Weighted Blanket Benefits

Weighted blankets are becoming popular sleep products. Sleep companies like Sealy, Tranquility, Sleep Number, and Beauty Rest all offer weighted blankets, but what are weighted blankets good for?

woman sleeping with weighted blanket

A weighted blanket is heavier than your standard blanket, and it distributes weight evenly across the blanket helping you sleep more relaxed.

© Katelin Kinney | Getty Images

If you go to Amazon or search Google for weighted blankets, you will find many options with average prices ranging from twenty-five to one hundred dollars. There is nothing very technical about a weighted blanket. It is just a blanket with more weight evenly distributed into the banket so it is heavier than a normal blanket. That may not sound like anything you need, and if you already sleep like a baby, you don’t. However, if you have trouble sleeping, there are some benefits and they are supported by research.

Weighted Blanket Benefits for Adults

Insomnia is difficulty falling or staying asleep and it usually causes sleep-related symptoms during the day like fatigue and brain fog. In some cases, severe insomnia can even cause anxiety or depression. Studies show that anywhere from about 30 to 50 percent of adults complain of insomnia. It is even more common in people with a mental health disorder like depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). In these cases, insomnia may be as high as 80 percent.

The usual treatments for insomnia include psychotherapy and sleep aid medications, but about 40 percent of people with insomnia need more help. One research-tested, safe, and inexpensive option may be as simple as a heavier blanket:

  • A 2020 study from Sweden, published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine studied a weighted blanket compared to a normal-weight blanket in 120 patients with depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety disorder, or ADHD. After four weeks, compared to unweighted-blankets, patients using weighted blankets had significant improvement in insomnia, daytime activity, fatigue, depression, and anxiety.
  • A 2020 study published in the Clinical Journal of Oncology Nursing found that cancer patients getting chemotherapy reported less anxiety when they were given a weighted blanket during chemotherapy infusion than when they had the same treatment with an unweighted blanket.
  • A 2020 review of studies on weighted blankets published in The American Journal of Occupational Therapy found eight studies using weighted blankets to reduce anxiety and concluded that these studies support the use of these blankets.

How Do Weighted Blankets Work?

Weighted blankets work by deep pressure stimulation, also called deep touch pressure, the same pressure used by massage and acupressure. Anxiety is the enemy of relaxing sleep, the so called “wired and tired” effect. Deep touch pressure is what causes the relaxing effect of a hug or cuddle and explains the relaxing effects of swaddling a baby. Research shows that the light, steady, and even touch of this pressure has several effects on the body:

  • It reduces the stress hormone cortisol.
  • It reduces the “flight or fight” response caused by the sympathetic nervous system.
  • It increases the “rest and digest” response of the parasympathetic nervous system.
  • It increases release of the hormone oxytocin which promotes both relaxation and sleep.

Weighted blankets can weight anywhere from 4 to 30 pounds, but the most effective weight is usually about 12 pounds. The weight of the blanket should not cause you to get overheated or feel like movement is restricted. If you have trouble falling or staying asleep and you want to try a weighted blanket, don’t forget these other sleep hygiene tips:

  • Keep a seven-to-eight-hour sleep schedule. Go to sleep and get up the same time every night and morning, including weekends.
  • Get exercise and exposure to sunlight during the day, and avoid too much light or exercise in the evening.
  • Avoid alcohol and food after dinner.

Use your bedroom for sleep, not for TV or computer, and make sure your bedroom is dark, comfortable, and quiet.

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Chris Iliades, MD

Dr. Chris Iliades is board-certified in Ear, Nose and Throat and Head and Neck Surgery from the American Board of Otolaryngology and Head and Neck Surgery. He holds a medical … Read More

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