MountainStar Health - March 18, 2019

Remember Linus, the blanket-clutching Charlie Brown character? Well, it turns he may have been ahead of his time. “Anxiety blankets,” also known as weighted or gravity blankets, are now a thing, and they're becoming increasingly popular.

Why? Think of it this way: When we receive a warm hug, the body releases the hormone oxytocin, allowing us to more fully relax. This calming effect can also help lower blood pressure and heart rate. Similarly, a weighted blanket mimics the sensation of being hugged or held, which may trigger the release of feel-good chemicals in your brain that lower stress and elevate mood.

Sleeping under a weighted blanket may help you fall asleep faster and enjoy a more restful night. That's because anxiety blankets can help lower cortisol levels, a hormone known to interfere with sleep.

In addition to providing help with stress and sleep disorders, weighted blankets have been shown to ease the anxiety associated with PTSD and panic disorders. Of course, it's also just a blanket, so it's important to continue any other therapies prescribed by a counselor or doctor.

Due to their popularity, these blankets are easy to find at both online and brick-and-mortar stores. But watch out, they're not cheap. Look for natural, breathable fabrics, which will be cooler in warmer months, as well as machine-washable options.

A good rule of thumb is to choose one that weighs about 10 percent of your body weight. If that's too heavy for you to lift, then use it only when someone else is around to help you out of it. Also, make sure small children aren't left alone around these blankets.

Anxiety blankets aren't ideal solutions for everyone. If you have a chronic health condition, circulatory problems or respiration issues, consult your doctor before testing them out.