autistic people choosing the blankets at the top range of weight is proven to offer more benefits. However, there are some challenges with autistic people as they tend to have sensory issues with the fabric of the blanket. In such cases, using materials like cotton will help with sensory problems. Try to avoid cuddle fabrics like flannel, as they tend to have the most adverse reaches due to their bold textures.
Treating ADHD requires a comprehensive multimodal approach comprising of medical, behavioral and educational intervention depending on the age of the person. Treatment must be tailored to cater to the unique needs of every individual to control symptoms, improve overall wellbeing, cope with the disorder and manage and relationships.
While there is no cure for the condition, people with ADHD can experience physiological wellbeing and recovery. Recovery is related to management of symptoms and using weighted blankets along with therapy is quite beneficial.
Reducing anxiety is life changing, and all of us needs that in different situations in our life. A weighted blanket for Sensory modulation is a great drug-free option to improve an individual’s behavior, sleep, and transition periods or generally for overall well-being if they have ADHD or any other sensory disorders.
If you have ADHD or you are a parent to a kid with ADHD, keep in mind that medication or therapy is sometimes the best way to manage ADHD. However, incorporating weighted blankets in the therapy can have a tremendous positive impact. Due to its advantages, weighted blankets have been a staple in ADHD treatment.
When you consider the symptoms of anxiety, you can see how the increased level of serotonin makes a difference in managing symptoms. The good news is, it is a proven fact that the deep pressure touch effect offering by weighted blankets often improves serotonin levels significantly.
Not just individuals with ADHD can use weighted blankets, anyone who finds it difficult to deal with anxiety, be it mild or acute, can benefit from it. Weighted blankets immediately make you calm and more relaxed and hence when you feel stressed out and need a hug, grab it.