Put simply, Weighted blankets work in a very similar way to being embraced in a hug. The same way a hug is comforting and calming, so is a weighted blanket. The more technical explanation is Deep Pressure Stimulation.
Deep Pressure Stimulation is a kind of therapy that has many benefits, both physical and psychological. It helps the body to relax, by applying gentle pressure, and used at night or during times of stress can help the body calm down and fall asleep faster. This type of therapy can be a great addition or replacement for other sleep-inducing methods, like medication.
Deep Pressure Stimulation works by helping the body switch from running its sympathetic nervous system, to running its parasympathetic nervous system. It helps the brain switch from “Fight or Flight” to “Rest and Digest”.
The sympathetic nervous system is the “Alert” system in the body. It’s the one that takes charge in stressful situations. When the sympathetic nervous system takes charge for too long, you may feel anxious, tired, on edge and irritable. You don’t sleep well, and your digestive system plays up. Kids with autism and sensory processing disorders can have a difficult time turning off their sympathetic nervous system. Using a weighted blanket can help them make this transition naturally.
The parasympathetic nervous system brings a sense of calm and peace to the mind and body. When the parasympathetic nervous system takes over, your muscles relax, your heart rate slows and circulation improves.
As pressure is applied to the body, it can cause the release of certain brain chemicals such as Dopamine and Seratonin, the feel-good neurotransmitters of the brain, creating a parasympathetic response in the body ( A more relaxed state), and can reduce cortisol levels (the stress hormone)
Seratonin in the brain is thought to regulate anxiety, happiness and mood. A weighted blanket can increase serotonin production. Seratonin in the body turns into Melatonin, which is the body’s natural sleep-inducing hormone. These chemicals help to put busy minds to ease and boost moods, allowing for a restful night’s sleep.