Few products have garnered as much enthusiasm and hype as the humble weighted blanket in the last few years. Thanks to its unique design, which is thought to flood the user’s body with feel-good chemicals like serotonin and dopamine, this heavy blanket is becoming an increasingly popular tool to help manage stress and achieve a better night’s sleep. But there’s one group in particular that may be left out of this ongoing trend: older adults.
Senior citizens often face unique health challenges as they enter the "golden years" — from worsening sleep quality to declining mental health and cognitive function. While certain health conditions cause minor discomfort only, others can be extremely debilitating and significantly lower one's quality of life. Weighted blankets may help provide some relief without adding to our aging loved ones’ overflowing pillboxes.
Let’s take a closer look at some of the many benefits of weighted blankets for the elderly.
1. Improves Sleep
The older we get, the more difficult it is to get a good night’s sleep. Indeed, research shows that older adults spend less time in deep sleep and REM sleep than younger adults, and they take slightly longer to fall asleep as well. This steady decline in deep sleep is particularly problematic as deep sleep is when our brain clears away toxic proteins that increase the risk for neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's. Weighted blankets stimulate melatonin production (the sleep hormone) and lower the body’s primary stress hormone (cortisol), which may help older adults fall asleep faster and achieve a deeper sleep.
2. Eases Stress and Anxiety
Contrary to popular belief, stress and anxiety don’t magically disappear once you retire. Anxiety disorders are fairly common among the elderly, affecting 10 to 20 percent of the older population. Many older adults worry about the cost of living expenses, their steadily declining health, the loss of independence and death, among other things.
Weighted blankets are an excellent complementary treatment for anxiety disorders and uncontrolled stress. The pressure from the weighted blanket activates the body’s parasympathetic nervous system (PNS), one of two major divisions of the autonomic nervous system. When this system is activated, your breathing and heart rate slow down, allowing your body to enter a deep state of calm. It essentially undoes the work of the sympathetic nervous system, which is the division responsible for the fight-or-flight response after a stressful situation.
3. Relieves Symptoms of Depression
With their unique ability to mimic the feeling of being held or hugged, it’s not difficult to see how a weighted blanket might help the elderly cope with symptoms of depression. Weighted blankets envelop us in a cozy cocoon, making us feel safe and secure. On a more scientific level, weighted blankets stimulate the production of mood-boosting chemicals like serotonin and dopamine, making us feel happy and content.
4. Reduces Chronic Pain
As we get older, our risk of developing health conditions that can cause chronic pain increases. Some of the most common culprits of chronic pain among the elderly include osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis and fibromyalgia. Weighted blankets have shown great promise as a non-drug therapy for chronic pain. In a 2021 study published in the Journal of Pain, researchers found that weighted blanket usage was associated with reductions in pain perception among patients with chronic pain.
5. Doesn’t Interfere with Medications
Perhaps one of the most overlooked benefits of weighted blankets for the elderly is their ability to provide relief without interfering with medications. The simultaneous use of multiple medications — also known as polypharmacy — is common among older adults and comes with an increased risk of adverse medical outcomes due to drug interactions. Weighted blankets don’t interfere with existing medications, providing a low-risk way for the elderly to find relief from certain health conditions.
Choosing the Best Weighted Products for Older Adults
Weighted blankets are now available in many different styles and designs, from chunky knit blankets that blend in seamlessly with your décor to cooling weighted blankets that help keep you sweat-free while you snooze. They also come in a variety of weights and sizes, ranging from five to 30 lbs.
When choosing a weighted blanket for an elderly person, keep safety top of mind. While weighted blankets are generally safe for older adults, they can pose a suffocation hazard for seniors who are particularly frail and sick. If you worry about your aging relative becoming trapped under the weighted blanket, consider choosing a weighted robe or a soothing weighted eye mask instead.
Are you now thinking about getting a weighted blanket for your elderly loved one? Go for it! Not only do weighted blankets make lovely gifts for aging relatives, but the benefits they provide are vast. Shop the entire collection of weighted products at Gravity Blankets and give the senior in your life the gift of better sleep today.