The Benefits of Weighted Blankets | 2022 Guide

A weighted blanket is essentially a heavy blanket with small weights sewn into pockets. It has evenly distributed weights or fabrics so the blanket drapes tightly around the sleeper. This isn’t to be confused with blankets made of heavy fabrics like your grandmother’s quilt: The conforming nature of the blanket due to the tiny weights creates a sensory experience for the sleeper, possibly doubling for human touch. The resulting therapeutic effect, whatever the mechanism, is useful in decreasing anxiety and insomnia.

Research into the benefits of weighted blankets is limited, and the recent boost in popularity and growth in the number of companies offering weighted blankets means there are unfounded claims about the blanket’s effects, such as how much they may help children with autism spectrum disorders. Therapists say more studies are needed. However, early studies show that those suffering from various mental health disorders, such as depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), may improve their sleep by using a weighted blanket.

What Does a Weighted Blanket Do?

A weighted blanket can:

  • Help those with anxiety and depression

  • Help reduce chronic pain symptoms

A weighted blanket can come in many forms, though most often it has the appearance of a quilt-like duvet. Manufacturers of weighted blankets such as Casper, Gravity, Saatva, and YnM often recommend choosing a weighted blanket that is at least 10% of your body weight. (So, if you weigh 150 pounds, a 15-pound blanket is your best bet.) A recent randomized-controlled trial found that, when compared to 5-pound weighted blankets, 15-pound weighted blankets reduced perceptions of chronic pain in highly anxious individuals.

Some of the current research suggests that the weight from weighted blankets may offer deep pressure stimulation, which could help those with anxiety disorders. Because a weighted blanket may help calm some sleepers and help them fall asleep, it’s less likely those sleepers will need medicine to help them get to sleep.” “This is a low-harm or no-harm solution to sleeping problems,” says Dr. William Vaughn McCall, professor and Case Distinguished Chairman of the Department of Psychiatry and Health Behavior at Augusta University. “A sleeping pill can come with side effects.”

The actual mechanism by which a weighted blanket works, though, is still unclear to researchers. Dr. Laura Case, an assistant adjunct professor in the Department of Anesthesiology at the University of California, San Diego, mentions that the researchers saw decreases in pain with patients after a week of using a 15-pound weighted blanket, but a study with a longer period is needed.”“We do know that the heavier pressure was more effective in those with high trait anxiety, so we believe there is a role of pressure in signaling safety,” says Case. “My work in general has shown deep pressure to be a form of affective touch.” This means, according to Case, that touch can have social and emotional effects. “But the research is very much new and evolving,” says Case.For McCall, who was asked to review a medical study on weighted blankets by researchers in Sweden, a weighted blanket reminded him of the psychiatric term “holding environment.” Feeling the weight of the blanket may be akin to a hug from a significant other, and some may feel comforted by the feeling of knowing there are physical limits. Because it has a similar feeling to a hug, it may stimulate hormones like oxytocin, serotonin, and dopamine. “I do think there’s something to it, but we haven’t figured out why,” McCall says.

Along with considering a weighted blanket, those who have trouble sleeping should follow general sleep hygiene tips and pay attention to their daily schedules. They should also ensure that their actual sleeping space is comfortable and that their mattress is supportive.

Are There Any Risks With Weighted Blankets?

A weighted blanket is not for:

  • Those with claustrophobia

  • Infants and very young children

  • Anyone who cannot lift the blanket

Though many may benefit from the sensory experience a weighted blanket provides, they aren’t for everyone, and some may even want to exercise special caution. Small children and may suffocate if covered in a weighted blanket. If you have claustrophobia, the close feel of the blanket around your body may be uncomfortable.

As well, some may have trouble moving a weighted blanket off their body. “Anyone who cannot safely lift the blanket weight or who is medically fragile should consult a doctor,” says Case.

Those who sleep hotter than average may find a weighted blanket is too warming, though some weighted blankets may have cooling properties. For example, Gravity Blanket claims to have a moisture-wicking fabric. Other options for hot sleepers include the Saatva Organic Weighted Blanket or the Bearby Knitted Cotton Napper, which have more breathable fibers that make them less likely to hold heat inside.

If you’re unsure whether a weighted blanket may benefit your sleep, many weighted blanket manufacturers offer 30- to 45-night sleep trials so you have a few weeks to decide if it works for you. Most also offer free shipping.

What Is the Best Weighted Blanket?

If you’re shopping for a weighted blanket, ultimately the weight and fabric will determine what’s most comfortable and calming for you for it to be a good self-care tool. Furthermore, consider what other changes you can make to your sleeping environment or daily lifestyle to make sure you’re getting the best sleep possible.

Considerations for a weighted blanket:

  • Weight: Researchers found, on average, that weighted blankets in the 15-pound range made more of a difference in terms of reducing chronic pain than those in the 5-pound range. Some manufacturers offer several weight options, ranging from 10 pounds to 35 pounds. However, you may need to try different weights to see what amount of pressure feels right for you.
  • Size: Weighted blankets come in a range of blanket sizes, and some are the size of a typical throw blanket. You may want to choose a size that only covers your body. Though you may be happy with a weighted blanket, consider whether your partner or pets will enjoy the feeling of a heavy covering.
  • Material: Some materials may be more breathable than others, and some blankets, such as the Bearby Cotton Napper blanket, weave layers of cotton into a knit cotton cord, leaving knitting holes in between that may allow for more airflow. Other blankets may include glass beads or polyester batting sown into pockets on the blanket, which may appeal to some more than the feel of a chunky knit. Furthermore, you may want to look for blankets that are machine washable, have a separate duvet cover that’s machine-washable, or are otherwise easy to clean. Most companies offer at least a couple of color options so you can match it to other bedding in your room.
  • Trial period and warranty: Many manufacturers of weighted blankets offer at least a 30-day trial period and free shipping. Some don’t offer free returns after the trial period, and some don’t offer a warranty. Be sure to read the fine print for each company so that you have options if you don’t like how it feels.

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