Whether you’re two months old, or 92 years old, when it’s time to rest and relax, there’s bound to be a blanket nearby. Think back to the earliest photo of yourself: it’s likely you were being cradled tightly in a blanket, or perhaps trailing a well-loved ‘blankey’ behind as you toddled off to bed.
People remain attached to blankets their whole lives. Crocheted covers are kept on the sofa to snuggle under, comfy coverings are taken on long journeys to help with a snooze, and after a stressful day, who isn’t buoyed on by the thought of crawling under a fleecy blanket at bedtime? From reducing stress to producing feel-good hormones, blankets are an amazing comfort to humans.
Heaviness Can Help
Although our ancestors – and even our furry friends – have been using blankets as security and comfort for eons, there’s still new research coming out on why we love them so much. For example, weighted blankets can mean an even better night’s sleep, particularly for people with anxiety or insomnia, or for children with behavioral problems, according to a 2019 Harvard study.
The idea is based on the use of weight as a calming strategy in therapeutic situations. The physical sensation of being held securely settles your physical nervous system, and in turn, your mind.
Bedding manufacturers now make these special blankets, using weighted plastic beads inside a comfy cover, for the general population. It’s said maximum efficiency is 10% of your body weight, meaning a 150lb person would need a 15lb blanket.
The Snuggle Factor
Getting cozy doesn’t just make your body feel good. It also releases feel-good chemicals in your brain. When you get comfortable with a blanket, your body releases oxytocin. This is the same hormone that’s released when you cuddle someone or stroke a pet, which helps to relax your nerves and muscles and calm racing thoughts.
Another hormone produced when you snuggle up with a blanket is serotonin, which helps you feel happy and calm. An obvious reason for this is because many of our earliest memories involve being tucked into bed by our parents, being assured that we’d be safe and secure.
The human brain thrives on holding on to good memories such as this, and it also likes routine. Whether you’re sleeping in a four-poster bed or a tent, the main essential sleeping item you’ll have is a blanket. Therefore simply throwing a blanket over yourself when it’s time to unwind will start to trigger happy, comforting hormones such as serotonin, which tells your brain that it’s time to relax.
Going further back into human evolution, even our ancestors had blankets (although they were made out of less appealing animal hide and fur). This helped to keep them warm, but also literally acted as a shield from the cold, rain, hot sun, and even predators sniffing about. Therefore, deep in your primal instincts, your mind tells you that blankets equal safety.
The Ultimate Comfort
Humans are warm-blooded, with our temperature levels regulated internally. However, this internal temperature tends to drop when you sleep, as your body prioritizes functions such as detoxification and metabolism. As long as you’re under a blanket when your temperature drops, the covers keep the warmth in. This means you don’t wake up, and your body can continue to rest and repair as you sleep.
This is even important on warm nights because if you sweat, you will lose heat quicker. However, a blanket will keep in the warmth that your body needs to sleep undisturbed, just like a little microclimate.
So if all this talk of relaxation has made you tired, grab your blanket (and your pet for even more benefits detailed here), and snuggle down for the ultimate sleep.
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