What is a Weighted Blanket?

Weighted blankets, also known as gravity blankets, feel like getting a giant hug while you’re sleeping at night. However, they do much more than keep cozy. Compared to your average…

Last Updated On December 4th, 2021
What is a Weighted Blanket?

Weighted blankets, also known as gravity blankets, feel like getting a giant hug while you’re sleeping at night. However, they do much more than keep cozy.

Compared to your average blanket, weighted blankets produce a calming effect to potentially improve the symptoms of various conditions. For example, a weighted blanket can help with ADHD, insomnia, and autism.

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Occupational therapists have used weighted blankets in therapy for ages. However, they’ve become increasingly popular for everyday individuals looking to improve their sleep. Both children and adults can use weighted blankets to make getting to and staying asleep much easier.

How Do Weighted Blankets Work?

Weighted blankets are a form of throw blankets. They come in two forms, knitted or duvet. Knitted weighted blankets feature a dense yarn, while duvet weighted blankets are filled with heavy materials, such as discs, glass beads, or plastic pellets.

The blankets can weigh anywhere from 3 to over 25 pounds. However, it shouldn’t feel overly constricting or hot. The right blanket size and weight of the blanket will depend on a person’s:

  • Age
  • Body weight
  • Sleeping position

With this in mind, no toddlers or kids under 2 years old should use a weighted blanket.

Weighted blankets are commonly used for patients in occupational or sensory integration therapy to mimic the sensation of deep touch pressure (DTP) therapy. Deep pressure stimulation relaxes the central nervous system and releases serotonin Verified Source National Library of Medicine (NIH) World’s largest medical library, making biomedical data and information more accessible. View source and oxytocin. These neurotransmitters lead to a calm feeling overall.

Benefits of Weighted Blankets

What-is-a-Weighted-Blanket

Since weighted blankets mimic deep pressure therapy, they offer similar benefits. These benefits primarily affect your sleep and mental health. Weighted blankets provide a non-intrusive, non-medicinal solution to improving your comfort at night by:

  • Soothing anxiety
  • Cradling your body
  • Raising your melatonin levels

Has a “Hug-Like” Feel

When hugging another person, the body releases oxytocin. Verified Source National Library of Medicine (NIH) World’s largest medical library, making biomedical data and information more accessible. View source This hormone lowers blood pressure and heart rate, promoting relaxation.

Babies commonly relax and respond well to being swaddled because it releases oxytocin the way being hugged or cuddled does. As an adult, a weighted blanket can recreate this swaddled, “hug-like” sensation.

Soothes Stress and Anxiety

Experiencing some level of stress and anxiety is normal for us. However, it is draining and eventually negatively impacts our mental, emotional, and physical health if not addressed. Sleeping with a weighted blanket can ease the autonomic nervous system—which affects the body’s basic functions and also triggers the body’s fight or flight response.

Improves Sleep Quality

Tossing and turning, late-night anxiety, and overall discomfort is bound to happen to all of us at some point. All of these can affect your sleep latency and duration. If you’re constantly struggling to get restful sleep at night, you may want to try a weighted blanket.

Studies on insomnia find using weighted blankets limits movement, in turn inducing sleep. Not only that, but the deep pressure stimulation from a weighted blanket triggers melatonin production. Melatonin is the hormone known for causing sleepiness and regulating the body’s circadian-rhythm. Verified Source National Library of Medicine (NIH) World’s largest medical library, making biomedical data and information more accessible. View source

Boosts Mood

One of the great parts of using a weighted blanket is it can help improve your mood. Using a weighted blanket stimulates serotonin and oxytocin production. Paired with decreased cortisol (the stress hormone) production, Verified Source National Library of Medicine (NIH) World’s largest medical library, making biomedical data and information more accessible. View source using a weighted blanket can make you feel more upbeat and improve your overall well-being.

Calms Individuals With ADHD

It’s common for people with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) Verified Source National Library of Medicine (NIH) World’s largest medical library, making biomedical data and information more accessible. View source to struggle with:

  • Lack of focus
  • Poor self-control
  • Restlessness
  • Impulsivity

One study found that when wearing weighted vests, people with ADHD were able to complete and focus on tasks better. Similarly, the deep pressure stimulation from using a weighted blanket reduces sleep onset latency Verified Source National Library of Medicine (NIH) World’s largest medical library, making biomedical data and information more accessible. View source significantly, improving the person’s attention span and focus during the day.

May Foster Sleep For People With Autism

Some individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) may struggle with anxiety and stress, along with sensory issues that make it difficult to feel comfortable. Touch therapy Verified Source Harvard University A private research university located in Cambridge, Massachusetts that's one of the oldest in the U.S. View source is shown to be beneficial for people with ASD as it soothes anxiety and muscle spasms. Sleeping with a weighted blanket mimics the sensation of touch therapy, thus producing similar benefits.

Helps With Sensory Disorders

Sensory disorders Verified Source National Library of Medicine (NIH) World’s largest medical library, making biomedical data and information more accessible. View source are common for children and people with autism or anxiety disorders. The pressure placed on sleepers’ bodies minimizes overstimulation and provides a sense of security with that “hug-like” feel we mentioned earlier. By feeling less stimulated and more comfortable, people with sensory disorders can have a better time sleeping.

Alleviates Symptoms of Restless Leg Syndrome

When struggling with restless leg syndrome (RLS), it’s common to experience a creeping, crawling sensation on your legs, leading to discomfort and tossing and turning throughout the night. Applying pressure on the legs, such as with a weighted blanket, can help combat RLS symptoms and make it easier to sleep.

Decreases Seizure Occurrences

While not all health benefits are guaranteed, deep pressure stimulation triggers the parasympathetic nervous system (SNS). This system is responsible for the body’s rest and digestion response after a “fight or flight” situation. The calming sensation from a weighted blanket lowers heart rate, relaxes muscles, and improves blood circulation, which can potentially decrease the rate of seizures at night.

FAQs

Can you wash a weighted blanket?

Yes, weighted blankets are machine washable! It’s best to wash weighted blankets on their own on a cold cycle or spot clean any stains with a mild detergent. However, if your weighted blanket weighs more than 10 pounds, take it to a laundromat as commercial washing machines can handle heavy loads better than standard ones.

To minimize how often you wash the blanket, try pairing it with a duvet cover. Duvet covers are usually used with comforters and duvet fills to keep them clean. However, you can use it with a weighted blanket, too. Using a duvet cover can help you get away with washing a weighted blanket three or four times a year.

Are weighted blankets good for side sleepers?

People can enjoy weighted blankets regardless of their primary sleeping position. However, when side sleeping, we recommend using a weighted blanket no heavier than 15 pounds. An overly heavy blanket can place too much pressure on your side. This added pressure can push your body down and cause pain.

Is it okay to sleep with a weighted blanket every night?

Yes, it’s fine to use your blanket nightly! In fact, the benefits of weighted blankets improve with time, so it’s best to use them frequently. Some people prefer only using their weighted blanket for 20 to 30 minutes before sleeping. However, it’s fine to sleep with a weighted blanket all night, every night.

Do weighted blankets make you hot?

Although weighted blankets are heavier than the standard blanket, they aren’t hotter than the standard blanket. Whether or not your weighted blanket will make you hot depends on the fabrics and materials it’s made from.

Look for blankets made from fabrics such as Tencel™, cotton, or bamboo. In terms of the blanket’s filler, micro glass beads generally allow for more air circulation compared to polyester pellets.

How do I know if a weighted blanket is too heavy?

Weighted blankets come in all types of weights, but there are some clear signs to look out for if a weighted blanket is too heavy for you:

  • You struggle to move under the blanket
  • You have difficult breathing or feel suffocated (claustrophobia) Verified Source National Library of Medicine (NIH) World’s largest medical library, making biomedical data and information more accessible. View source
  • You feel trapped and uncomfortable, not at ease
  • You feel restless and can’t relax
  • You can’t sleep well

Conclusion

Weighted blankets have so much to offer whether you’re just looking to sleep better or alleviate specific health conditions you’re facing. They do take some time to adjust to. However, after a few weeks of consistently using your weighted blanket, you may notice yourself falling asleep faster. You may also feel less anxious or more energetic.

Although weighted blankets are often used in therapeutic forms, they’re readily available at:

  • Drugstores
  • Department stores
  • Online stores

They’re a bit pricier than the average throw blanket, often costing between $65 to $300. However, many weighted blanket owners say they’re worth the investment. While it is an additional cost, we suggest purchasing a duvet cover with a weighted blanket. Duvet covers can slip over a weighted blanket and protect it from dirt, stains, and spills.


About the author

Mitchell Tollsen is a graduate student and a freelance writer who’s contributed to the Early Bird blog for three years. Mitchell’s always been fascinated by the science of sleep and the restorative processes our bodies undergo when at rest. The self-titled “Sleep Expert” is always looking for ways to improve his shut-eye, and throughout the years has implemented numerous lifestyle changes and tried dozens of sleep-promoting gadgets to determine the best ways to truly get better rest.

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