Sleep is a priority no matter what age you are; however, it seems fleeting when you get older, with many seniors suffering from insomnia. It’s been said weighted blankets are beneficial for the elderly. So are they helpful, and furthermore, are they safe?
Weighted blankets are safe for seniors to use no matter their age or weight. They actually provide a host of benefits for the elderly, which include helping with insomnia, stress, depression, Alzheimer’s symptoms, anxiety, combat RLS (Restless Leg Syndrome) and provide better overall quality of sleep.
We will look at weighted blankets in detail, precisely what they are and the types available. By knowing this, we can factor in age and illnesses and determine whether they actually are safe for the elderly to use and if they can use them, are there any benefits.
What are weighted blankets?
Initially, weighted blankets were made for people with dementia, individuals with Autism, and those individuals with special needs. It is a traditional blanket in the sense that it is used to cover oneself when relaxing or sleeping; however, it is filled with pellets making it heavier than a classic blanket and mainly used nowadays to reduce anxiety and aid sleep.
Weighted blankets were first introduced in 1999 and used by occupational therapists to help their mental patients. In 2017 the idea was then realized again by a Kickstarter campaign producing a weighted blanket called the Gravity Blanket.
What types of weighted blankets are there?
There are two factors to consider when looking into the types of weighted blankets: blankets explicitly designed for a purpose such as an illness and then blankets made from specific materials that offer certain benefits. Although going into detail and covering all these blankets is beyond this article’s scope, we will list them here for you;
Weighted blanket types designed for specific purposes
- Weighted blankets for sleep
- Weighted blankets for adults
- Weighted blankets for Autism
- Weighted blankets for stress
Weighted blankets types designed from specific materials
- Chenille weighted blankets
- Minky weighted blankets
- Cotton magic weighted blankets
- Fleece magic weighted blankets
- Waterproof weighted blankets
- Custom weighted blankets
One other element to consider is that weighted blankets are based on a percentage of a person’s body weight. This is critical because a weighted blanket should be approximately 10 percent of the individual’s body weight. This will cause it to apply gentle, yet firm pressure to the individual’s body no matter their age.
Do weighted blankets work?
Reviews were conducted in 2020 and found that weighted blankets may reduce anxiety; however, there was no conclusive proof that they effectively reduced insomnia.
These blankets are explicitly used now to improve the sleep quality of children with an autism spectrum disorder. Again there is no evidence to support that the use of these blankets helps children with these disorders. Additionally, it is essential to note that a weighted blanket was responsible for a child’s death in one case.
Regarding the elderly, there have been many cases noted where seniors have stated weighted blankets have helped them with their insomnia. Still, again, no conclusive proof of this has yet been established.
In the next section, we will see why the elderly would perhaps need a weighted blanket and some benefits that would come from the elderly using them.
Why would the elderly need weighted blankets?
As we now have established, weighted blankets are mainly used to aid in sleep. Research has shown that when we get older, we tend to experience less and less REM (repetitive eye movement) sleep. This is especially true for the elderly.
According to the NSA (National Sleep Association), the elderly require between seven and nine hours of sleep. This amount of sleep is needed for seniors to stay well-rested and healthy, and unfortunately, many senior citizens do not get this amount of sleep at all.
Surveys and tests were done and concluded that individuals over the age of 65 were continuously reporting and suffering high insomnia rates. Approximately 40% of adults over the age of 65 suffered from insomnia, while the percent for adults between the ages 18 and 29 were only roughly 24 percent.
Why do the elderly suffer from insomnia?
One of the natural causes why the elderly tend to suffer from insomnia is some individuals naturally experience a change in their circadian rhythm. This essentially means that a new biological clock takes over in the body when we reach a certain age. In simpler terms, the circadian rhythm is a very deep-rooted mechanism that controls many processes on a subconscious level.
Other factors can also cause insomnia in the elderly, and these causes can stem from illnesses or other medical conditions. Many of these factors can make it very difficult for the elderly to fall asleep and have a well-rested peaceful sleep.
Many seniors tend to consider medication to help them with any illness or medical conditions, especially with regards to sleep; however, as we have stated, many elderly individuals have reported that weighted blankets do help them with their insomnia. Here are some reasons why weighted blankets could make this possible and some benefits.
Weighted blankets help improve the quality of sleep for the elderly
For any individual, sleep is essential, and sleep experts often talk about good sleep hygiene. This is the importance of a sleeping routine and other factors that play a role in sleeping habits and sleeping environments. Some of these factors can include staying away from caffeine, getting regular exercise, avoiding daytime naps, etc.
This is most important for the elderly and not so much for a younger adult (all adults should have good sleep hygiene); it is just that young adults tend to spring back into a routine rather than individuals of a certain age. Weighted blankets can help the elderly achieve better sleep hygiene.
Weighted blankets help reduce stress for the elderly
One would think that when you get older, you will suffer from less stress; however, studies have shown that the elderly are more prone to have stress than younger adults due to declining health and fading social relationships.
Weighted blankets help with depression for the elderly
According to the NIH (National Institute Of Aging), depression is not part of the normal aging process that individuals go through when they get older. This means that age does not play a massive role in depression, and the elderly shouldn’t disregard their symptoms and think they are untreatable. In fact, depression has been linked to insomnia, and as we now know, the elderly suffer from insomnia.
Some research showed that individuals showed positive results when using a weighted blanket and that it did indeed combat insomnia. The individuals that participated in the study stated that they found it easier to settle down and preferred sleeping with a weighted blanket over a regular one.
Weighted blankets help reduce anxiety for the elderly
Anxiety is a disorder often overlooked or misdiagnosed, and approximately 10 percent of the elderly between the ages of 55 and 85 suffer from one anxiety disorder or another. Some research has shown that children and adults who use weighted blankets have reported lower levels of stress and anxiety.
Weighted blankets help manage symptoms of Alzheimer’s for the elderly
Alzheimer’s is a form of dementia that affects the memory typically of an elderly individual. This condition and its symptoms eventually grow severe enough to interfere with daily tasks. Millions and millions of people worldwide have Alzheimer’s, and some of the symptoms can include depression, anxiety, and insomnia.
Approximately 58 million people suffer from Alzheimer’s in the United States alone (this includes people of all ages). As we have now seen, weighted blankets do aid in the benefits of the symptoms of Alzheimer’s because some of the benefits of a weighted blanket combated insomnia, depression, and anxiety in the elderly.
Weighted blankets help reduce restless leg syndrome for the elderly
Not only the elderly but anyone at any age can suffer from RLS (Restless Leg Syndrome), and roughly 35 percent of adults above the age of 65 suffer from it. This illness causes you to move your legs uncontrollably, with some individuals describing it as having “pins and needles” in your legs.
We concluded that not only are weighted blankets safe for seniors, there are actually benefits, six in total, that we listed for your perusal. We also discovered that the weighted blanket’s invention is relatively new, only being conceptualized in the late ’90s and revitalized a couple of years ago.
Although some research is unclear on whether or not they actually do work, there have been many studies and research programs targeted at individuals with illnesses, children with diseases, and the elderly to see what benefits they provide, if any.
Some research has shown positive outcomes targeting specific symptoms and illnesses as we discovered, which included insomnia in the elderly, depression, anxiety, stress, and RLS, to name a few.
If you are reading this article for yourself or a loved one, rest assured that a weighted blanket is safe to use for the elderly and that it should be adopted into a sleep routine to achieve good sleep hygiene.
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