The original weighted blanket for ADHD has gained tremendous popularity in the past few years and a lot of people are strongly recommending them for senior citizens who are experiencing sleep problems, anxiety issues, restless leg syndrome, dementia, Parkinson’s, and even for otherwise healthy people. As people age, the first problem they experience is insomnia and fatigue. Most of us assume that these two symptoms are normal for elderly people but, the National Sleep Foundation states that even elderly people are required to have 7 to 9 hours of sleep every day. (1) However, not many people are able to get so much of sleep, which is the prime reason why they experience fatigue, stress, anxiety, restlessness, cognitive impairment, Parkinson’s, multiple sclerosis, cardiovascular diseases, and various other physiological, psychiatric, and musculoskeletal diseases. (2)
At an old age, all your loved ones need is good care and proper sleep. However, according to Harvard Medical School, most people and even doctors assume that sleeplessness is not a problem but a symptom of other psychiatric or neurological disease. This is the reason why the entire focus of the treatment is on the diseases and not on sleeplessness, whereas it should be vice versa. (3) So, it can be safely assumed that elderly people who sleep well, face fewer chances of suffering from age-related health problems. But, this is where the challenge lies. We all know how difficult it is to make our parents fall asleep quickly. Whether it is due to their sedentary lifestyle or it is due to the side effects of other medicines, senior citizens, very often find it difficult to fall asleep.
So, are you able to understand the vicious cycle in which our elderly loved ones are stuck?
It starts with sleeplessness and progresses towards mental conditions and then, vice versa. And, all we can do is to provide them the basic facilities they need to stay relaxed and sleep well, such as a peaceful room with a comfortable bed, and a weighted blanket for anxiety. These blankets are not just hype. They are clinically proven to help people doze off quickly. (4) They are designed to be somewhere around 10% of your body weight plus 2 pounds. When used, they provide you a form of deep pressure that feels like a tight but comfortable full body hug. This type of pressure is, in fact, a form of therapy known as deep pressure therapy (DPT). DPT is used by occupational therapists across the globe to treat people suffering from insomnia, anxiety, depression and other mental conditions. (5)
If your loved ones are having a tough time falling asleep, it's time you should buy them a weighted blanket. In this blog, we will discuss the benefits of weighted blankets for adults and how you can buy the right one for them.
Benefits of weighted blankets for elderly people
Improve the sleep quality
As mentioned above, weighted blankets are designed to help you feel comfortable and relaxed. When you snuggle up with it, you will feel as if someone is hugging you tightly. This is what elderly people need. They want us to be with them and make them feel loved. While your presence and care cannot be replaced by a blanket, it can definitely provide them a cozier feeling during the bedtime, thereby making them doze off quickly. Scientific research on the effectiveness of weighted blankets for senior citizens is limited but some studies have concluded that stress blankets help people settle down before sleep. Further, users have reported that the blankets help to minimize the number of time they wake at night, thereby making them feel refreshed the next morning. (6)
Help fight depression and anxiety
Depression can strike at any age but it is more common in elderly people, who are living a very sedentary lifestyle and have starting experiencing emotional and hormonal changes. As concerned caretakers, we must not ignore their negative feelings, assuming that they are just a part of aging. Rather, we must seek psychiatric help for them. While medicines are essential, weighted blankets for depression will provide them a sense of calmness and peace.
The role of weighted blankets in overcoming depression is scientifically proven. Studies have concluded that the ‘grounding’ feeling that the weighted blankets offer helps reduce anxiety. The Deep Pressure Therapy reduces the production of cortisol, the stress hormone, and stimulates the production of serotonin, the happy hormone. (7) A high level of serotonin in the bloodstream helps reduce stress and fight against depression and anxiety.
Help control the symptoms of Alzheimer's and Dementia
Alzheimer's is probably one of the worst conditions that your aging parents could suffer from. This neurocognitive disease affects the memory, cognitive function, judgment, mood, and their overall behavior and response. If ignored, dementia can interfere with their daily life and may even cause early death. If your loved ones are finding it difficult to perform their daily task or if they are experiencing sudden and frequent mood swings, confusion, trouble speaking properly, etc. you must see a neurologist as soon as possible.
A few studies have concluded that elevated cortisol hormone levels can increase the risk of dementia and alzheimer's related death. (8) Since dementia patients are constantly under stress, they usually have high amount of cortisol in their bloodstream, which makes them feel irritated and aggressive. Even though your doctor will suggest you all relevant medicines, you must also buy a weighted blanket for dementia for them. As mentioned above, these blankets are clinically proven to reduce the production of cortisol, the stress hormone and stimulate the production of serotonin and melanin, the happy and sleep hormones. So, these blankets can definitely help slow down the progress of this degenerative disease. (9)
Who can use weighted blankets for adults?
Stress blankets are generally safe for use. They are a kind of therapeutic tool recommended for anyone and everyone who is suffering from neurological and psychiatric problems. However, since they are quite heavy in weight, they pose risk of choking, which is why they are not recommended for kids below 2 to 3 years age. Elderly people can safely use them unless :
- They are suffering from any form of respiratory problem.
- They are suffering from any form of cardiac problem.
- People suffering from sleep apnea must refrain from using weighted blankets.
- People who have undergone any form of surgery and are still recovering, must not use stress blankets.
- People who have an open wound or skin infection must not use anxiety blankets.
- Elderly people who are too weak to move their blanket on their own must not use it or else they may suffer from choking.
If you are not sure about the safety of the weighted blankets for your elderly people, do not hesitate to speak to your healthcare physician.
How to buy the right weighted blanket for elderly people
Quality of fabric
Due to their soaring popularity, weighted blankets are now available with almost all supermarkets and online stores, including Amazon. However, a lot of inexpensive weighted blankets have cropped up the shelves too. Most of them are made of cheap quality fabric and fillings. When used, they can make you feel hot and uncomfortable. Further, the fabric can cause itching, skin irritation, and even allergies. To avoid this, you must buy anxiety blankets that are made of 100% natural cotton. Natural cotton is breathable and it will not make you feel as hot as the minky blankets or polyester blend blankets do. Moreover, cotton is not known for causing any form of itching, irritation, or allergy. So, we highly recommend that you must buy a cotton weighted blanket for your loved ones. One of the popular 100% cotton made product sold is AG weighted blanket. It is hypoallergenic, non-toxic, and very comfortable.
Different manufacturers use different filling materials to make their blankets heavy. Some of the popular options are glass beads, poly-pellets, beans, sand, rice, corns, etc. Each of them has its own pros and cons but glass beads and poly-pellets are the best filling materials to be used for elderly people. They are washable and non-absorbent, so you can comfortably clean the weighted blanket at home and keep it hygienic. Other filling materials require dry clean only and, therefore, they can cost you a lot in the long run. For elderly people, we recommend glass speeds over poly pellets, as glass beads offer a very soft pressure. AG weighted blankets have glass beads filling which is why we recommend them for senior people.
Choosing the right weight is crucial. Experts recommend that the blanket should ideally be 10% of the user’s body weight plus 2 pounds. This weight will provide sufficient pressure to make them feel comfortable and yet not suffocating or overburdened. However, if they are too weak or if they find it too heavy, you can buy a blanket of slightly lower weight.
Please note that weighted blankets are therapeutic tools and not any form of treatment. If your loved ones are suffering from insomnia, anxiety, depression or any other disease, please consult a doctor instead of completely relying on weighted blankets.
References and citations
- Aging & Sleep Information. National Sleep Foundation. https://www.sleepfoundation.org/articles/aging-and-sleep.
- New Evidence on Sleep's Role in Aging and Chronic Disease. Population Reference Bureau. https://www.prb.org/new-evidence-on-sleeps-role-in-aging-and-chronic-disease/.
- Harvard Health Publishing. Sleep and mental health. Harvard Health. https://www.health.harvard.edu/newsletter_article/sleep-and-mental-health.
- Harvard Health Publishing. Anxiety and stress weighing heavily at night? A new blanket might help. Harvard Health. https://www.health.harvard.edu/mind-and-mood/anxiety-and-stress-weighing-heavily-at-night-a-new-blanket-might-help.
- What is Deep Pressure Stimulation? Applied Behavioral Analysis. https://www.appliedbehavioranalysisedu.org/what-is-deep-pressure-stimulation/.
- Do Weighted Blankets Really Ease Sleeplessness? Psychology Today. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/minding-the-body/201808/do-weighted-blankets-really-ease-sleeplessness.
- Ghaly M, Teplitz D. The biologic effects of grounding the human body during sleep as measured by cortisol levels and subjective reporting of sleep, pain, and stress. Journal of alternative and complementary medicine (New York, N.Y.). https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15650465. Published October 2004.
- Ouanes S, Popp J. High Cortisol and the Risk of Dementia and Alzheimer's Disease: A Review of the Literature. Frontiers in aging neuroscience. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6405479/. Published March 1, 2019.
- Decreasing Agitation in Patients With Dementia Through the Use of Weighted Blankets - Full Text View. Full Text View - ClinicalTrials.gov. https://clinicaltrials.gov/ct2/show/NCT03643991.