Do Weighted Blankets Really Help With Loneliness?
Have you ever felt so lonely that it physical hurt? I have.
Loneliness can be debilitating.
Interestingly enough, there is now scientific evidence to suggest that touch starvation is real and can have serious consequences on our health. And one potential solution to this problem is weighted blankets. Or a hug.
In this post, we’ll explore what touch deprivation is, the effects it can have on our health, and how weighted blankets may help to alleviate some of the symptoms.
Table of Contents
What is touch deprivation?
Touch deprivation is the lack of physical contact, also known as haptic communication, between humans. It occurs when someone experiences no physical contact for a period of time, which results in feelings of loneliness, fatigue, stress, difficulty sleeping or even depression. This lack of physical touch can lead to touch deprivation or starvation.
Touch deprivation is becoming increasingly common due to lockdowns, social distancing, and restrictions on gatherings put in place to limit the spread of the virus. Research suggests that most people feel comfort, security, and satisfaction from physical contact, and a lack of it can lead to negative physiological and psychological affects.
Heatley Tejada A, Dunbar RIM, Montero M. Physical Contact and Loneliness: Being Touched Reduces Perceptions of Loneliness. Adapt Human Behav Physiol. 2020;6(3):292-306. doi: 10.1007/s40750-020-00138-0. Epub 2020 May 26. PMID: 32837856; PMCID: PMC7250541.
Do weighted blankets help with loneliness?
The answer is yes, weighted blankets can help with loneliness. Weighted blankets provide deep touch pressure – a form of compression that activates the brain centers responsible for involuntary processes such as heart rate, respiration, and digestion. This type of pressure has been found to reduce stress and anxiety, as well as improve sleep in those with depression, anxiety, and attention deficit disorders.
Studies have also shown that weighted blankets can raise oxytocin levels while decreasing the stress hormone cortisol, which can make it an effective remedy for someone feeling lonely or down. By providing the sensation of being hugged, weighted blankets can help break the circuit of negative self-talk and feelings of distress, thus improving mood and reducing the feeling of loneliness.
Overall, weighted blankets can be an effective and natural way to ease loneliness and reduce stress.
How to use a weighted blanket to combat loneliness?
Weighted blankets have been invented to reduce stress. They work for creating a calming environment and provide users with comfort. A weighted blanket can be used also to combat loneliness by providing a feeling of comfort and security similar to that of a hug. The deep touch pressure can help to activate the part of the brain that helps to regulate involuntary processes such as heart rate and respiration, making it easier to relax and feel calm. Here’s how to use a weighted blanket to combat loneliness:
- Choose a blanket that around 10% of your body weight.
- Place the blanket over yourself, ensuring that the weight is evenly distributed across your body.
- Close your eyes and focus on your breathing, allowing the pressure from the blanket to envelop you in a comforting hug.
- Use positive self-talk to break the cycle of negative thoughts, such as “I am capable of taking care of myself,” or “I am strong and resilient.”
- Allow yourself to relax and enjoy the feeling of security that the blanket provides.
Example: Jane has been feeling lonely and isolated lately due to the pandemic. She decides to try using a weighted blanket to help combat her feelings of loneliness. With her eyes closed, she focuses on her breathing and talks to herself like she would a friend. Jane likes being in small places and also being hugged – so she allows herself to relax and enjoy the comforting feeling that the blanket provides, helping her to feel safe and secure.
How can touch deprivation affect our mental health?
Touch deprivation can have a significant impact on our mental health. Lack of physical contact can lead to feelings of stress, low relationship satisfaction, difficulty sleeping, and a tendency to avoid secure attachments. This can cause us to feel isolated and lonely, which can have an even more profound effect on our emotional well-being.
Studies have also demonstrated that physical contact can activate certain parts of the brain, which can influence our thought processes, reactions, and physiological responses.
Therefore, it is essential for us to ensure that we are receiving enough physical contact in order to maintain our mental and emotional health.
What are some ways to combat loneliness?
1. Socialize with friends and family
Socializing with friends and family can be an effective way of combating loneliness because it helps us to build meaningful relationships and encourages us to be more engaged in activities. Strong social ties are associated with greater physical and emotional health, as well as overall life satisfaction.
Engaging in meaningful or calming ctivities with others can give us a sense of purpose and belonging, which can help to reduce loneliness.
Furthermore, socializing with friends and family can provide us with emotional support and help us to cope with difficult life situations. Having a strong support system of family and friends can help us to better manage stress and anxiety, further reducing feelings of loneliness.
2. Join a social group
In order to combat loneliness, one of the most powerful solutions is joining a social group that shares interests with you. Being around people who share your interests provides a great opportunity to make friends, as you already have something to relate to and talk about.
You even can start your own social group, by hosting gatherings such as game nights, trivia nights, meditation, cooking, and even shopping, to create a welcoming and inviting atmosphere.
3. Spend time with pets
Spending time with pets can help combat loneliness by releasing oxytocin levels, which can help to reduce feelings of stress and anxiety. This can be achieved by cuddling with them or even borrowing a friend’s pet. Oxytocin, referred to as the “love hormone,” is released through physical contact and has been shown to boost mood and reduce stress.
Additionally, having a pet can provide companionship and a sense of purpose. Pets can give unconditional love and support and provide a sense of companionship and security. Pets can even provide deep pressure therapy, which can help to reduce feelings of loneliness.
4. Hug yourself
Hugging yourself can be a great way to combat loneliness. While it might seem strange, the physical pressure that comes from hugging yourself can actually have a positive effect on your mood and wellbeing.
The science behind hugs is that it triggers the release of happy hormones such as dopamine, oxytocin, and serotonin. These same “feel good” hormones are also found in antidepressants and anxiety drugs by the way.
Hugging yourself also stimulates pressure sensors under the skin that send messages to the vagus nerve in the brain, which helps to slow down the nervous system, reducing heart rate and blood pressure, and creating a sense of relaxation.
5. Talk to others – smile more
Talking to others is a great way to combat loneliness. Here are some tips to help you get started:
- Smile more. Smiling is a friendly gesture that is welcoming and inviting to others.
- Be engaging. Prepare some topics of conversation or ask questions related to the situation. This can help start a conversation and make it more interesting.
- Be a good listener. Listen actively and attentively, and give signals of acknowledgement when the other person is talking.
- Ask follow-up questions. If someone alludes to something, take the initiative to dig deeper and ask for more details.
By following these tips, you can make meaningful connections that can help reduce distress and lead to a happier and healthier life.
6. Sleep well with an emotional blanket
Sleeping well is essential for optimal health and well-being. When we get adequate sleep, we experience improved moods, better focus, and increased productivity. However, sleeping well can also help combat loneliness.
According to research, when we get high-quality sleep, our sense of connectedness to others increases, allowing us to better cope with feelings of isolation.
Sleeping with weighted blankets – sometimes called emotional blankets -, for instance, have been linked to deeper and more restful sleep, and this in turn can help us feel more connected to the world around us.
Therefore, sleeping well can be an important factor in preventing and reducing loneliness.
What is the science behind touch starvation?
The science behind touch starvation is multifaceted. First, at a physiological level, our skin can communicate both positive and negative touch stimuli to sensory nerves, which then translate the sensation of touch to our brain.
- Positive touch, such as low intensity stroking, can cause the body to release oxytocin.
- Negative or violent touch can lead to increased levels of the hormone cortisol, which can increase heart rate, blood pressure, muscle tension, and respiration, as well as suppress our digestive and immune systems.
At a psychological level, the effects of touch starvation can include feelings of loneliness and isolation, which in turn can lead to feelings of stress, anxiety, and depression.
Research also notes that those who report loneliness show dampened cognitive function. Finally, at a social level, the deprivation or removal of physical touch or haptic communication from a person’s life can result in them experiencing negative sensations, such as feelings of emptiness and loneliness.
What are the benefits of weighted blankets?
Weighted blankets have recently become popular tools for reducing anxiety and improving sleep. Studies have found that when people use weighted blankets, they can experience a feeling of gentle pressure across their body, and this has been linked to increases in melatonin production which can help regulate the sleep-wake cycle. This has the potential to help people who suffer from insomnia due to anxiety, depression, or other mental health disorders.
The benefits of weighted blankets include the ability to simulate Deep Touch Therapy, which has been proven to effectively calm people with anxiety and autism. They can also be worn anywhere and are comfortable in both winter and summer months.
Weighted blankets are also known to increase serotonin and melatonin production, which are hormones associated with feelings of happiness, well-being and pleasure, while decreasing the production of cortisol, the stress hormone. They can also help people with insomnia, as they provide a safe alternative to sleep pills, which can be highly addictive and have been linked to early death.
What hormones are released when we are touched?
When we are touched, hormones such as oxytocin and cortisol are released. Oxytocin, known as the love hormone, is responsible for making us feel love and affection and gets released into the brain when we hug, especially if the contact is skin to skin.
Cortisol is a stress hormone, and its levels are decreased when we touch the skin and stimulate pressure sensors under the skin that send messages to the vagus nerve in the brain. This increases vagal activity, which slows down the nervous system, reduces heart rate and blood pressure, and relaxes brain waves.
Are weighted blankets good for lonely people?
While there is not a definitive answer yet, it is plausible that the deep touch pressure of a weighted blanket could help to reduce feelings of loneliness by providing a sense of comfort and safety. As the blanket triggers the brain to release calming hormones, it can help to break the cycle of negative self-talk and replace it with a sense of calm and wellbeing.
Ultimately, the effectiveness of weighted blankets for people with loneliness is still being explored, but the potential benefits are promising. If you are feeling lonely and are looking for a way to cope, a weighted blanket could be worth considering.
Do weighted blankets help with touch deprivation?
Weighted blankets can be an effective way of alleviating touch deprivation and the many associated health risks. Studies have shown that deep pressure touch (DPT) – the firm, hands-on touch that is often replicated by weighted blankets – reduces anxiety and stress. During times of social distancing, when physical contact is limited, weighted blankets can help us to stay emotionally and mentally healthy.
Unfortunately, when physical contact is limited, people can experience touch starvation and even post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Weighted blankets can provide a solution to this problem, as they can replicate the feeling of being held without the need for physical contact – that is why autistic people like weighted blankets. Furthermore, the deep touch pressure benefits of weighted blankets can help to reduce stress levels and create a calming sensation, allowing us to cope with the challenges of isolation more effectively.
Do weighted blankets make you feel hugged?
Weighted blankets are designed to offer the same deep pressure stimulation as a hug, using compression to provide a calming effect on the body. By simulating the same soothing effects of a hug, weighted blankets can help to reduce stress levels and promote feelings of comfort and safety.
Weighted blankets are an effective way to provide comfort and promote feelings of security, similar to what a hug can provide. Therefore, weighted blankets have the potential to make us feel hugged.