As much as sleep is important in any stage and day in life, as we get older quality sleep becomes essential for optional day to day functioning. Unfortunately, as we age we experience more trouble falling asleep and achieving quality and undisrupted sleep.
The optimal sleep time for older adults is around seven to nine hours. However, many among them often get less sleep than they need. This is due to many different factors. Generally, as we age, the production of melatonin, the sleep-inducing hormone, decreases leaving the body unable to fall asleep or stay asleep long enough.
Additionally, a high percentage of older adults in the world are suffering from a certain physical or mental illness or mild to severe disorder. Despite the nature of the condition, almost all of them will experience sleep problems as a symptom. Moreover, insomnia and sleep apnea are the most common. All the health issues mentioned, together with the anxiety and concerns of aging and changes that happen to the body and mind, will eventually result in sleep disorders and disrupted sleep-wake cycles in elderly people.
A weighted blanket is a proven therapeutic tool that can be beneficial for alleviating sleep problems in the elderly as it does for younger adults. Due to the sensitivity that comes with aging a person should consider choosing the exactly right weight and size of the blanket according to specific needs. From queen to king sized weighted blankets, the choice is wide and once the proper purchase is made, a person will experience all the changes the blanket provides helping in achieving quality sleep and thereby increased life quality.
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The Effects of the Weighted Blanket
A weighted blanket resembles a regular one with a single difference in weight. The additional weight added to the blanket, intended to be put onto the body, is stated to trigger changes in the nervous system. Moreover, the slight increase in weight mimics the effect of a hug that is proven to promote a feeling of protection, calmness, happiness and satisfaction.
More than a positive feeling, this experience comes from a powerful change that takes place inside the body, more precisely, in the function of the nervous system. When the blanket starts pressuring the body with the added weight, it stimulates the nerve endings beneath the skin surface. These nerves signal the central nervous system that the body is “grounded”- safe and secure, thus activating the parasympathetic nervous system also known as the “rest and digest state” of the body.
The parasympathetic system uses hormones that are known as the hormones of happiness – serotonin, endorphins, dopamine and oxytocin. The increased levels of these hormones in the bloodstream result in powerful chemical reactions that induce feelings of satisfaction, deep relaxation and calmness ultimately leading to sound sleep.
The Benefits of the Effects
The changes that take place inside the body under the influence of the weighted blanket result in powerful chemical reactions. These reactions provide several benefits for the elderly suffering from sleeping problems caused by different factors.
- Reducing Stress and Anxiety
With all the problems that occur in one’s life with aging, from concerns with family, financial issues and health conditions, it is sometimes very hard to avoid stress. When a person experiences stress as a result of worry and problems the body secrets the stress hormone cortisol. Prolonged secretion of the hormone may result in serious anxiety, depression and sleep disorders as the body is unable to find the balance back to the rest and digest state.
The previously explained effects of the blanket are directly influencing the nervous system to instantly stop the release of the stress hormones and start the secretion of the happiness hormones. Note that these are powerful chemical reactions that can’t be beaten by worrisome thoughts. Therefore, by sleeping with the weighted blanket, the body will reduce the stress in no time replacing it with a soothing and relaxing feeling that will let the body recover by quickly releasing the stress and the anxiety.
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- Reducing the Symptoms and Occurrence of Insomnia Problems
As mentioned at the beginning of the article, as people age the production of the sleep hormone melatonin decreases resulting in decreased ability to fall and stay asleep during the night. Moreover, insomnia can be a symptom of many health conditions that are common in the elderly. Furthermore, the existence of a health issue can directly influence the sleep if one is too worried. However, the lack of sleep negatively affects any health issue despite the cause of ti. A weighted blanket is essential for such situations.
Once put onto the body the weighted blanket triggers production of melatonin and thereby alleviates the sleep problems caused by lower levels of the sleep-inducing hormone. Taking this into consideration and the ability to soothe stress and anxiety, sleeping with a weighted blanket can be beneficial for any health conditions that caused the sleep deprivation in the first place. Moreover, quality sleep strengthens the immune system helping the body to recover faster and become stronger. On the other hand, if one is experiencing health issues as symptoms of prolonged insomnia it can use the blanket to fight insomnia issues and thereby recover from any other condition as a result of the sleep deprivation.
- Additional Benefits
Among other health problems that seniors commonly experience that might benefit from the use of a weighted blanket are:
- Restless leg syndrome
- Post-traumatic distorted
- High blood pressure
- Fibromyalgia pain