If you are someone who has experienced sleep problems or has trouble falling asleep, you might have heard of weighted blankets. The companies selling these kinds of blankets may claim that they have all sorts of health benefits, ranging from improved sleep quality to reduced anxiety.
However, there isn’t currently a lot of research out there to back up these claims. So, are these trendy blankets really effective? And are they worth the investment?
Let’s take a closer look at the science behind weighted blankets to find out whether they can really help you get a good night’s sleep.
What is a Weighted Blanket?
Weighted blankets, also called gravity blankets or anxiety blankets, are heavy blankets designed to distribute pressure evenly over your body. The idea is that pressure can provide certain therapeutic effects that can lead to improved sleep, reduced anxiety, and less chronic pain.
These blankets look similar to regular blankets but are a little thicker in size. They typically contain pockets filled with ball bearings, beads, plastic pellets, or heavy fabrics that provide the extra weight, which may range anywhere between five and 30 pounds.
How do Weighted Blankets Work?
Weighted blankets provide deep pressure stimulation (DPS), a sensation similar to the feeling of being hugged, squeezed, or held. This stimulation, which is also sometimes called deep touch pressure therapy, is a therapy widely used by therapists working with children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD).
The pressure from weighted blankets is said to activate your parasympathetic nervous system, which can lower your heart rate and have a calming effect on breathing. While this all may sound great, research is mixed on whether weighted blankets are effective.
Some studies show that this type of stimulation can reduce symptoms of stress and anxiety, while other studies have found insufficient evidence to support the therapeutic effects of weighted blankets. More research is still needed to determine if these blankets can really improve symptoms of things like anxiety or insomnia.
Do Weighted Blankets Really Have Health Benefits?
As we’ve mentioned, weighted blankets are often touted as beneficial for insomnia, anxiety, autism spectrum disorder, chronic pain, and ADHD. But are these claims really backed by science? Let’s take a look at some of the evidence for each potential benefit.
May Be Helpful for Symptoms of Anxiety
Anxiety disorders affect about 19 percent of the U.S. population every year. Studies show that weighted blankets may be useful in reducing anxiety, but conflicting studies suggest there is not yet enough evidence to draw a firm conclusion. Since the research on this subject is currently limited, more studies are needed to determine whether the use of weighted blankets may really reduce symptoms of anxiety.
Can Improve Insomnia and Trouble Sleeping
The effects of weighted blankets have also been studied on sleep disorders such as insomnia. In one small 2020 study, 120 patients were given either a weighted blanket or a light blanket. After 4 weeks, the patients with the weighted blankets had a significant improvement in sleep maintenance, daytime activity levels, and reduced symptoms of daytime fatigue, depression, and anxiety.
While this study is promising, larger studies are needed to corroborate these findings and determine if weighted blankets may help with insomnia and better sleep.
People with Autism
Deep pressure therapy has been found to be beneficial for reducing stress in people with autism, but is this true in the case of weighted blankets? In one study of twelve children with autism, children who received weighted blankets showed a reduction in tension and anxiety.
Another study on young children with autism found that the use of a weighted blanket led to improved sleep quality. However, large-scale research is still needed to confirm these potential connections.
Can Be Beneficial for Chronic Pain
Weighted blankets are also advertised as a way to improve chronic pain symptoms. In one 2021 study, 94 adults with chronic pain were given either a 15 pound or five pound blanket to use for one week.
Interestingly, patients with heavier blankets experienced significant reductions in their perceptions of pain, particularly in patients that also had anxiety. As with the other claims, however, long-term research is needed to establish a definitive link.
May Improve Symptoms of ADHD
There are few studies on the effects weighted blankets or similar products may have on symptoms of ADHD, or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. One randomized control study, for example, showed weighted blankets may benefit insomnia for people with ADHD specifically.
Another 2014 study found that a weighted vest can improve inattention, speed of processing and responding, executive management, and on-task behaviors in children with ADHD. More research is needed to determine if these benefits can also apply to weighted blankets.
Do Weighted Blankets Have Any Risks?
Weighted blankets are considered safe for most adults, but most blankets come with an age limit of 4 or older. Some doctors recommend not letting any children sleep with weighted blankets, as it could potentially block their airflow during the night. You may want to consult a pediatrician before letting a child use a weighted blanket.
Weighted blankets may not be suitable for people with claustrophobia, sleep apnea, chronic respiratory problems, or circulatory conditions such as low blood pressure. If you have one of these health conditions, talk to your doctor before using a weighted blanket.
What to Consider When Choosing a Weighted Blanket
While benefits of weighted blankets may be subjective or depend on the individual, you may still want to try one out for yourself. These blankets can be a bit higher in price, so here’s some advice on how to choose the best weighted blanket for you and your needs.
Is Your Blanket the Right Weight For You?
When choosing the correct weight for your blanket, opt for one that is about 10 percent of your body weight. For example, if you weigh 200 pounds, a 20 pound blanket may be your best bet. A blanket that is any heavier than this may be uncomfortable, and a lighter blanket may not give you the desired effect.
What’s the Best Weighted Blanket Material?
Weighted blankets come in a variety of materials, like fleece, cotton, and even bamboo. Depending on how you sleep, the blanket’s material could be an important choice.
Bamboo, which tends to be cooling, may be a good choice if you run hot or sweat while you sleep. A material like fleece, on the other hand, may be your go to if you run cold and need some extra warmth while you sleep.
What Filling Should Your Weighted Blanket Have?
As mentioned earlier, there are several different filling options. Some weighted blankets are filled with plastic, glass, metal beads, grains, heavy fabric, or even sand. How can you know which filling is best?
Glass beads are a popular filling because they are a more environmentally friendly choice than plastic. You may also want to note that sand tends to clump up, especially when wet, so weighted blankets filled with sand may not be washable.
Popular Weighted Blanket Brands in 2022
There are many weighted blankets options on the market. Here are a few popular brands and their advertised benefits.
1) The Cotton Napper from Bearaby
The cotton napper from Beraby is a hand-knitted blanket made from organic cotton. As its name suggests, the napper is designed as a throw for a single person, so it’s a better choice if you’re looking for something for an afternoon nap rather than a full size comforter.
It ranges in price from $199 to $279. It is available in 10, 15, 20, or 25 pounds and comes in 6 colors, including Asteroid Grey, Evening Rose, and Midnight Blue.
2) Weighted Blanket from Gravity
The weighted blanket from Gravity comes in single sizes and a queen/king size, and is available in 15, 20, and 35 pounds. According to their website, 76 percent of people who used a Gravity blanket reported falling asleep faster and feeling more rested in the morning. They also found that 54.7 percent of customers reported feeling less stressed and anxious after using the Gravity blanket.
This blanket comes in seven colors and features a micro-plush duvet cover over an inner weighted blanket that is filled with glass beads. They range in price from $249.99 to $299.99.
3) Weighted Blanket from Baloo
This weighted blanket from Baloo is made with a 100 percent cotton exterior and interior and free from polyester or synthetic liners. It is machine washable, dryer safe, and filled with glass microbeads.
Baloo blankets are available in 12, 15, 20 and 25 pounds and come in two different colors. They range from $179 to $249.
4) Cooling Bamboo Blanket from Luna
Luna’s cooling bamboo blanket has an outer shell made from 100 percent lyocell bamboo, with a polyester and glass bead filling. This blanket is hypoallergenic, antimicrobial, and thermo-regulating.
It comes in six different colors and is available in 10, 15, 20, and 25 pounds and in kid, twin, full, queen, and king sizes. Luna’s blankets range in price from $64.99 to $124.99, making it a more affordable choice than many other brands.
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Heather is a Registered and Licensed Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN, LDN), subject matter expert, and technical writer at Nutrisense, with a master's degree in nutrition science from Bastyr University. She has a specialty in neuroendocrinology and has been working in the field of nutrition—including nutrition research, education, medical writing, and clinical integrative and functional nutrition—for over 15 years.