Weighted blankets are safe for most elderly people. However, they might not be recommended in some cases. In this article we discuss the uses of weighted blankets, in what situations are they best used and when to avoid them. Like all things concerning health, it is the best to take the advise of your doctor or medical practitioner before making a decision.
What Is a Weighted Blanket?
Weighted blankets are heavily filled blankets with two pieces of fabric stitched together. They are generally sewn in a square shape to ensure even weight distribution.
The extra material added to the blanket not only provides warmth to the users but also improves comfort (E Parker, C Koscinski, 2016). In layman’s terms, they can give the feeling of a bear hug to the users.
The weight of a weighted blanket depends on the weight of the adult using them. But for most adults weighing between 100 and 200 pounds, the weight of weighted blankets ranges between 10 and 20 pounds.
Weighted blankets should neither be too heavy that it is uncomfortable to take them, nor too light. The weight should be evenly distributed through the blanket, avoiding lumps. They should give a consistent tactile sensation.
A weighted blanket has a positive effect on both physiological and psychological levels. The use of a weighted blanket has found no adverse effect for most people. The quality of sleep is enhanced further by using a weighted blanket along with prescribed sleep medication. (Ackerley R, Badre G, and Olausson, 2015)
How Are Weighted Blankets Used in Medical Settings?
The effectiveness of a blanket with weight has been renowned in-hospital use too. Hospital staff has reported that the use of weighted blanket help patients feel calmer and helps them acquire better sleep.
They are specially used for agitated patients when they first show the symptoms. These blankets are used to avoid the need for using restraints. They are used in geriatric, pediatric, and post-surgical units. They are most often used for patients suffering from anxiety and behavioral or mental health issues. (E Parker, C Koscinski, 2016).
Here we have a short video that shows how weighted blankets help reduce anxiety.
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Are Weighted Blankets Safe for Elderly?
Weighted blankets are safe to use for the elderly in most cases. Seniors who suffer from breathing difficulties or blood circulation issues should definitely speak to their medical practitioner before taking a weighted blanket.
The use of a weighted blanket has been tested on the elderly and has shown to have positive effects on them. Safety was taken into account during the test to check blood pressure, pulse rate, pulse oximetry, and effectiveness of electrodermal activity (EDA).
The results revealed that the use of a weighted blanket in lying down position is safe as per the vital signs. 63% of individuals had lower anxiety after the use while 78% of patients felt calmer with its use and 33% showed lower EDA.
This shows that the use of weighted blankets is safe and effective for the elderly. (Brian Mullen, Tina Champagne, Sundar Krishnamurty, Debra Dickson & Robert X. Gao, 2008)
Effects on insomnia and anxiety
Insomnia is a common concern for the elderly. Lack of sleep increases with an increase in age and this causes other problems like stress, anxiety, loss of weight, and other mental illness.
Psychological effects of the weighted blanket are considered to be their most important effect. Patients show a positive attitude after the use of a weighted blanket. The deep pressure touch works well for insomniac patients providing cocooning effect, releasing anxiety.
Weighted blankets may also be recommended for young patients with Autism Spectrum Disorder and in the care of agitated elderly people. Insomnia affects every age group right from teenagers to seniors and this is due to fast paced lifestyle and stress associated with it.
Insomnia can have short term and long-term effects. It can cause depression, addiction, burn-out, and at the same time other serious mental health problems.
The deep pressure effect given by weighted blankets produces calming and relaxing effect and thereby can be used in various clinical conditions. It works on the same concept as the lead apron used in a dental clinic which calms the patient and alleviates their anxiety, especially agitated patients.
Weighted blankets have a physiological effect as the tactile touch decreases the hyperactivity of the sympathetic nervous system (brain). This hyperactivity of the brain causes arousal and negatively affects the sleep, so reducing this activity might aid in insomnia.
It induces calmer sleep and causes a decrease in bodily movements. Elderly suffering from anxiety and dementia can find relief from this deep pressure touch. It is now common to see weighted blankets being used in many nursing homes as well.
In conclusion, a blanket with a little weight also helps in reducing insomnia through tactile and deep pressure effects, providing comfortable, better quality, and more secure sleep. It is an effective non-pharmacological approach and corresponding tool to improve sleep and reduce anxiety. (Ackerley R., Badre G., and Olausson, 2015)
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Who Can Use a Weighted Blanket?
Weighted blankets have shown to help patients suffering from insomnia and anxiety. People suffering from the following conditions might also find the use of weighted blankets helpful. Everyone is unique, please do talk to your doctor before starting to use a weighted blanket.
- Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
- Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)
- Chronic pain
- Major mental illness
- Cerebral Palsy
- Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
- Substance/Alcohol Detoxing
- Rhett Syndrome
- Multiple Sclerosis
- Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS)
(E Parker, C Koscinski, 2016)
How to Select a Weighted Blanket?
Weighted blankets are available in different sizes and weights. Firstly, you have to determine what is the size of your bed (king, queen, twin etc). The second thing to determine is the weight of the blanket.
A rule of thumb that you can use is that a weighted blanket should be 10% of one’s body weight. So if you weigh between 100 and 120 pounds, go for a weighted blanket between 10 and 12 pounds. If you weigh between 150 and 200 pounds, you might want a blanket that weighs between 15 and 20 pounds.
Also, be mindful of your ability to move under the blanket. If you are unable to turn over, you will do well to select a lighter weight blanket.
A practical thing to keep in mind is the ability to wash the blanket. Before selecting a weighted blanket, do read its instructions, specifically, how to take care of it, how to wash it and how to store it. Below are some of the top rated weighted blankets on Amazon.
Last update 2021-10-25 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API
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What Are Weighted Blankets Made Of?
Weighted blankets can have different material to weigh them down. Some of the more common materials that go inside a weighted blanket are metal chains, steel shots, glass beads and plastic beads
The weight of the blanket is provided by metal chains which are evenly distributed throughout the blanket. The metal chains also provide tactile sensation to the body.
The longitudinal chain construction adjusts well to the body and delivers even distribution from the whole blanket surface to the body. This provides additional pressure points that vary with minor movements providing stroking-like effect.
One side of the blanket is with the chain and the other side is padded. Either side of a metal chain weighted blanket can be used depending upon the preferred tactile sensation. sides Individuals can use both sides as per their comfort, each providing different sensations.
Chain weighted blankets are helpful for the elderly and patients suffering from ADHD and are used in many nursing homes. they have been found to be effective at improving the quality of sleep in known insomniacs.
Steel shots are smooth and long lasting. This increases the life of your weighted blanket. Of the pellet filled blankets, steel shots tend to be the largest. Thus they have the least likelihood of slipping out from between the seams.
Also, since steel shots are denser than other pellets, the blanket can be constructed to be thinner and compact for the same weight.
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Some weighted blankets are filled with small and smooth glass beads. Glass beads are an environmentally friendly option when it comes to your weighted blanket. Glass bead filled blankets also lend themselves to better handling and care.
Blankets filled with plastic pellets provide tactile and thermal insulation. But plastic pellets may not be as smooth as glass beads or steel shots. This can cause the blanket to be uneven and lumpy in places.
Blankets with Anchored Borders
If you find that when sleeping, if you shift, you feel a shift in the warmth provided by the blanket, blankets with anchored borders are for you. They can also help if you tend to kick off the blanket in sleep. These blankets have anchored borders that make sure that the blanket does not slip even if you are shifting while sleeping.
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Conclusion – Are Weighted Blankets Safe for the Elderly?
Weighted blankets are safe for most elderly people. They are a great choice when it comes to a relaxing sleep. They can be of help if you are suffering from conditions like insomnia, RLS, and even children with ADHD. Or they can be useful if you are just looking for better quality of sleep.
But before making any health care decision, it is imperative to discuss it with your doctor or healthcare provider.
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