Weighted blankets are blankets designed to help soothe a range of mental and physical conditions by putting weighted pressure on the body. They are heavier than typical comforters and are usually filled with plastic pellets, micro glass beads or steel shot beads.
Some are also filled with pebbles or aquarium stones – but these are less common.
Many people find that applying a weighted blanket mimics a person’s body weight—like receiving a hug—and that this provides a calming effect. They can help comfort people with nervous system challenges, those who are on the autism spectrum, and people with anxiety disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder, and even restless leg syndrome.
A weighted blanket helps with many aspects of mental health and can help balance clinical support.
The Benefits of a Weighted Blanket
While a plush blanket or duvet will keep you cozy at night, a weighted blanket provides additional benefits. The application of deep pressure across the body, imitating body weight, helps soothe nerves, offer a calming effect, and even reduce symptoms of many disorders.
Other benefits of weighted blankets include
- Better sleep or rest quality
- Lowered instance of sleep disorders
- Reduced stress
- Fewer nerve issues
- Enhanced focus
- Higher serotonin production
- Less pain
- Greater comfort
- Deeper sleep
- Reduced anxiety
- More effective melatonin production
How Do Weighted Blankets Work?
The concept originated in occupational therapy, where occupational therapists use deep touch pressure to provide treatment to clients. Weighted blanket uses now range from soothing kids at night to ensuring a good night’s sleep for people of all ages.
Experts do caution against using weighted blankets with small children and babies, however. Always consult your doctor if you think your child could benefit from a weighted blanket.
Inside the blanket are materials like plastic pellets or glass beads, and the weight of the filler distributed over the blanket delivers deep pressure stimulation. The pressure they apply elicits a calming feeling, no matter how you sleep.
From side sleepers to those who haven’t yet found the best sleeping position for their health needs, almost anyone can use a weighted blanket and reap the benefits. They are also excellent when used on your couch when you’re relaxing at the end of a long day.
The Science Behind Weighted Blankets’ Calming Effects
Improving sleep quality is a goal for many people with sleep disorders, and using a heavy blanket can help. The extra weight in weighted blankets may enhance the release of serotonin in your brain, decrease anxiety, and reduce restlessness so you can achieve more restful sleep. Serotonin is the chemical in charge of positivity, so higher levels could increase your mood, too.
Quoting two sleep medicine studies that found positive results, Cleveland Clinic also notes that while weighted blankets don’t work for everyone, the results are promising. Most users of weighted blankets rave about the benefits they experience, whether it’s relief from insomnia or calming effects that allow their body’s melatonin—a natural sleep hormone—to take over.
Do Weighted Blankets Help with Insomnia?
A weighted blanket’s purpose is to soothe anxiety and other conditions affecting sleep. Therefore, many people see an improvement in their insomnia, though the full science here is not conclusive.
Better sleep quality is one highlight of using a weighted blanket, though it may not be the only solution you need for a restful night. With severe symptoms of any disorder, you may also want to pursue formal treatment.
In the meantime, a heavy blanket can make you feel cozy and protected. It may help enhance your brain’s production of chemicals that promote relaxation and lowered stress. It also creates a cozy sleep environment that’s conducive to good rest.
Weighted Blankets for Anxiety
Because weighted blankets have origins in therapeutic practice, many experts tout the benefits of weighted blankets for anxiety. Being wrapped in a blanket—the way many babies enjoy swaddling—can have a calming effect on people of all ages.
Therapists have used deep pressure techniques in practice for a long time. Research has proven how deep pressure therapy with occupational therapists can help people, and now weighted blankets can offer similar effects.
For those with an anxiety disorder, the heavy pressure of a weighted blanket can soothe nerves and lessen nervous movements, too. And while there are vests and other devices for children and adults with anxiety disorders, a blanket can provide the therapy while you’re sleeping or resting.
Feeling safe and comfortable when sleeping is crucial to achieving deeply restful sleep, especially for people with sensory processing disorders.
How to Choose the Right Weighted Blanket
Choosing the right weighted blanket can be intimidating. In general, experts recommend you select a weighted blanket that equals ten percent of your body weight. But apart from that, finding the right fit can be daunting.
But the best weighted blanket is one that provides soothing pressure across your body. Regardless of their condition, most people who choose to sleep with a weighted blanket stick with it because of the benefits they experience.
Our team at Helix Sleep built a weighted blanket designed to alleviate anxiety and stress, promote restful sleep and reduce sensory processing disorders. If you’re struggling with one of these ailments, we recommend testing it out.