Weighted blankets have grown increasingly popular in recent years due to the physical and mental health benefits they can provide. Also called gravity blankets, weighted blanket benefits are plentiful.
Let’s pull back the covers and take a closer look at this blanket to better understand what exactly it is. From there, we’ll identify the many benefits of weighted blankets to determine if it’s time you incorporated one into your life.
What Is a Weighted Blanket?
A weighted blanket is simply a heavy blanket, filled with a dense material to give it that weight. This material may take the form of plastic pellets or beads, alongside cotton or another fluffy material to ensure the blanket remains soft and plush.
Many weighted blankets combine the benefits of a comforter with those of a heavy blanket to ensure the blanket feels as natural as possible. Weighted blankets come in many sizes, weights, and designs to ensure they’re available for all ages. That being said, infants and small children should not use a weighted blanket because of the risk of suffocation. Weighted vests and weighted lap pads are other forms of heavy attire that offer benefits similar to weighted blanket benefits.
Used by occupational therapists for years, weighted blankets provide a deep pressure touch that’s similar in nature to a gentle massage. This touch can help you tackle sleep disorders, panic attacks, medical conditions, and more. Heavy blankets can weigh 4-40 pounds, but your blanket should be proportional to 10-20% of your body weight.
A weighted blanket often looks like any other blanket. Made of cotton or soft synthetic materials, its weight provides a firm but gentle pressure that promotes better sleep. Weighted blankets of old were made of a single layer that held in the weighted materials, but modern weighted blankets often feature an inner weighted bag and a liner that can be removed and washed. More choices are now available as well, so you can find an option that utilizes the materials, styles, and patterns of your choice.
As weighted blankets have grown in popularity, more brands have released their own versions with unique features. Some blankets are waterproof while others wick away moisture. Various sizes are available to accommodate most any bed size and price point.
Do Weighted Blankets Work?
Weighted blankets are often used for therapeutic reasons because the extra weight imitates a form of therapy called deep pressure stimulation. Used to lessen anxiety, relieve pain, improve mood, and improve sleep efficiency, deep pressure stimulation can be administered with a pair of hands or with the use of a weighted blanket.
Weighted Blanket Benefits
Research suggests the use of a weighted blanket can be effective for treating various medical conditions. Though research is ongoing and more information is needed to fully understand what these blankets can do, findings thus far have suggested the following weighted blanket benefits.
ADHD, or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, is a medical condition that can alter one’s ability to remain focused, sit still, and use self-control. Though few studies have identified a relationship between weighted blankets and ADHD, research has found that weighted vests can improve attention and reduce movements related to hyperactivity. Improved attention and reduced movements are necessary when individuals with ADHD need to sleep.
Meanwhile, other research suggests the use of a weighted ball blanket may also provide benefits for sleep issues related to ADHD. These weighted blankets feature hollow balls that soothe the body and can be particularly helpful for those with ADHD, symptoms of autism, and anxiety disorders.
Anxiety affects millions of individuals around the world in countless ways, but many who suffer notice a decrease in sleep. Fortunately for those impacted by anxiety, research suggests a weighted blanket or other forms of deep touch pressure can reduce autonomic arousal, a form of arousal that’s responsible for anxiety.
A 2008 study found that the use of weighted blankets reduced anxiety levels in 33% of the 32 study participants. The research also suggests that lying down may further curb anxiety, so the use of a weighted blanket while lying down may help you get a good night’s sleep.
Handle Chronic Pain
Managing chronic pain with massage therapy has been common practice for decades. That’s because applying varying degrees of pressure to the body will promote healing over time.
A small 2011 study found that starting with light pressure, moving on to moderate pressure, and finally utilizing deep pressure touch is the best way to reduce pain. It’s for this reason that a weighted blanket might be used. The extra pressure it provides can keep the body’s limbs in place and reduce the feelings of chronic pain by applying light pressure over the entire body.
OCD, or obsessive-compulsive disorder, is a condition characterized by unreasonable thoughts and fears that lead to compulsive behaviors. This can make it difficult for those suffering from OCD to find sleep when they need it most.
Though OCD behaviors will be different in everyone, those who suffer tend to have low serotonin levels. Weighted blankets have the ability to influence the brain’s chemistry by releasing serotonin and melatonin. These blankets are therefore capable of easing the symptoms of OCD to generate a calming effect.
Ease Restless Leg Syndrome
Restless leg syndrome (RLS), or Willis-Ekbom Disease, is a condition characterized by an irresistible urge to move your legs, often in the evening just before bed. The symptoms worsen when you sit or lie down, and can disrupt your sleep-wake cycle over time.
Some individuals who suffer from RLS use compression socks to find relief, but similar results can be achieved with a weighted blanket. The pressure and weight that’s added to the legs can calm the nervous system and offer long-term relief when your body needs to sleep.
Help With PTSD
PTSD, or post-traumatic stress disorder, occurs when an individual has trouble overcoming the emotional impacts of a stressful or traumatic event. It can last for months or years and often leads to insomnia or depression that will impact sleep.
Weighted blankets may help reduce pulse rate and lower blood pressure in individuals suffering from PTSD. Many weighted blanket users who suffer from PTSD have reported decreases in anxiety, and this opportunity to find relief may encourage a better night’s sleep.
One of the key characteristics of autism, especially in young children, is trouble falling asleep. A 2014 study that investigated the effectiveness of weighted blankets on sleep disorders caused by autism found only a weak relationship at best.
But adults and children in the study noted that they liked the weighted blanket more, which supports a smaller 2017 study that found positive benefits of deep pressure touch in some people on the autism spectrum. The benefits of deep pressure touch may extend to weighted blankets as well, but this area needs more research.
Medical procedures and the patients being treated may also benefit from the use of weighted blankets. A 2016 study published in the Journal of the Formosan Medical Association found that patients who utilized weighted blankets while undergoing wisdom tooth removal fared better than those who didn’t. The participants who used a weighted blanket experienced lower anxiety levels. A follow-up study that reviewed individuals who got their molars removed found very similar results.
Because medical procedures have the ability to increase heart rate, using a weighted blanket may help the body relax when it needs to most. A relaxed patient may also ensure the medical procedure has a more successful outcome.
Are There Any Risks?
There are very few risks associated with the use of a weighted blanket. Ultimately, a weighted blanket shouldn’t be used on an infant, small child, or someone with certain health conditions like sleep apnea or asthma. These conditions could become exacerbated by the use of a weighted blanket creating pressure on the chest. If you’re reluctant to use a weighted blanket, talk with your doctor for further guidance and information.
Enjoying the Benefits of a Weighted Blanket
The weighted blanket is a simple tool that has the ability to serve countless individuals. From chronic pain to anxiety and beyond, we’re using weighted blankets more than ever before to find relief from various health conditions and restless sleep.
Many types of weighted blankets are available, so take your time when finding the best weighted blanket for you. Talk with your doctor to determine if a weighted blanket is something you should incorporate into your nightly routine, and take advantage of the many weighted blanket benefits on your quest to find a good night’s sleep.