Weighted blankets are one of the newest trends to enter the bedroom with promises of improving sleep, as well as relieving anxiety and stress. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, 40 million adults in America suffer from anxiety disorder which accounts for about 18.1-percent of the population. Thankfully, anxiety can be treated in many different ways, and the weighted blanket is one of them.
While this product may seem like it’s a relatively new invention, it’s actually been used for quite some time by those in the special needs community, including individuals on the autism spectrum who often have difficulty sleeping. However, it wasn’t until recently that the weighted blanket was introduced as a sleep aid for the general public. Naturally, the popularity of these blankets has caused many companies to jump on board which means this product is now widely available. They typically range in price, anywhere from $150 to $300.
Before shelling out a couple hundred bucks, let’s find out what the hype is all about and whether or not these blankets actually work…
What is a Weighted Blanket?
A weighted blanket is exactly what it sounds like, a blanket that is weighed down with small objects like pellets, discs, or beads to give a person the sensation that they are being gently hugged to calm and settle the nervous system. They typically weigh anywhere from 5 to 30 pounds, creating a pressure that mimics the therapeutic technique known as deep pressure stimulation, says Healthline. The lighter options are for children. The general rule of thumb is to use a blanket that is 10-percent of your body weight. These blankets are not recommended for infants or pets.
Healthline explains that deep pressure stimulation is used to relax the nervous system which can provide many different benefits like reduce anxiety, lessen pain, and improve mood. It has been used in addition to other treatments like massage therapy and support animals.
Benefits: May Increase Serotonin
As we already mentioned, the weighted blanket works to provide deep pressure stimulation or “deep touch pressure” which mimics the feeling of being held or hugged to provide feelings of safety, comfort, and relaxation. It’s similar to swaddling a newborn baby, but for adults. According to The National Sleep Foundation, deep touch pressure “has been shown to increase serotonin, a neurotransmitter involved in the regulation of sleep that has a calming effect.”
The feeling of being hugged causes the body to produce oxytocin which provide additional benefits, such as reducing pain and stress, while also boosting the immune system, says the source.
Ease Stress and Anxiety
Of course, one of the biggest draws to the weighted blanket is its promise to reduce anxiety and stress. We all struggle with these two things, but for some people it’s the reason they can’t fall asleep at night. While the effects of weighted blankets are still debated by some, there has been quite a bit of research on whether or not weight blankets can actually reduce anxiety.
The National Sleep Foundation explains that the weighted blanket works to decrease activity in the nervous system and lessen any feelings of anxiety. A study published in the Journal of Medical and Biological Engineering found that “deep touch pressure” can provide feelings of safety, relaxation, and comfort. Another study in the Occupational Therapy in Mental Health journal found that most participants reported lower anxiety levels after using a weighted blanket.
Research has also found that “deep pressure stimulation can help reduce autonomic arousal,” writes Healthline. “this arousal is responsible for the symptoms of anxiety, such as increased heart rate.”
Are you one of those people who tosses and turns at night? Is this restless movement keeping you or your partner up at night? The weighted blanket can help with this. Thanks to its evenly distributed weight and gentle pressure across the body, the weighted blanket limits a person’s movement, keeping them still until morning. This means less tossing and turning in the night!
Many people have turned to weighted blankets to provide more stillness in their sleep and reduce how often they wake up in the night. Less disruptions in the night means better quality sleep.
Relieve Symptoms of Sleep Conditions
While there are certain conditions such as obstructive sleep apnea, asthma, or claustrophobia, where the weighted blanket would not be recommended for, there are many others it may help with. People who suffer from conditions like restless leg syndrome, insomnia, and chronic pain conditions can use a weighted blanket to help relieve their symptoms. Forbes notes that weighted blankets can even be used for psychological conditions, such as depression.
Healthline refers to a 2014 study published in the Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics which found that parents and children benefited from weighted blankets with reduced sleep issues.
It may seem obvious that if a person is sleeping better, they’ll be in a better mood! That is true, but there’s also evidence that a weighted blanket can reduce cortisol in the body which is the human body’s main stress hormone, says Forbes. In addition to this, the weighted blanket encourages the production of serotonin, the hormone associated with feelings of “happiness and well-being.”
Treat Autism and Other Disorders
Weighted blankets have long been used as a form of sensory integration therapy for people with autism or other disorders that affect their sensory experiences. Experts believe weighted blankets can help regulate emotions and behavior, says Live Science after talking to Teresa May-Benson, an occupational therapist with the nonprofit Spiral Foundation. “It’s very much based in deep pressure helping to calm that arousal level in the system and help with self-regulation,” she says.
According to Live Science, deep pressure touch “stimulates the release of serotonin and dopamine, two neurotransmitters that tend to make people feel more relaxed.” Research published in Neuroscience & Behavioral Reviews found that a slow and gentle touch can stimulate parts of the limbic system, the brain’s network that processes emotion and fear. This is why people with sensory-processing disorders, like autism, are sensitive to touch, says Mary-Benson to Live Science. It’s also why the deep pressure of a weighted blanket can help calm them.
Are There Potential Risks?
Now that we’ve looked at a lot of the benefits of a weighted blanket, let’s take a moment to “weigh” any of the potential risks. According to Healthline, there are very few risks associated with the weighted blanket. Manufacturers warn that these blankets should never be used for toddlers under 2-years-old or pets because they can increase the risk of suffocation.
Even adults should consult with a doctor before using a weighted blanket as a form of home therapy to treat anxiety, stress, or any other medical conditions, and this is particularly important if the blanket is going to be used on a child.
It’s also important to note that the weighted blanket works differently for everyone. While it may help ease one person’s anxiety, it might not work as well in the next person. In addition to this, WebMD talked to Raj Dasgupta, MD, assistant professor of clinical medicine at the University of Southern California who cautioned that the blanket isn’t a cure-all to improve sleep. You should also maintain good sleep hygiene which means only using the bedroom for sleep and turning off electronics before bedtime.
How to Choose a Weighted Blanket
While there are general rules to follow when choosing a weighted blanket, there is not data to guarantee the “right fit.” As a general rule of thumb, most companies advise consumers to choose a blanket that is only 10-percent of their body weight. This ensures the blanket won’t be too heavy. This means an adult who weighs 150-pounds would need a 15-pound blanket, and for most kids the blanket would only be 1 to 2-pounds.
When it comes to size, it’s important to choose the right fit for your bed because the blanket shouldn’t hang off the bed. Most companies will make blankets a bit smaller in dimension than the typical twin, queen, or king size bed.
Lastly, there are many different types of fabrics and materials to choose from. This is a completely personal choice. Pick a fabric that you like. If you have sensory issues, choose a fabric that won’t cause any kind of irritation. You should also be weary of the filling inside the blanket. Forbes notes that a blanket weighted with a blend of beads and cotton will feel more natural than a blanket filled entirely of beads or discs which is a much more intense experience.
Editor’s Pick: Best Value for Money: YnM Weighted Blanket
The YnM Weighted Blanket is perfect for anyone who isn’t sure whether a weighted blanket is right for them, but still wants to try to give it a try. Unlike some of the other weighted blankets on the market, you don’t have to commit to spending a ton of money and you’ll still get a really great product. In fact, the YnM Weighted Blanket is one of the best-selling weighted blankets on Amazon.
This product is weighted down with glass beads and made from a breathable, moisture-wicking 300-thread fabric that works to control temperature. So, if you’re someone who tends to overheat while sleeping, then this is a great product for you! There are five different sizes to choose from, nine weight options, plus it’s available for under $100! The blanket is machine washable, available in a variety of fabrics, and comes with a three-year warranty which includes free mending on any damages that may occur to the blanket.
YnM Weighted Blanket
There are five different sizes to choose from and nine weight options
Editor’s Pick: The Luxury Option: Rocabi Cozy Minky Weighted Blanket
The Rocabi Cozy Minky blanket is an award-winning luxury blanket that comes with a sensory minky cover. Believe us when we tell you, this blanket is incredibly cozy!
The blanket is weighted down with tiny precision-engineered glass beads that are evenly distributed throughout the blanket to provide that desired sensation of being hugged gently all over which is proven to reduce anxiety and improve sleep. While this blanket is a little more expensive than the others, it’s totally worth it. It’s available for $229 on Amazon.
Rocabi Cozy Minky Weighted Blanket
Proven to reduce anxiety and improve sleep.
Editor’s Pick: Top Overall: Gravity Blanket
This blanket was developed on a Kickstarter campaign and is now one of the most popular weighted blankets on the market. This therapeutic blanket comes in three different weights which range from 15 to 25-pounds and is 72 by 48-inches long. It’s the perfect weighted blanket for one person.
Thanks to its gridded stitching, the weight is evenly distributed when in use and it comes with a soft, removable microfiber duvet cover. You’ll have three different colors to choose from including galaxy blue, moon ivory, and space gray. While this blanket is a little more on the expensive side at nearly $200 on Amazon, you know you’re getting a good product that is soft, machine-washable, comes in three different weights, and of course, can help you fall asleep faster.
Soft, machine-washable, comes in three different weights.