After a long day, few things feel more relaxing than a comfortable bed and a cozy blanket—except maybe a comfortable bed and an even cozier blanket. Weighted blankets, 5- to 25-pound covers designed to promote sleep by reducing stress and anxiety, are becoming increasingly popular in bedrooms across the country.
Why would adding a little bit of extra weight to your blanket help you doze off and get a good night’s sleep? Let’s explore what exactly weighted blankets are and some of their individual benefits.
What are weighted blankets?
A weighted blanket (also known as a “gravity blanket”) is exactly what the name suggests: a heavy blanket with a certain type of “fill” to add weight. Typically, weighted blankets are filled with glass beads, plastic pellets or grains like rice and buckwheat. This makes them much heavier than traditional bedding.
Many people describe weighted blankets as bedding that makes you feel secure, similar to the feeling of being hugged. This can help you calm down at the end of the night and lull you to sleep. Weighted blankets offer the same comfort and security you got from being tucked in tight as a kid.
How do weighted blankets work?
We aren’t sure exactly how weighted blankets work and why they’re so calming. But most sleep experts believe the benefits boil down to what’s called “deep pressure stimulation” or “deep pressure therapy,” the same sensation babies get from swaddling. Pressure, which makes you feel grounded in your sleep surface, can help reduce cortisol, the stress hormone. Cortisol has negative effects on your melatonin production and can make it difficult to fall asleep.
Pressure can also help increase the production of serotonin, the calming hormone. Some research also finds deep pressure stimulation can reduce arousal of the sympathetic nervous system (aka the “fight-or-flight” response) and increase calming parasympathetic arousal.
Advantages of using a weighted blanket
There are numerous benefits to using a weighted blanket over traditional bedding. For starters, weighted blankets provide a calming effect, which can help improve certain health conditions, like anxiety and depression. What’s more, using a weighted blanket for deep touch pressure can lower your heart rate and blood pressure, allowing you to calm down so you can fall asleep more easily.
Weighted blankets can help with the following:
- Improve sleep quality
- Reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression
- Relieve the perception of chronic pain
- Calm the parasympathetic nervous system
- Improve symptoms of autism spectrum disorders
Who could benefit from sleeping with a weighted blanket?
The calming effects of a weighted blanket can benefit almost everybody. However, there are quite a few types of people who could benefit more than others, including:
- Adults with anxiety and depression
- Children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD)
- Children and adults with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
- Adults suffering from sleep disorders like insomnia
Let’s explore how these individual groups of people can greatly benefit from using a weighted blanket.
1. Adults with anxiety and depression
According to published scientific research, the deep pressure stimulation you experience while lying under a weighted blanket can help reduce your heart rate and blood pressure, which are responsible for a lot of anxiety symptoms. Using a weighted blanket can also help increase the production of serotonin, the hormone that stabilizes your mood and feelings.
This can help reduce symptoms of depression, according to research. Overall, a weighted blanket can be a great product to incorporate into your self-care routine as a way to take care of your mental health. It can help lower anxiety and make it easier for you to get the sleep you need to feel your best.
2. Children with autism spectrum disorders
Many children with autism spectrum disorders have trouble sleeping. In fact, they often sleep less than neurotypical children. Weighted blankets can help young children with autism spectrum disorders and other sensory processing disorders fall asleep faster and stay asleep throughout the night. Research shows deep pressure therapy has been successful in calming down symptoms of ASDs. Because weighted blankets mimic deep pressure therapy, they may have similar effects.
3. Children and adults with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder
People with ADHD often report trouble falling and staying asleep. Children and adults with ADHD can benefit from using a weighted blanket at night. Studies show weighted vests can help improve symptoms of ADHD in both young children and adults. Because weighted blankets emulate deep pressure therapy in the same way as weighted vests, they may have similar effects.
4. Adults suffering from insomnia
Insomnia is a sleep disorder that makes it hard to fall and stay asleep at night. Insomnia is often worsened by symptoms of anxiety, stress or other outside factors. Studies show weighted blankets can reduce insomnia, particularly in people with conditions like anxiety, depression and ADHD. The deep pressure therapy you get from a weighted blanket provides a calming effect that makes it easier to fall asleep.
Frequently asked questions
Can everybody use weighted blankets?
Weighted blankets are suitable for most people, but not everyone. If you have certain medical conditions, like type 2 diabetes, asthma or chronic respiratory issues, you should avoid using a weighted blanket. People with sleep apnea should also stay away from weighted blankets since they can constrict airflow. If you have a medical condition and aren’t sure whether a weighted blanket is safe for you, consult your doctor before using one.
How heavy should my weighted blanket be?
As a general guideline, choose a product that’s about 10% to 15% of your body weight. (If you weigh 170 pounds, for example, you’d look for a 20-pound weighted blanket or something close.)
Is it safe for children to use weighted blankets?
It’s safe for most children over 2 years old to use a weighted blanket over a regular blanket. However, keep in mind weighted blankets can be dangerous for toddlers under the age of 2 due to the risk of suffocation. Weighted blankets may also be dangerous for older children with developmental disabilities or delays who are at risk of suffocation.
Can weighted blankets help with Restless Legs Syndrome?
Restless Legs Syndrome (RLS) is a condition marked by uncomfortable sensations in the legs, typically occurring at night and often resulting in a strong urge to move them. Research shows massage and constant pressure on the legs can help improve symptoms of Restless Legs Syndrome, so a weighted blanket may work.
Weighted blankets do an excellent job of making you feel calm and secure, thanks to the deep pressure they provide. The use of weighted blankets can help reduce the symptoms of certain medical conditions, like anxiety and insomnia, resulting in better sleep overall.
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