By Donna Gregory Burch.
Growing up in a drafty farmhouse, my mom would always add an extra blanket or two to my bed during winter. I remember feeling comforted by the weight of the heavy blankets as I drifted off to sleep. Turns out, there’s a physiological reason for why I felt so calm and secure under those blankets. The added weight caused my body to release serotonin, a feel-good hormone that promotes peace and well-being.
As adults, we can trigger this same release of serotonin by using a weighted blanket.
“A weighted blanket is just that: a blanket with weights placed inside,” explained Abbie Anderson of Minnesota. “You can find them weighted with various things. I have heard of corn, rice or pebbles. However, the professionally made ones have plastic or glass pellets, which are washable.”
Anderson made her first weighted blanket last year for her son, Tate, who has sensory and anxiety issues. Research has confirmed weighted blankets are effective at relieving anxiety, and they’ve been used to improve the sleep of patients with autism, restless legs, Alzheimer’s and other conditions. According to author and blogger Sue Ingebretson, weighted blankets also can foster better sleep, chronic pain management and cognitive focus among fibromyalgia patients. She sometimes uses a weighted blanket during her coaching sessions with clients.
“The blanket stimulates the skin to release [serotonin], much like how a hug from someone we love does,” Anderson explained. “They are beneficial by helping a person to calm or self-regulate without the use of medications.”
Anderson began using a weighted blanket herself following her fibromyalgia diagnosis last fall. As her symptoms worsened, she made the difficult decision to close her massage business.
Around the same time, she was looking for ways to help improve her son’s sleep, and a pediatric therapist recommended using a weighted blanket. When she couldn’t find one to purchase locally, she enlisted the advice of her mother-in-law, a talented seamstress, and decided to make one on her own.
“It was by accident [that] I used the weighted blanket,” Anderson said. “While my son was using it, it was bedtime, [and] he wanted to read to me. I crawled onto his bed and covered up with his weighted blanket. Within a minute or two, I was yawning [and] sleepy. When we made the first blanket for Tate, he used it for a few months. After we made him his new one, I started using the old one. I really like to use it for sleep, but also I find it very comforting on days where I ache from the weather or if my anxiety is increased for whatever reason. It gives me a sense of calm.”
Anderson is now making weighted blankets for others. She launched her small business, Balanced Blankets, last fall and has a waitlist for her handcrafted blankets. You can check out her Facebook page or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
Now it’s your turn: Have you ever used a weighted blanket? Did you experience any benefits? Please share in the comments!
Featured image is an example of one of Abbie Anderson’s weighted blankets. It has a removable, washable flannel cover and is weighted with plastic pellets.
Donna Gregory Burch was diagnosed with fibromyalgia in 2014 after several years of unexplained pain, fatigue and other symptoms. She was later diagnosed with chronic Lyme disease. Donna covers news, treatments, research and practical tips for living better with fibromyalgia and Lyme on her blog, FedUpwithFatigue.com. You can also find her on Facebook and Twitter. Donna is an award-winning journalist whose work has appeared online and in newspapers and magazines throughout Virginia, Delaware and Pennsylvania. She lives in Delaware with her husband and their many fur babies.