Sunday, October 28, 2018

Whatever Works, I Guess

Is there something inherently comforting about blankets, or is it just that we grow up getting warm and falling asleep under them?


Shadow said...

No, but there were times when I got so wrapped up in them tossing and turning that I thought I might have to cut my way out.

G. Verloren said...

I believe there is some science behind it, and like most things it depends on the person in question.

First things first - anxiety blankets are not just any old blankets. They're made to have a considerable heft and weight to them, without also making them overbearingly hot to use, or coarse to the touch.

Now, weighted blankets have been around for a while as a therapy tool for certain types of neuroatypicality and sensory sensitivity, but they're becoming somewhat more common lately as such psychological traits become less stigmatized and better diagnosed. It's pretty firmly established that they work, but you'd have to ask a psychologist to answer the question of exactly how and why they work.

I will personally note that many animals seems to respond to certain kinds of stimuli with a fair degree of universality. For example, many animals respond to being hooded or placed in a fully enclosed space in the same ways - perhaps initial distress or discomfort, but then gradual calming and relaxation due to reduced sensory stimuli. It works on dogs, it works on cats, it works on birds, it works on people, et cetera. If someone is upset, agitated, anxious, et cetera, isolating them from the world for a bit can really help them to calm down.

Many animals also enjoy being stroked or pet in some fashion or other. Among species that give and receive physical affection, the same sorts of physical stimuli all seem to have similar effects. Even creatures you might not imagine, like lizards and fish, have been known to enjoy being pet.

You basically have to start getting away from the chordates and more toward the invertebrates and arthropods before things seem to change - which would seems to suggest there are certain features that stem somewhat from the particular nature and arrangement of your nervous systems. Note how creatures like insects and arachnids don't seem to engage in any physical affection (or at least, not in the way we do).

So circling back around to blankets, and their potential for being "inherently comforting", I would have to argue it's something to do with us vertebrates and the way our brains and neurons are wired. We know dogs and cats love blankets. Heck, if you own an iguana and let it roam the house, it will happily climb into warm laundry. Even many birds seem to enjoy the occasional bit of blanketry.

I think most creatures with nervous systems similar to ours are at least inclined to enjoy being somewhere warm, soft, and enveloping.