Weighted blankets have become more and more popular in recent years. The heavy bedding is similar to a comforter, but instead of containing fluffy down or synthetic fibers, it is filled with glass beads, poly pellets, or another weighted material. Most companies advertise that this added weight can help you relax, improve your sleep, and even reduce anxiety and depression.
Do weighted blankets really work? And if you’re going to buy one, which size, weight, and style is best for you?
How Do Weighted Blankets Work?
Weighted blankets could have a soothing effect on you because of something called Deep Touch Pressure. This is the deep pressure you feel when being held, hugged, or swaddled. Occupational therapist Karen Moore told Psychology Today, “These blankets work by providing input to the deep pressure touch receptors throughout the body. Deep pressure touch helps the body relax. Like a firm hug, weighted blankets help us feel secure, grounded, and safe.”
Studies have found that Deep Touch Pressure leads to an increase in serotonin, a neurotransmitter associated with feelings of happiness and well-being (1). Also, in these same studies, researchers have witnessed that Deep Touch Pressure may lead to a decrease in cortisol, a hormone that’s released under stress. As serotonin levels rise and cortisol levels fall, we could sleep more soundly.
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Based on the benefits of Deep Touch Pressure, some studies have explored the connection between weighted blankets and better sleep quality.
During one study, the subjects didn’t sleep better, but they still liked the feeling of the weighted blanket (2). However, another study found that, out of a cohort of insomniacs, four out of fives slept longer, more deeply, and with fewer nighttime wakeups when they used a weighted blanket (3).
Some researchers have also studied the effects weighted blankets might have on conditions such as ADHD and anxiety. Children with ADHD slept more soundly with a weighted blanket and also had fewer disturbances in school (4). In another study, 63 percent of subjects reported lower anxiety after using a weighted blanket (5).
While weighted blankets might help with a variety of issues, there are some people who should be careful:
- Small children should not use a weighted blanket unless prescribed by a doctor.
- Elderly sleepers should make sure they are able to move the weighted blanket without extreme effort.
- Those who struggle with circulatory problems or claustrophobia could have issues as well.
As a general rule, it’s a good idea to consult with a physician before you start using a weighted blanket.
What Should You Consider When Purchasing?
So you’ve decided a weighted blanket is worth trying out. Now, you need to think about a few things if you want to find the right weighted blanket for you:
- Your size. As with most bedding, there is no one weighted blanket for everyone. This is especially true with weighted blankets, because the weight of your bedding should be decided by your body weight. Most producers recommend that you choose a blanket that is 10 percent of your weight plus a few pounds. So, if you weigh 150 lb, a weighted blanket of 16 or 17 lb should be a good match for you.
- The size of your bed. When it comes to size, you don’t choose a weighted blanket to fit your bed. Instead, you choose one to fit your size. You also don’t want overhang, because this can cause the weighted blanket to slowly fall off the bed.
- Your sleep temperature. When you’re looking at a weighted blanket, you should also think about what temperature at which you like to sleep. Some weighted blankets are woven with breathable materials such as cotton, and others are woven with polyester. If you choose a polyester blanket, it could be a stuffy sleeping experience. Think about your temperature preferences and sleeping environment.
- Do you want to protect your weighted blanket? You can place a weighted blanket inside a cover, just like a pillow in a pillowcase. Some weighted blankets even come with a cover included. Whether it comes with a cover on not, look for snaps or tabs on the weighted blanket. These are useful in securing the weighted blanket within a cover. Also, think about how the cover will affect the feel and temperature of the weighted blanket.
- The filling. When it comes to choosing your weighted blanket filling, you have two main options: glass beads or poly-pellets, which are small pieces of plastic. The two have different textures: The glass beads are smooth and sand-like, and the poly-pellets are like small stones. If you want a lower-profile weighted blanket, the glass beads could work for you. If you like a thicker blanket with a more bumpy feeling, the poly-pellets should be the way to go.
If you think a weighted blanket could be helpful to you, keep these criteria in mind. With the right weighted blanket, you might find yourself enjoying calmer, deeper sleep.
[Editor’s Note: The content provided on this site is for general informational purposes only. Any information provided is not a substitute for professional medical advice. We encourage you to consult with the appropriate health expert if you have concerns.]
Featured image: De Repente/Shutterstock
- Field, Tiffany, et al. “Cortisol Decreases And Serotonin And Dopamine Increase Following Massage Therapy.” International Journal of Neuroscience, vol. 115, no. 10, 7 July 2009, pp. 1397–1413., doi:10.1080/00207450590956459.
- Gringras, Paul, et al. “Weighted Blankets and Sleep in Autistic Children–A Randomized Controlled Trial.” Pediatrics, vol. 134, no. 2, 2014, doi:10.1542/peds.2013-4285d.
- Ackerley R, et al. “Positive Effects of a Weighted Blanket on Insomnia.” Journal Of Sleep Medicine And Disorders 2(3): 1022, 25 May 2015
- Hvolby, Allan, et al. “Use of Ball Blanket in Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder Sleeping Problems.” Nordic Journal of Psychiatry, vol. 65, no. 2, 2010, pp. 89-94., doi:10.3109/08039488.2010.501868.
- Mullen, Brian, et al. “Exploring the Safety and Therapeutic Effects of Deep Pressure Stimulation Using a Weighted Blanket.” Occupational Therapy in Mental Health, vol. 24, no. 1, June 2008, pp. 65–89., doi:10.1300/j004v24n01_05.
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