How ‘weighted blankets’ can help PTSD sufferers sleep better

How ‘weighted blankets’ can help PTSD sufferers sleep better

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is not easy to live with. Those who face PTSD experience problems such as flashbacks and nightmares, emotional numbness and difficulty sleeping, feeling jumpy and alert all the time, and being easily angered.

Recently, attention has been given to weighted blankets as a non-medicinal treatment, to help ease the symptoms of PTSD, specifically as a way of helping people to sleep.

As the PTSD Journal reports, a weighted blanket not only helps those with PTSD but also people suffering from anxiety, stress, insomnia and many other conditions. This is particularly crucial for those suffering from PTSD who may find themselves experiencing over-tiredness, hyper vigilance and raised cortisol levels at bedtime.

It sounds like a very simple method of helping people, but studies are showing weighted blankets work. It connects with an idea known as deep pressure touch stimulation (DPTS), which is a form of therapy. It involves pressure being exerted over the body in order to tap into the psychological and physical benefits. This type of pressure could come from touching, stroking, holding and swaddling, and can be relaxing and calming. It could also come from weighted blankets.

Occupational therapist Karen Moore explained to the PTSD Journal: “In psychiatric care, weighted blankets are one of our most powerful tools for helping people who are anxious, upset, and possibly on the verge of losing control.”

It works by moulding to your body like a big, comforting hug. With the pressure applied to your body, your nervous system starts to relax. This helps to naturally initiate sleep and relaxation without the need for any drug interventions. Not only does it promote sleep, but it also enables sufferers to get a deep and restful night’s sleep that will help them heal mentally throughout the day in other ways and boost their normal functioning. It gives their body chance to recoup and recover without disturbances.

Not only does a weighted blanket calm your nervous system and provide a feeling of comfort, but the pressure of a weighted blanket also helps to encourage serotonin production. This is a chemical in the brain that is responsible for improving your mood, which is essential for helping people start to feel calm and reassured. It also converts naturally into melatonin, which is needed for sleep. As well as increasing both serotonin and melatonin levels, it also serves to decrease cortisol levels – all without ever needing a doctor’s prescription.

In 2006, a study into the safety and therapeutic effects of these blankets discovered that 78% of people preferred using the weighted blankets as a way of calming down, and 33% demonstrated lower electrodermal activity. Again in 2008, it was found in a study that was published in Occupational Therapy in Mental Health that weighted blankets helped to decrease anxiety in patients in a safe and effective way. This was supported by a 2012 study published in Australasian Psychiatry, which also found that weighted blankets served to decrease visible signs of anxiety and distress.

Mosaic weighted blankets are a popular choice of weighted blanket; although they are made in the USA, they can be shipped to the UK through UPS delivery service. They claim to help with aiding restorative sleep, improving mood levels and relaxing muscles. The benefits are similar to that of a massage.

Sensory Direct, a UK based company has found their products give great comfort to their customers,”I got a weighted blanket for my severe PTSD symptoms. It helps me when neither psychological techniques nor medicine helps. Especially with insomnia, anxiety and dissociation. More people should know that this is not “just” for autism, but helpful with so much more. I know of many others with PTSD who found this helpful too. It is very grounding after a flashback, reduces anxiety and feels very comforting. Many people with PTSD have problems to receive physical comfort when sad. Severe symptoms like losing awareness for the body (dissociation) can be stopped with weights on the body. Finding out about this changed my life. Truly amazing.’

Andrew Caws, founder of Sensory Direct explains that the team at Sensory Direct also offer a hire scheme to find out if weighted blankets can help you: ‘We offer 2 weeks blanket hire (although we let this run on a little longer if necessary).  If the blanket is returned them we refund the £70 deposit.  If someone purchases a blanket the cost of the hire is refunded.’

At PTSD UK, we understand just how important natural treatments such as weighted blankets can be in helping sufferers get a good night’s sleep and work towards easing their Post Traumatic Stress Disorder symptoms. If you’ve felt the benefits of this kind of therapy, let us know – we’d love to hear your stories.

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REFERENCES: PTSD Journal, Mosaic Weighted Blankets, T&F online, Friendship Circle, The Independent.

IMAGE:  Whats the password by Mike Knell

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