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I tried… A Calming Blanket

I tried… A Calming Blanket

Calming blankets are being touted as a solution to stress, anxiety and sleepless nights. But do they live up to the hype? Our columnist snuggles down to investigate.

I tried… A Calming Blanket

When I was a kid, I liked to build myself nests out of cushions and doonas. I’d snuggle down in them and bask in a feeling of comfort and safety. Although I wasn’t an especially anxious child, there were times that I worried too much about the world around me. My nest of blankets always helped.

Now that I’m an adult, I can function perfectly well without my nest. But there are occasions when the headlines get too much and my worries about the world intensify. On those days, the temptation to bury myself in cushions is pretty strong.

It was my love of nesting that made the trend towards weighted blankets really jump out at me. When I read that weighted blankets could reduce stress and anxiety, I wondered if this could be the grown-up version of my cushion and doona nest. I was keen to find out.

The actual weight in weighted blankets comes from glass beads or plastic pellets that are sewn inside the material. Manufacturers suggest choosing a blanket that is around 10 per cent of your body weight.

Weighted blankets have been around for quite some time, but while they were originally a niche item, they have recently gained great popularity with people from many different walks of life. Maybe we’re now living in more stressful times, or perhaps social media has created a bit of a buzz. Either way, the science behind the overall concept appears to be sound.

“The evidence is stacking up to show weighted blankets are helpful,” says psychologist Marny Lishman.

The theory is that the weight of the blanket puts mild pressure on the body, which can make us feel safe and secure at a primal level. This pressure is why babies feel comforted when we swaddle them – and as Lishman notes, “It’s similar to being held”.

Lishman goes on to note that, “Feeling pressure, cosy, comfortable, and constrained can keep the brain feeling relaxed – while being free and unprotected can make us feel vulnerable and unsafe.”

There are a few limitations. Although weighted blankets are a great way to reduce stress, we can’t use them all the time. You can’t walk around draped in a weighted blanket, and you probably can’t take it along with you to work or social activities. “People need to learn other tools and techniques to manage their stress and anxiety,” Lishman says.

It’s also important to note that while weighted blankets can help to reduce anxiety and stress, they are in no way a replacement for prescribed medication or therapies.

Though it can take a while to get used to a weighted blanket, for me it was an instant hit. I cocooned myself and felt snug and safe. I was very much back in my nest, and it felt amazing.

There was a drawback though – the extra weight of the blanket also provided extra warmth. While this may not be a problem during the cooler months, come summer, my weighted blanket might find itself relegated to the floor.

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