Weighted blankets have become increasingly popular for their comforting and therapeutic qualities. But did you know that they offer special benefits for elderly adults? From promoting better sleep to easing feelings of anxiety, these blankets are more than just a cozy accessory. Let's explore how they're making a significant impact in the lives of our seniors.
What Are Weighted Blankets?
Weighted blankets are blankets filled with beads or other alternative fabrics and can help apply pressure when sleeping or curled up snugly. These blankets — which can weigh anywhere between five and 30 pounds — offer various benefits for older adults.
What are the Benefits of Weighted Blankets for the Elderly?
As we age, changes in sleep patterns and emotional well-being become more common due to factors like hormonal shifts and the body's natural aging process. One practical tool that's gained attention for addressing these issues is the weighted blanket. Designed to provide gentle pressure across the body, weighted blankets offer several benefits for elderly individuals. They can be used for:
Improved Sleep Quality: Weighted blankets emulate a therapy known as 'deep touch pressure', which can stimulate melatonin production and decrease cortisol levels, producing a more restful night's sleep. The constant pressure throughout the night can help reduce tossing and turning, leading to uninterrupted sleep cycles.
Reduced Anxiety: Older adults naturally have more worries — from the high cost of health care to general health issues — so anxiety and depression may be higher in this population. Weighted blankets can help activate the parasympathetic nervous system, effectively lowering the user's heart rate while creating the sensation of deep pressure touch. They can also simulate the feeling of a hug, which can help produce serotonin and dopamine, making older adults feel more happy and content.
Enhanced Mood: Better sleep patterns and reduced anxiety levels naturally contribute to an improved mood. Consistent sleep and regulated serotonin levels can help reduce irritability, mood swings, and feelings of sadness. As a result, individuals often feel more refreshed, energetic, and optimistic.
Pain Relief: For those suffering from chronic pain conditions, weighted blankets can offer a form of relief. The distributed pressure across the body can alleviate certain pain points and provide a soothing effect, making it easier for individuals to relax and find comfort. This non-invasive approach can be a supplemental aid to traditional pain management techniques.
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Health Conditions that Benefit from Weighted Blankets
Arthritis. In general, weighted blankets can help people with arthritis manage joint pain, soreness, and other related symptoms of arthritis while encouraging their muscles to relax.
Parkinson's Disease. Weighted blankets can help people manage restlessness and fatigue from Parkinson's disease but cannot cure it, nor should they be used as a replacement for medical advice.
Depression or Anxiety. Weighted blankets activate the parasympathetic nervous system, lowering your heart rate while creating the sensation of deep pressure touch. They are also proven to reduce insomnia for individuals with depression or anxiety.
Dementia. Using a weighted blanket for dementia can make the person suffering from the disease feel like they are being hugged or warmly embraced. This will help them feel more grounded and calm.
Choosing a Weighted Blanket
When choosing a weighted blanket for an elderly loved one, there are a few key considerations to keep in mind. First, it's essential to select the right weight, which is typically around 10% of the user's body weight. This ensures that the blanket provides adequate pressure without being too heavy or restrictive. In a recent double-blind study, 94 participants with chronic pain wore a 15-pound. Weighted blanket or a 5-pound weighted blanket overnight for one week. The material is also crucial. Opt for breathable fabrics like cotton to prevent overheating, especially if the person tends to run warm. Lastly, consider the blanket's design and ease of care. Some blankets come with removable covers that can be easily washed, ensuring hygiene and longevity. Remember, the goal is to offer both comfort and therapeutic benefits, so take your time to find the perfect fit.
Are Weighted Blankets Safe for Seniors?
There are no scientific studies that prove weighted blankets cause pain. Still, plenty of anecdotal evidence exists from people who experienced discomfort due to weighted blankets feeling too heavy or causing them to sleep in a position they usually wouldn't. Those who sleep on their stomach may feel pressure from a weighted blanket on their lower spine.