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For many people, weighted blankets have become a routine part of stress relief and healthy sleep habits, and for good reason. Research suggests weighted blankets may benefit people with anxiety, autism, and insomnia, among other conditions.
Let’s explore how weighted blankets work, as well as the benefits and risks of using these therapeutic blankets.
Weighted blankets are therapeutic blankets that weigh between 5 and 30 pounds. The pressure from the extra weight mimics a therapeutic technique called deep pressure stimulation or pressure therapy.
Deep pressure stimulation uses pressure to relax the nervous system. It models the experience of being held or hugged. This practice may help:
- relieve the perception of pain
- reduce symptoms of anxiety
- improve sleep quality
- relieve symptoms of depression
Pressure therapy doesn’t have to be completely hands-on. With weighted blankets, the pressure comes not from another person but from having the blanket wrapped around the body.
Deep pressure stimulation can also come from garments such as weighted vests. One study also reported psychiatric assistance dogs often provide deep pressure stimulation to help owners.
Where to find a weighted blanket and how much they cost
There are a handful of companies that specialize in weighted blankets, including:
- Mosaic. Mosaic carries a full line of weighted blankets for every age. Mosaic weighted blankets start at roughly $80.
- Gravity. Gravity carries weighted blankets that start at around $195.
- SensaCalm. SensaCalm carries premade and custom weighted blankets. SensaCalm weighted blankets start around $100.
- Layla. Layla specializes in mattresses and pillows, but they also carry a weighted blanket that starts at $169.
Researchers have studied the effectiveness of weighted blankets in the alleviation of physical and emotional symptoms. Although more research is needed, results have so far indicated there may be benefits for a number of conditions.
One of the primary uses of a weighted blanket is for the treatment of anxiety. Deep pressure stimulation can help reduce autonomic arousal. This arousal is responsible for many of the physical symptoms of anxiety, such as increased heart rate.
One of the characteristics of autism, especially in children, is trouble sleeping. A small research study from 2017 found there were positive benefits of deep pressure therapy (brushing, massage, and squeezing) in some autistic people. These benefits may extend to weighted blankets as well.
Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
There are very few studies that examine the use of weighted blankets for ADHD, but a 2014 study was performed using weighted vests. In this study, researchers explain that weighted vests have been used in ADHD therapy to improve attention and reduce hyperactive movements.
The study found promising results for participants who used the weighted vest during a continuous performance test. These participants experienced reductions in falling off task, leaving their seats, and fidgeting.
Insomnia and sleep disorders
There are a number of factors that can cause sleep disorders. Weighted blankets can help in some simple ways. The added pressure may help to calm your heart rate and breathing. This may make it easier to relax before you settle in for a good night’s rest.
There are no research studies on the use of weighted blankets for osteoarthritis. However, one study utilizing massage therapy may provide a link.
In this small study, 18 participants with osteoarthritis received massage therapy on one of their knees for eight weeks. Study participants noted the massage therapy helped reduce knee pain and improved their quality of life.
Massage therapy applies deep pressure to osteoarthritic joints, so it’s possible that similar benefits may be experienced when using a weighted blanket.
Chronic pain is a challenging diagnosis. But people who live with chronic pain may find relief through the use of weighted blankets.
A 2021 study done by researchers at UC San Diego found weighted blankets reduced perceptions of chronic pain. Ninety-four participants with chronic pain used either a light or weighted blanket for one week. Those in the weighted blanket group found relief, particularly if they also lived with anxiety. The weighted blankets did not reduce levels of pain intensity, though.
There may be some benefit to using weighted blankets during medical procedures.
A 2016 study experimented with using weighted blankets on participants undergoing wisdom tooth extraction. The weighted blanket participants experienced lower anxiety symptoms than the control group.
The researchers performed a similar follow-up study on adolescents using a weighted blanket during a molar extraction. Those results also found less anxiety with the use of a weighted blanket.
Since medical procedures tend to cause anxiety symptoms like increased heart rate, using weighted blankets may be beneficial in calming those symptoms.
In addition to the existing research, there are a number of recent promising studies that provide even more evidence weighted blankets can offer relief from physical pain or symptoms of other conditions.
A 2020 study by Swedish researchers found weighted blankets improved sleep in people with major depressive disorder, bipolar disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, and ADHD. In the study, 120 people received either a light blanket or a weighted chain blanket. After 4 weeks, those who used the weighted blanket had less insomnia and reduced fatigue, depression, or anxiety during the day.
A 2021 study, also performed by Swedish researchers, found weighted blankets helped adults and children with autism spectrum disorder or ADHD to fall asleep and stay asleep. The participants included 48 children and 37 adults who found it easier to relax during the day while using weighted blankets for sleep.
A 2020 study included 28 participants with trouble falling and staying asleep. With the use of a weighted blanket over 6 weeks, there were self-reported improvements in sleeping through the night, sleep quality, and getting to sleep faster.
A 2020 study by Florida researchers measured the effects of weighted blankets on people in an inpatient psychiatric facility. Of the 122 participants, the 61 who chose to use a weighted blanket had objectively lower rates of anxiety than the 61 who did not.
Although these studies are of small groups of people, they do support the anecdotal experience of many who say weighted blankets can help relieve physical pain, reduce anxiety, and improve sleep.
There are very few risks for using a weighted blanket.
However, according to manufacturers, weighted blankets shouldn’t be used for toddlers under 2 years old, as it may increase the risk of suffocation. Always consult your pediatrician before trying a weighted blanket for your child.
A weighted blanket may also be unsuitable for people with certain conditions, including:
- obstructive sleep apnea, which causes disrupted breathing during sleep
- asthma, which can cause difficulty breathing at night
- claustrophobia, which the tightness of a weighted blanket may trigger
Tips for choosing the correct weight
- As a general rule, a weighted blanket should be 5 to 10 percent of your body weight. The weighted blanket should also fit snugly to the size of the bed.
- Adults can use medium-large weighted blankets ranging from 12 to 30 pounds.
- For a 20- to 70-pound child, a small weighted blanket should weigh from 3 to 8 pounds.
- For a 30- to 130-pound child, a medium weighted blanket should weigh from 5 to 15 pounds.
- Older adults may want to use small or medium weighted blankets ranging from 5 to 8 pounds.
Weighted blankets are a type of at-home measure that can provide similar benefits to deep pressure therapy.
These blankets have shown positive results for several conditions, including autism, ADHD, and anxiety. They can help calm a restless body, reduce feelings of anxiety, and improve sleep troubles.
When choosing a weighted blanket for yourself, find a snug size that’s around 10 percent of your body weight.