Weighted blankets have gained significant attention on social media and in the wider press as an easy way of calming anxieties and getting an amazing night’s sleep, but, do weighted blankets work?
What Are Weighted Blankets?
Weighted blankets are blankets manufactured with extra weight added to them. They are also sometimes known as gravity blankets. The blankets tend to look a bit like duvets and come in a variety of styles and colours.
The blankets have tiny beads inside little pockets which gives the blankets their weight. The materials in these beads can vary but can contain things like sand or glass. The blankets also come in a range of sizes from individual smaller blankets up to mattress size.
Different weights of blanket are available, from three to around 11 kilograms. According to experts at Good Housekeeping, a good rule is to go for a blanket that works out about 10 per cent of your total body weight.
Benefits of Weighted Blankets
Retailers of weighted blankets make a number of claims about the blankets and what they can do to improve our sleep and our health. Manufacturers claim that the positive effects of weighted blankets can include:
- Reduction in anxiety and general improvements in mood
- Improved sleep
- Reduction in restlessness throughout the night
- Easing joint pain and back pain
- Feelings of safety and wellbeing
While it isn’t exactly understood why weighted blankets work for some people, there are some theories.
People who enjoy using weighted blankets often report it feels like they are being held or receiving a hug. Others report feeling more grounded and safe. Some researchers believe that this feeling might set off certain hormones in our bodies that lower our anxiety.
Doctor Adam Perlman explains more about this for the Mayo Clinic
For a long time now, weighted blankets have also interested researchers because of their potential anxiety-reducing benefits for certain groups.
People on the autism spectrum who live with feelings of anxiety and sleeplessness have been given deep touch pressure (DTP) therapy in several forms, including with weighted blankets.
Medical experts have also tested weighted blankets on people with a diagnosis of ADHD, those dealing with dementia symptoms, and people living with certain pain problems like fibromyalgia.
In all cases, the way weighted blankets can provide deep touch pressure is thought to help produce a more restful state and lessen feelings of pain.
Science Around Weighted Blankets: Do They Work?
The research into weighted blankets for general use is somewhat new so there aren’t a lot of studies in this area to support weighted blankets and their positive effects on sleep. However, there are a few studies that show some benefits.
One small study into DTP therapy for dental patients employed weighted blankets to help ease nerves during tooth extraction. The researchers found a meaningful and measurable benefit from using the therapy.
Another study from Sweden’s Karolinska Institutet found that study participants who had psychiatric problems with insomnia were over 26 times more likely to say their insomnia went down by half or more when they used a weighted blanket.
Importantly, the researchers from the Karolinska Institutet followed up with the patients a year later and the participants said the weighted blankets were still giving them a better sleep experience.
Lastly, a research study showed young people on the autism spectrum experiencing severe sleep problems feel they benefit from weighted blankets even when their sleep scores didn’t improve. This shows weighted blankets might promote feelings of wellbeing.
Weighted Blankets Risks
Weighted blankets are generally safe for healthy adults, however, that doesn’t mean everyone should use a weighted blanket.
Weighted blankets may not be suitable for people with underlying breathing conditions such as asthma or those who deal with claustrophobia. If you are pregnant, if you have diabetes or have a circulation issue, you should also consult your doctor before using a weighted blanket.
Recommendations are that children under the age of two should not have weighted blankets. Weighted blankets should also never be used on children without proper supervision and without the advice of a doctor or other clinical professional.
While some evidence does seem to support that weighted blankets can offer measurable benefits in terms of sleep quality and, possibly, pain reduction while sleeping, scientists still need to do more research.
However, a growing number of adults say they feel that weighted blankets give them a more pleasant night’s sleep and increase their sense of wellbeing.
So, while a weighted blanket may not work for everyone, for people who need a little extra comfort in their lives, an appropriately chosen weighted blanket might be a good investment.
Have you ever used a weighted blanket? We’d love to hear your experiences in the comments below.