Weighted blankets are trending right now. They were one of the hottest selling items this holiday season.
And sites like Pinterest have seen a 259% rise in weighted blanket saves. People report feeling calmer and sleeping better, but do weighted blankets work? Does the science hold up?
We researched and put together our findings in this guide. The findings explain what weighted blankets do, how they do it, studies that back them, and the benefits you derive from them.
To start with let’s describe what a weighted blanket is and what it does…
What is a weighted blanket?
Weighted blankets just as the name suggests are blankets made heavier by filling them with objects. These fillings vary from glass beads, steel shot beads, plastic pellets to dehydrated foodstuffs such as rice or beans.
How does a weighted blanket work?
Following Temple Grandin’s squeeze machine, the weighted blanket’s creators were on the lookout for something that could provide a hugging sensation. This hugging sensation has been shown to calm anxiety in neurodevelopmental disorders such as autism.
More precisely weighted blankets mimic a hugging effect produced by the deep pressure touch therapy, common in Dr. Temple’s squeeze machine. The objects inside these blankets help the blanket to cover its user snugly creating swaddling or cradling effects.
Deep pressure therapy together with the proprioceptive effectiveness of the blanket helps the body to relax. Something that aids in falling asleep faster and staying asleep longer.
In addition to these, Deep Pressure stimulation helps the body to produce melatonin, the hormone responsible for sleep. The hugging effect also helps the body produce serotonin, the hormones responsible for happy feelings.
But, are these claims true? There is only one way to find out. The following studies hold the answer as to whether or not weighted blankets work.
Do weighted blankets really work?
Many studies have been done on this subject. A few common ones include:
– The Journal of the Formosan Medical Association
In this study, researchers aimed to determine whether deep pressure stimulation could help lower stress in stressful situations. For their study, they used wisdom tooth surgery which is a highly stressful dental procedure.
Experiments were conducted on two groups of dental patients. One group used weighted blankets while the other group functioned as a control group.
The results showed that the group using weighted blankets had a balanced heart rate, meaning they were calmer.
– Effects of weighted vests on children with ADHD
In this study researchers aimed to determine the effects of weighted vests on on-task behavior and attention in children with ADHD.
The research was carried out on 110 children with ADHD. Results showed that children with weighted vests showed significant improvement in all the measurables, especially attentional and behavioral factors.
Another study published in 2015 in the Journal of Sleep Medicine and Disorders shows the effect of weighted blankets on Insomnia.This test was carried out on 33 adults aged between 20-66-year-olds who complained of chronic insomnia. In this test, the volunteers slept with their normal blankets for a week, then they slept with a weighted blanket for two weeks and after that, slept with their normal blankets for another week.
Results showed that there was a positive impact on their sleep when using a weighted blanket. The sleepers reported having a calmer night’s rest. There were minimized movements during sleep which prompted them to stay asleep longer, therefore, getting the rest they truly needed. Generally, most reported feeling more secure and having a better quality of sleep.
In another smaller study, researchers found that using deep pressure massage therapy did reduce pain in people suffering from chronic pain.
The study was conducted on 25 individuals, where licensed therapists used 3 different levels of massage therapy on the subject’s legs.
The different levels of massage were done at 4-week intervals and the muscle responses were studied. In the end, the researchers concluded that massage therapy reduced pain reflexes common with chronic pain.
It’s now evident, that though there is still a lot of research needed on weighted blankets, initial studies are already indicating it really does work.
Let’s also not forget the countless reports of people who have already used the blanket and found it to be beneficial. Some of the benefits reported include:
Benefits of weighted blankets
Here are some conditions that a weighted blanket can help with
– Helps with ADHD
As seen from the study above, a weighted blanket’s deep pressure stimulation helps soothe and calm individuals with this disorder.
Patients who suffer from ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) often tend to be restless, lack focus, and are impulsive too.
Since therapy helps improve moods, a weighted blanket helps through Deep Pressure Therapy.
– Combats Insomnia
After a full day of mental stimulation, some people find it hard to calm down enough to get a decent sleep. There are two important parts of the nervous system the sympathetic and parasympathetic systems.
These control fight or flight mechanisms. The sympathetic system reacts to dangers and helps us stay alert, while the parasympathetic system or the rest and digest mechanism helps slow things down for the body to relax.
Stress, anxiety, and depression keep the sympathetic system on, longer than it should, thus causing sleepless nights.
A weighted blanket helps reduce insomnia through tactile and proprioceptive (our body’s ability to sense the world through muscles, joints, and skin) means.
For those who are looking to cure sleeplessness naturally, weighted blankets are a good non-pharmacological tool.
– Eases Anxiety
As previously elaborated, weighted blankets can counter the fight or flight mechanism and encourage relaxation.
This is due to the effects of deep pressure therapy which reduces psychological stimulation caused by anxiety.
– Effects of pressure application during massage
On their website, the National Autistic Society suggests that weighted blankets can help lower anxiety attacks in children suffering from autism. Dr.
Temple Grandin realized that the hug machine produced a deep pressure touch therapy that helped Autistic people like herself feel much calmer.
This is the same deep pressure therapy offered by weighted blankets today.
– Sensory Processing Disorder
Sensory processing disorder, a condition where the brain has trouble receiving, processing and responding to information is often described as a brain traffic jam.
People suffering from this disorder tend to have anxiety and meltdowns.
As the study published in the Journal of Sleep Medicine and Disorders shows, deep pressure stimulation provided by a weighted blanket can calm the psychological arousal of the brain, leading to a more relaxed state.
– Manages Chronic Pain
As mentioned in the massage therapy study above, chronic pain can be eased with a weighted blanket. Chronic pain disorders such as fibromyalgia can benefit tremendously from the use of a weighted blanket.
A proper night’s rest is supposed to de restorative. Proper sleep eases tense muscles and helps the body reset its pain threshold and response.
Many people suffering from chronic pain, have to take painkillers for a long time which could have negative side effects. For those who prefer more natural ways of treating widespread pain, a weighted blanket can help.
Deep pressure touch stimulation helps the body relax which in turn eases pain, lowers anxiety, and provides better sleep and overall wellbeing.
The grounding effects that a weighted blanket has, helps produce serotonin. An increase in serotonin levels helps improve energy levels and combat fatigue.
People suffering from chronic pain, tend to suffer anxiety and depression. However, using a weighted blanket can help ease these symptoms.
A study posted in the Journal of Occupational Therapy in Mental Health showed that 63% of adults who used a weighted blanket experienced lower anxiety levels. 78% of these adults loved the weighted blanket’s calming ability.
Choosing the right weight
Choosing the right weight of weighted blankets is however very crucial. You won’t enjoy the benefits mentioned above if you pick the wrong weight.
Weighted blanket makers advise people to pick a blanket that is at least 8-12% of their body weight. That means if you weigh 150lbs, you should pick a 15lb. blanket, 200lbs should pick a 20lb blanket and so on.
Important note: it’s not recommended to use weighted blankets on toddlers as this can lead to suffocation. Seek a doctor’s opinion before using weighted blankets on children.
People suffering from conditions such as sleep apnea, asthma, and claustrophobia, should also stay away from the use of a weighted blanket as it could trigger or worsen their conditions.
Do weighted blankets work? With the amount of research available, it’s clear to see that they do.
Using deep pressure touch therapy, weighted blankets help manage chronic pain, reduce insomnia, soothe and calm people suffering from various neurodevelopmental disorders.
They are best known for their ability to help calm a restless mind, thereby inducing sleep more easily. This, in turn, helps lower anxiety, and increase general wellbeing.
But, in the end, whether or not weighted blankets work will depend on you as an individual. Make sure you choose the right weight, materials, and manufacturing company.