For years, mental health experts have frequently employed weighted blankets, sometimes called gravity blankets, as a sort of pressure treatment to reduce anxiety. These blankets, created with or without their customary pellet weighting, are becoming popular in the mainstream.
The blankets range in weight from 5 to 30 pounds. They are marketed as having advantages for individuals looking to reduce stress or enhance their sleep. They also help to calm youngsters with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) or autism spectrum disorder (ASD), as well as elders in nursing homes.
“We spend a third of our lives sleeping and sleep plays a central role in regulating brain functions,” explains Nayantara Dr. Santhi. “Basically, it acts as a recovery process, helping to reverse the wake-dependent daytime effects on cognition.”
“Therefore, sacrificing sleep, for work or leisure, can lead to significant problems, including deficits in attention, working memory, perception, motor control and emotion. So can we sleep better in modern society’s frenetic stress-filled life?”
“There are many ways to improve our sleep health. And as discussed here, weighted blankets can facilitate sleep by making us feel more comfortable.”
Given the ongoing dispute over whether weighted blankets provide significant advantages, this essay examines the pros and downsides of weighted blankets. It also looks at the precise scenarios in which weighted blankets may be ineffective.
Weighted Blankets and How They Work
Weighted blankets exert pressure on your body, similar to a hug. Weighted blankets employ a method known as deep pressure stimulation (DPS) to help the user feel more secure. Deep touch pressure delivered to the body – by hands, instruments, or blankets – can calm the neurological system.
Temple Grandin initially discovered deep pressure therapy while looking for a way to alleviate the anxiety of autistic youngsters. She wanted to give these patients something that didn’t seem limiting or restrictive, so she created a “hug machine” that gave mild pressure to the body. When she performed this, she detected oxytocin release in her patients.
Weighted blankets were created as a result of this research. They simulate the “hug machine” feeling by softly rubbing on the body and promoting oxytocin release.
Weighted blankets are a type of deep-pressure treatment that can enhance dopamine and serotonin levels in the brain. These “feel good” compounds can make the person feel peaceful, happy, and well. For this reason, weighted blankets have been used to treat symptoms of autism, sensory processing disorder, and depression.
How Do They Function?
The therapeutic benefits of a weighted blanket are based on a technique known as pressure therapy. It is a technique for enhancing the positive feelings of security that gentle but firm pressure frequently elicits.
Deep pressure stimulation (DPS) is thought to boost your body’s ability to produce serotonin, which aids in mood regulation. It’s a neurotransmitter, a chemical that sends signals from nerves to other nerves or cells.
DPS also increases the production of melatonin, Verified Source National Library of Medicine (NIH) World’s largest medical library, making biomedical data and information more accessible. View source another neurotransmitter that aids in sleep regulation. At the same time, the stress hormone cortisol appears to be reduced.
This appears to benefit people suffering from mental illnesses or agitation, such as dementia, Verified Source National Library of Medicine (NIH) World’s largest medical library, making biomedical data and information more accessible. View source However, the blankets are also being used to help anxious college students, military veterans with sleep disorders, and people with conditions such as multiple sclerosis. Verified Source National Library of Medicine (NIH) World’s largest medical library, making biomedical data and information more accessible. View source
Advantages of Using a Weighted Blanket
Although the weighted blanket has been around for a long time, it is only recently that people have recognized its non-medicinal potential for improving sleep. But a weighted blanket is helpful for more than just getting a good night’s sleep.
Reduces Insomnia Caused by Anxiety
Cortisol is the stress hormone released when you are stressed, apprehensive, anxious, or angered. The difficulty is that anxiety can lead to numerous restless nights, resulting in insomnia.
However, a weighted blanket thick on your body has been discovered to boost your feel-good chemicals known as dopamine, potentially lowering cortisol levels and decreasing the intensity of restlessness. In other words, it can help lessen anxiety for better sleep.
If you want other natural ways to help you drift off at night, we also suggest looking into the best teas for sleep. Herbal teas can relax the body and become part of your bedtime routine.
Other ways to relax at night include scented essential oils for sleep, which can further relax you as you’re tucked away under your weighted blanket.
Similarly, bedroom plants can relax you with greenery and a pleasant smell. However, some may prefer the simplicity of essential oils, which don’t require the care that a plant in the bedroom does.
Not only can they give warmth and security by providing pressure comparable to a hug, but they also have several health-beneficial side effects.
According to studies, a hug releases Verified Source Healthline Offers well-researched articles on all areas of health, and every post is peer-reviewed by a team of medical experts. View source the hormone oxytocin in the body, which aids in relaxing and makes you feel at peace. Oxytocin also slows the heart and lowers blood pressure, causing the body to relax and improve sleep.
Improves Social Interactions During the Day
Weighted blankets have been shown to increase users’ social interactions during the day because they were able to obtain a good night’s sleep the night before.
When a person cannot sleep well, it affects every element of their life, including social interaction and performance in other areas such as school or job. When a person regains their sleep, they frequently regain their lives.
Melatonin Synthesis is Increased
Melatonin is a hormone that promotes sleep and even aids in regulating our sleep cycle, or circadian rhythm. Melatonin appears to be connected to serotonin, which is triggered by the weight of a thick weighted blanket and also causes melatonin to be generated. Using a weighted blanket may help you increase your serotonin and melatonin levels.
A 2022 study observed Verified Source National Library of Medicine (NIH) World’s largest medical library, making biomedical data and information more accessible. View source that a weighted blanket “may result in a more significant release of melatonin at bedtime.” However, researchers noted that further study is needed to determine the frequency of this and the precise benefits of this boosted release.
Lowers Nervous System Activity
Anxiety, hyperactivity, and various other problems can result from an overactive autonomic nervous system. Weighted blankets can put your nervous system into “rest mode,” reducing the symptoms of worry, such as shortness of breath and increased heart rate.
A therapeutic weighted blanket assists in grounding your body during sleep, which can significantly boost the relaxing impact. According to research, grounding may help Verified Source National Library of Medicine (NIH) World’s largest medical library, making biomedical data and information more accessible. View source lower evening cortisol levels. This stress hormone has a detrimental effect on blood sugar, digestion, and immunity.
Reduced Movement at Night
If you toss and turn at night, sleeping with a weighted blanket on your body can help lessen movement. This assertion is supported by research: the ‘cocooning’ given by a weighted blanket can ease movement during the night, resulting in a more peaceful sleep.
Relieves Restless Leg Syndrome Symptoms
Weighted blankets can help relieve the symptoms of restless leg syndrome. Verified Source National Library of Medicine (NIH) World’s largest medical library, making biomedical data and information more accessible. View source Restless leg syndrome (RLS) is characterized by uncontrollable and fast leg movement.
This urge to move usually occurs while the individual in question is attempting to sleep. Applying pressure on the extremities of the legs for an extended period might reduce RLS symptoms, though more scientific research is needed to determine how helpful weighted blankets are with RLS.
Helps with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
A stressful experience in a person’s life might induce post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Verified Source National Library of Medicine (NIH) World’s largest medical library, making biomedical data and information more accessible. View source Weighted blankets have been shown to aid with symptoms of PTSD, hostility, and even bipolar illness. According to the PTSD Journal, a weighted blanket may benefit persons with PTSD and anxiety, stress, sleeplessness, and other chronic diseases.
Improves ADHD Behavior in Children
Weighted blankets have a favorable influence on falling asleep and enjoying uninterrupted sleep all night. They may help individuals feel comfortable during the day, according to research. They are most appropriate for children and people who have ADHD and ASD. The purpose behind its regular usage is to make the user, particularly children wiith autism and sleep problems or restless children with ADHD, feel comfortable and protected since the weight of the blanket helps satisfy the touch desire.
Assists Students in Concentrating
School might be difficult for a youngster with a sensory processing impairment, Verified Source National Library of Medicine (NIH) World’s largest medical library, making biomedical data and information more accessible. View source such as autism. Verified Source National Library of Medicine (NIH) World’s largest medical library, making biomedical data and information more accessible. View source The clamor and bright colors in the corridors and classrooms are deafening. This can be stressful for the youngster, resulting in irritation and sadness.
Educators and occupational therapists have long recommended weighted vests and lap cushions. Researchers think Verified Source National Library of Medicine (NIH) World’s largest medical library, making biomedical data and information more accessible. View source the hard yet moderate pressure reduces anxiety and keeps children focused. They also sleep better.
Aids in the Treatment of Autism Spectrum Disorder
Weighted blankets are said to benefit those on the autistic spectrum. Dr. Temple Grandin, also on the autism spectrum, invented the “squeeze machine,” which was originally tested on vaccinated cattle. Dr. Grandin discovered that the hugging machine gave the cows a relaxing sense.
She then tested her idea on autistic people and found it suitable. She observed that the machine made users feel calmer, more relaxed, and more sensitive to touch. Weighted blankets work on the same principle as Dr. Grandin’s gadget but in the form of thick blankets that may be used regularly.
Aids in the Treatment of Sensory Processing Disorder
Sensory processing disorder is best described as a “traffic jam.” Several impulses reach the brain, but they are inhibited as they journey. This is one of the reasons why toddlers and adults alike may feel overwhelmed for no apparent cause.
Sensory processing disorder can cause meltdowns in youngsters who cannot express their emotions to their parents or other adults. The blanket weight might help people get habituated to touching without feeling overwhelmed.
For example, you may want to look into weighted blankets as part of a bedtime strategy to help a child with autism sleep better.
How to Select the Best Weighted Blanket
Most people prefer a weighted blanket of about 10% of their body weight. Still, it would help if you considered your preferences when shopping for a weighted blanket. Weighted blankets are available in weights ranging from 7 to 25 pounds and in standard bedding and blanket sizes such as twin, full, queen, and king. Weighted blankets in kid or travel sizes are also available from some manufacturers.
Weighted blankets are often $100 to $300 more costly than conventional throw blankets. More expensive models are typically made of durable materials and may provide better breathability or other features.
Do weighted blankets help anxiety?
Weighted blankets put your autonomic nervous system into “rest” mode, lowering some of the symptoms of worry, such as a faster heart rate or breathing. This can help to create a general sense of calm. You should speak with your doctor about other options for managing your anxiety, but a weighted blanket can help with anxiety symptoms.
Do weighted blankets sleep hot?
A weighted blanket can feel hot at night. Because weighted blankets are heavy, they can trap heat and moisture and cause a person to sleep uncomfortably. On the other hand, some weighted blankets are breathable and include a heat-wicking substance to keep the body cool when sleeping.
Can you use a weighted blanket during the day?
There is no right or wrong time to use a weighted blanket, but many prefer it at night. Others may use it to unwind during the day if they find themselves feeling anxious and in need of pressure-based relief. If you find yourself wanting to use your weighted blanket, we suggest going for it.
How long does it take to get used to a weighted blanket?
It may take up to 14 days for your body to fully acclimate to the new weight. We generally build new habits in 14 to 21 days, so give your body time to adjust to the weight and the advantages. Deep slumber is on the way.
Can you sleep on your side with a weighted blanket?
Weighted blankets are equally effective for side sleepers and those who sleep on their back or stomach. Side sleepers should attempt the smaller weight if they choose between two weights, however. The blanket can feel different and press down differently in various positions.
Weighted blankets are intended to provide solid pressure on the body. This might help those who suffer from anxiety or stress Verified Source National Library of Medicine (NIH) World’s largest medical library, making biomedical data and information more accessible. View source and those with other mental or physical health issues.
They are frequently used as additional treatment aids for patients with ADHD or autism spectrum disorder. However, their usage in other medical therapy areas is being investigated. People suffering from chronic pain, cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy, and elders living in nursing homes are among them.
While there is some evidence that weighted blankets can aid people, particularly youngsters, there is currently a lack of studies that shows a definite advantage to using them. Still, the blanket can be a natural way to relieve insomnia symptoms.
About the author
Eric Ridenour is a health and wellness writer with a focus on sleep and nutrition. He has studied health science and psychology at a university level and has consulted several businesses and individuals on the connection between sleep and overall well-being including the effect lack of sleep has on other aspects of health such as exercise, nutrition, and concentration. He is a published author working on his second book.View all posts