What is a Weighted Blanket and What are the Benefits of Them?
If you have trouble falling asleep and staying asleep, you’ve got a good reason to be interested in a weighted blanket. If you suffer from high anxiety levels, perhaps an anxiety disorder, a weighted blanket can help in reducing anxiety.
Weighted blankets have helped many, many people get satisfying and restorative sleep they need to stay healthy. These blankets are also used as therapy blankets by people with various disorders related to the nervous system.
If you’re feeling stressed, anxious, or in pain, you’ll love a weighted blanket! If you simply have trouble sleeping, this very special blanket can help…
In fact, the concept originated with treatment for people with a sensory disorder like autism spectrum disorder, as they suffer from anxiety symptoms. Since then, weighted blankets have been used to reduce or manage the symptoms of:
- Sleep disorders
- Nervous disorders
- Mood disorders like depression and anxiety
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
Weighted blankets are designed to provide warmth and gentle pressure on the body, similar to the feeling of being held or hugged. The blanket is safe for children and adults and promotes relaxation. Thus, they help with improving sleep by helping people achieve a relaxed state so they fall asleep more easily and sleep more deeply.
Weighted Blanket Basics
So what’s so special about this blanket, you ask?
Weighted blankets are heavier than the usual comforter or down quilt. They typically weigh between 4 and30 pounds and are supposed to be roughly 8-12% of a person's body weight. The person’s size (child or adult) will determine the safest weight for that person.
Outer cover: Weighted blankets have an outer cover made of a soft fabric. This is made from a variety of materials such as 100% cotton (keeps you cooler), super soft polyester, fleece or bamboo.
Weighted inner section: The weighted section can be used as a standalone blanket to reduce heat. It has several small pockets which are filled with the weighted material that serves as the blanket’s weight. Manufacturers use a variety of materials as weights, including stones, sand, steel ball bearings, rice, wheat, plastic or glass pellets depending on the quality of the product.
Weight distribution: The weight material is sewn into pockets to keep the weight as evenly distributed as possible across the blanket. Different manufacturers use different techniques to achieve this with the most common technique using a layer of padding -> weighted material -> padding on top. Other methods include the more expensive combination of padding & weighted material which keeps the weight in place better.
What are the benefits of weighted blankets for adults?
Anxiety, stress, pain seem to drift away whilst you’re under a weighted blanket!
Also referred to as a pressure blanket or gravity blanket, this special covering creates a sense of being swaddled. The physical connection that you feel provides a sense of warmth and safety that helps the body relax.
Research shows that weighted blanket therapy creates a type of physical connection that has an abundance of positive effects on hormones governing the nervous system, affecting both mood and stress level.
Among the weighted blanket benefits:
Improves Oxytocin: The pressure from an anti-stress blanket has been compared to a hug, which provides warmth and a sense of security. As research shows, a hug releases the hormone oxytocin in the body which helps provide a feeling of relaxation, making you feel at ease. Oxytocin also slows the heart and reduces blood pressure, also prompting the body to relax.
Boosts Serotonin & Dopamine: The therapy blanket also provides a gentle yet deep pressure that goes deep within the body. Research shows that this form of therapy, called deep touch pressure stimulation or proprioceptive pressure, promotes the release of serotonin and dopamine, two brain chemicals that have a calming effect and combat stress, anxiety and depression.
Releases Melatonin: When the weighted blanket stimulates serotonin, melatonin hormones are also released promoting sleep and helping regulate the sleep cycle.
Reduces Cortisol: A therapeutic weighted blanket helps ground your body during sleep which may enhance the deeply calming effect. Studies show that grounding may help reduce nighttime levels of cortisol, a stress hormone that has a negative effect on blood sugar, digestion, and immunity.
Overall, the pressure of the weighted blanket provides a calming, soothing environment that is conducive to sleep, helping the anxious person get the rest they need.
What are weighted blankets used for?
Helps with insomnia
Trouble getting to sleep, and staying asleep? The research of weighted blankets has thus far involved mostly small studies, but they show promising results in helping people with insomnia.
The best research thus far comes from a 2015 study in the Journal of Sleep Medicine and Disorders. This study of 31 adults with chronic insomnia had their sleep was tracked for one week with their usual bedding. Then they slept for two weeks with a weighted blanket. In the next phase of the study, they slept for one week with their usual bedding again.
Four out of five participants liked the weighted blanket. When using the weighted blankets, they slept longer and were less awake during the night. Study participants also said they found it easier to settle down to sleep with the weighted blanket. Plus, they reported getting better sleep and feeling more refreshed the next morning.
Overall, researchers found that “when the participants used the weighted blanket, they had a calmer night’s sleep.”
Psychologists say that the weighted material may be effective because it produces a light touch sensation whenever you move. This may feel like a caress. The sensation may stimulate the release of neurotransmitters and affect nervous system activity in ways that decrease over-arousal and anxiety.
A weighted blanket may aid in reducing insomnia in this way, which makes the blanket an effective non-drug approach to improve sleep quality, researchers state. It certainly is a good alternative to life-long sedative-hypnotic medications (sleeping pills) at night, according to another sleep expert.
Reduces anxiety and restlessness
Imagine feeling calmer as you drift off to sleep...
A weighted blanket provides deep touch pressure stimulation, which has been shown to produce a soothing effect that reduces anxiety. Because deep touch pressure provides this calming effect that aids sleep, the blanket also helps symptoms of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
Deep pressure stimulation helps with restlessness, which aids both adults and children with this common ADHD symptom -- and help with their sleep problems as well, research shows.
In one study, 42 children with and without ADHD had their sleep was tracked by sleep testing and parent diaries for four weeks; two weeks involved using a weighted blanket. The ADHD kids found that the weighted blanket reduced the time it took to fall asleep and the number of awakenings during the night. In fact, they slept just as well as the children without ADHD.
Easing Restless Leg Syndrome
The tingling of restless leg syndrome is often felt at night, which greatly impairs sleep. Traveling is difficult as well for people with this disorder, as they constantly feel the need to move their legs. Very troubling!
Compression socks provide some relief, but in some cases actually, add to the discomfort if they are extremely tight. In fact, people with disabilities like arthritis often have difficulty putting the socks on their legs. A weighted blanket provides relaxing pressure without adding constriction to the legs.
Relieves Painful Fibromyalgia
Fibromyalgia is a condition that mostly affects women, and can be debilitating. So painful!
The disease is a complex illness causes chronic muscle, ligament and tendon pain, fatigue and multiple tender points on the body. The muscle aches and chronic fatigue associated with fibromyalgia can make even the simplest everyday activities painful and difficult -- unless you take medication.
A weighted blanket has helped patients prevent symptom flares due to the blanket’s gentle, firm pressure that also reduces anxiety and depression, improving sleep as well as the quality of life.
Many people say that a weighted blanket helps relieve pain. If you would rather quit the cycle of painkillers, try a natural alternative -- a weighted blanket.
A weighted blanket, aka ‘gravity blanket’, helps “ground” the body during sleep by pushing it downwards. This grounding may be responsible for the deeply calming effect that people report. Also, because the blankets simulate deep pressure touch, there is a reduction in chronic stress and high levels of anxiety.
Stress can elevate cortisol levels, which has a negative effect on the immune system. Cortisol can also increase blood sugar levels and impact the digestive tract.
A study in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine suggested that grounding the human body during sleep can help improve cortisol level, especially in women, which improved their sleep and reduced stress, insomnia, and pain.
Improves Sleep QualityIn some cases, fatigue is caused by poor quality of sleep. Night after night, you might get some sleep, but that sleep must be restorative sleep.
If you wake up tired, you’ve simply not gotten the proper type of sleep!
A weighted blanket can help improve sleep quality. The blanket’s deep touch pressure stimulates serotonin, the relaxation hormone, which helps you fall asleep faster, stay asleep longer, and feel rested in the morning.
Feeling low or irritable? That can be caused by chemicals in the brain. When you feel this way, your brain may not be producing enough serotonin, the hormone that affects mood disorders.
Deep pressure stimulation (via a weighted blanket) can boost levels of serotonin, research shows. This same deep pressure also reduces levels of the stress hormone, cortisol, which also helps the body to relax. A weighted blanket can serve as the hug you need to improve your mood and ease your sadness.
If your day has been filled with too much stress, wrapping yourself up in a weighted blanket when you finally get home can help make things better. If a bad boss or bad traffic has you feeling frantic, your weighted blanket can help you feel better. Those helpful hormones and neurotransmitters -- serotonin, dopamine, and oxytocin -- will give you the hug you need.
Relieves PTSD Symptoms
Is there trauma in your past? We understand and wish to help.
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a serious problem that can affect anyone who has experienced a stressful or traumatic event. Veterans who saw combat can suffer from PTSD; so have survivors of trauma like a physical assault or a serious car accident.
Therapists will try various therapies to help ease symptoms of PTSD, including sleeplessness and depression. Research shows that a weighted blanket helps reduce anxiety in these survivors, along with improving blood pressure and pulse rate.
Helps Control Panic DisorderPanic attacks are so disturbing, but a weighted blanket might help you feel less vulnerable.
People who suffer from panic disorder feel the need to protect themselves from stressful situations that ramp up their fear and their vulnerability to panic attacks. A weighted blanket can help them sleep better so they feel refreshed and less anxious the next day. By promoting the ‘calming’ hormones and neurotransmitters, a weighted blanket helps to calm both the body and the brain.
Eases Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder SymptomsPerhaps you have a germ phobia. Or you need your environment to be extremely orderly. Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is unique in every person. Some may follow very strict dietary or lifestyle habits. Persistent, obsessive thoughts and behaviors are the primary symptoms of OCD.
Here’s how a weighted blanket can help: OCD has been linked to low serotonin levels. Researchers believe that the deep touch pressure stimulation therapy provided by a weighted blanket will boost serotonin to help keep OCD symptoms under control.
Helps Ease Autism Symptoms
If autism is the issue, here’s good news. A weighted blanket may help!
Massage or touch therapy has been found to help control the symptoms of autism. Researchers have noted that touch therapy helps by decreasing levels of the stress hormone cortisol, and increasing levels of the neurotransmitters serotonin and dopamine, which improves mood, impulse control, and more.
Research involving 73 young people with autism spectrum disorder and severe sleep problems slept with a weighted blanket and with a regular blanket. Sleep tests and parent diaries showed that the weighted blanket didn’t improve their sleep. However, the kids said that they preferred the weighted blanket - so researchers speculate there may be a benefit that the testing didn’t identify.
Helps Relieve Tourette’s Symptoms
This neurological disorder has symptoms like uncontrollable tics and movements, which cause great fatigue as well as anxiety. The deep pressure therapy from a weighted blanket can help ease the anxiety and provide a sense of calm that improves sleep.
Should you purchase a weighted blanket?
Of course, a weighted blanket is not a cure for improving sleep. You still need to follow what doctors call “good sleep hygiene” -- regular bedtimes, using the bedroom only for sleep and sex, turning off electronics an hour or more before bedtime, and keeping the lighting, sounds, and temperature conducive to sleep.
You’ve done all that, and you still can’t sleep - argh!
Experts say weighted blankets could help with sleeplessness. Insomnia is frustrating, and can produce anxiety even in people who are not generally anxious -- which only makes the insomnia problem worse!
You may need a little extra soothing at bedtime -- the soothing that a weighted blanket is designed to provide. The steady deep pressure from a weighted blanket can quiet the body’s arousal, leading to less anxiety and tension.
Consider these points
If you are interested in purchasing a weighted blanket, make sure it is a bit heavier than 10 percent of body weight. However, people vary in the weight they prefer, so it’s important to decide what is most comfortable for you.
The blanket should not affect your ability to move. In fact, anyone who is elderly, fragile, or with health concerns should discuss this with their health care provider before getting a weighted blanket. People who have breathing or circulatory problems, or temperature regulation issues, should not use a weighted blanket.
Also, make sure the weight is evenly distributed across the blanket. And ensure that the blanket is made from a breathable fabric like cotton so that body heat does not increase.
Consider the benefits of a good night’s sleep
It’s so important to get the sleep you need.
A good night's sleep is critically important for your health, just like eating healthy and exercising regularly. Too many people are sleeping less, and the quality of their sleep has suffered as well.
In the long run, that can take a terrible toll on your overall health.
These are 10 good reasons why you need sleep:
#1 - Poor sleep leads to weight gain. Inadequate sleep is the number 1 factor in obesity. Research shows that both 89% of children and 55% of adults who sleep too little were most likely to gain significant weight. Getting adequate sleep - 7 to 8 hours for adults -- is essential to losing weight.
#2 - Poor sleep affects the hormones ghrelin and leptin that regulate appetite. Those who get adequate sleep tend to eat fewer calories than those who don't.
#3 - Problem-solving and memory skills are improved with a good night’s sleep.
#4 - Sleep improves immunity; loss of sleep reduces your body’s ability to fight infections like the common cold.
#5 - Good sleep is important for maximum athletic performance. One study involving basketball players found that optimal sleep significantly improves the players’ speed, accuracy, reaction times and mental wellbeing.
#6 - Poor sleep quality and inadequate sleep have been linked to mental health problems like depression. In fact, poor sleep has also been linked with an increased risk of suicide.
#7 - Sleep deprivation can make you irritable and grouchy, and interfere with your relationships.
#8 - Inadequate sleep triggers inflammation throughout your body which has been linked with digestive disorders, including inflammatory bowel disease and Crohn’s disease.
#9 - Poor sleep (getting less than 7 hours per night) can increase the risk of heart disease and stroke, according to a review of 15 studies.
#10 - Inadequate sleep increases type 2 diabetes risk as it has adverse effects on blood sugar.
If a good night’s sleep eludes you -- if you have trouble falling asleep, and staying asleep -- it may be time to try a weighted blanket.
If you are experiencing mental health problems then please, consult with a medical professional or contact one of the free helplines to talk to someone that can give you advice.