Stress. No matter how you try to avoid it, no matter how you try to handle it, stress is a part of life that we can’t seem to get away from, no matter how much we want to minimize it. Sometimes this is the most true during circumstances we should feel most relaxed. If you’re having trouble resting and relaxing, you may have started looking into weighted blankets for just this reason, but may have been a bit discouraged, thinking this is a strictly medical device. With this article, we set out to explain how a weighted blanket can help stress relief, alongside a brief explanation of what stress actually is.
First, What is Stress?
Now this is a question that evades an easy answer. Sure, we all feel stress, and we all know what we’re saying when we speak of it, but what is it really? Is it an idea? A physiological condition? Something else? Well, as it happens, it’s a bit of all of the above.
Our current definition of stress comes primarily from Dr. Hans Selye, a Hungarian born physician and researcher who pioneered medical and endocrinological research into the phenomenon, as well as actually coining the term “stress” itself. According to Selye, stress can be seen as a non-specific response of the body to any demand for change, and usually abating when homeostasis is reachieved, or is ongoing through a state of general adaption syndrome. Now that’s quite the definition, so let’s unpack it a bit. In simpler terms, stress is the body’s response to change, and can usually be lessened by relaxing back into a rest state, or may persist in an abnormal state of anxiety or distress, which can to both mental and physical damage, the symptoms of which you’re nearly certainly aware of.
But how does stress do this to your body and mind? Well, the body’s reaction to stress (or, better said, more stress than is healthy) tends to be the release of cortisol, also known as the “stress hormone” from the adrenal cortex. Cortisol works in your body by essentially telling it to gear up for a potential life threatening emergency (though not as acutely as say, adrenaline), causing blood sugar levels to rise, suppressing the immune system, and helping the metabolism of fats, proteins and carbohydrates to increase. Cortisol can also affect short term memory for the better (causing “flashbulb” memories), but causing longer term learning and memory processes to degrade over time. Additionally, prolonged exposure to higher than normal cortisol levels can lead to depression, anxiety, and insomnia, which creates a positive feedback loop, as lack of sleep can then lead to increased cortisol yet again.
So with a brief explanation of stress out of the way, let’s take a look at how a weighted blanket can help reduce stress, and increase quality of life.
How Can a Weighted Blanket Help With Stress?
One of the most commonly asked questions about weighted blankets like the SleepForce blankets is “How does a blanket help with stress?” As it can at times seem like a far-fetched idea. However, weighted blankets do have some evidence behind them as being useful tools. How, you might ask?
To begin with, weighted blankets have long been used in occupational therapy as a means of reducing stress for some time through the use of deep pressure stimulation therapy. DPST as it’s commonly known, is similar in many respects to getting a relaxing massage, sans having to pay a masseuse an hourly wage, or having the occasional awkward moment. What is similar is your body’s response to full body pressure and warmth, which is the release of serotonin, dopamine, and melatonin. These two neurotransmitters and one hormone are absolutely essentially in fighting stress, as serotonin is often called the “calming chemical”, as the release of it through the nervous system promotes lower heart rate and a more relaxed state, while dopamine whose moniker is the “happy chemical” often can relieve some pain and often allows for an increased positive mood. Lastly, melatonin as a hormone is used by your body to help get your body and mind ready for sleep, often working with serotonin to help shrug off the day’s stress and allowing for a restful night. This comforting trifecta not only allows for relaxation during or just before sleep though. In situations where you need to relax, but can’t just sleep off stress (for example in an office) you can lay a blanket over your legs to still provide warmth and weight, allowing the two neurotransmitters to do their work, but due to the assumed light conditions have a minimal increase in melatonin (which often releases more at night than during the day), which can make you calmer, less prone to mistakes, and overall much more productive which in and of itself can reduce your overall stress.
If this has made you interested in looking into a weighted blanket, it’s encouraged you take a look at our FAQ and Buyers guide to find the right blanket for you.