Weighted blankets are more than just a heavier type of regular blankets; they also provide various therapeutic benefits. Science explains why they produce so much stress-relief and calming effects on the body and mind.
Due to their heaviness, weighted blankets produce pressure-type effects similar to what is known as deep pressure stimulation on the body. Deep pressure stimulation helps soothe the nerves by creating a feeling of warmth and comfort to the recipient.
Deep pressure stimulation, also known as deep touch pressure or deep touch stimulation, has been widely used in mental health care settings for its positive therapeutic impacts to help people with autism, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, and other developmental disorders manage their symptoms better. Mary Temple Grandin, an American scientist, first introduced deep touch pressure devices, which she describes as the “Squeeze machine” to calm children with autistic disorders and ADHD who generally prefer deep pressure sensations.
This form of therapy became mainstream with the introduction of commercial types of weighted blankets, as many now use it to induce deep relaxation, sleep, and the feeling of comfort and security. Weighted blankets gained more widestream popularity around 2017 and continue to be a widely sought-after addition to many bedrooms and couches.
Weighted blankets are heavy blankets and can weigh up to 30 pounds. When used on the body, they produce a lull that eases the mind and body and may help relieve anxiety and stress symptoms and potentially support sleep.
5 Benefits of a Weighted Blanket
Many studies allude to weighted blankets as practical therapeutic tools for helping almost anyone looking to de-stress, find calm, and even get better sleep.
Here are five benefits of weighted blankets for physical and mental health.
1. They may help calm the nerves.
Weighted blankets may help people go through distressing situations with some comfort and relief that helps them feel calmer and generally better and less tense about what’s to come.
One study published in the Journal of Formosan Medical Association found that deep pressure therapy may help reduce the symptoms of physical stress that come with removing a wisdom tooth.
The study explained that applying deep pressure input on patients of tooth surgery may activate parasympathetic activity, the rest, digest, and recovery part of the nervous system, to alleviate pain, stress, and anxiety. The study even suggests that it may also be more effective than local anesthesia for relieving pain because anesthesia only lessens pain without providing soothing relief on the patient, like deep pressure input.
2. They may help reduce anxiety.
Flowing from its calming effects, it’s no surprise that weighted blankets may also be effective for relieving anxiety symptoms.
Research shows that weighted blankets provide a “feeling of a firm hug, holding, swaddling, or massage” that may be deeply comforting. These effects may help anyone going through stress and anxiety manage their symptoms and feel more relaxed and grounded.
According to a systematic review on the benefits of weighted blankets in managing anxiety and insomnia, weighted blankets may be effective tools for easing anxiety.
3. They may improve the overall well-being of people with autism and ADHD.
Weighted blankets may provide various physical and mental health benefits for people living with ADHD and autism, and there are numerous studies to back this up.
A 2010 study exploring the use of weighted blankets to manage sleep problems in 21 children with ADHD found that ball blankets may help children with ADHD fall asleep more quickly, increase total sleep duration, and reduce the number of times they wake up at night.
In contrast, a study published in Pediatrics, the Official Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics, found that children with autism who had severe sleep disorders did not exhibit changes to sleep measures. Nonetheless, the study found that parents and children prefer using weighted blankets regardless.
Additionally, a 2014 study found that weighted vests (sharing the same effects as the weighted blankets) may help children with ADHD develop impulse control, focus, attention, processing time, and their ability to participate in a learning environment actively. Another study recommends weighted blankets for improving the living conditions of people with ADHD.
4. They promote deep relaxation.
Looking for something that may help you feel nurtured, secure, and comfortable so that you can relax better? The weighted blanket may also produce feel-good hormones—like oxytocin, serotonin, and dopamine that evoke positive emotions or happy feelings—that may help the user feel on top of the world and, at the same time, safe, under the blankets. It may also reduce cortisol, the stress hormone, so your body can rest and recover.
Additionally, participants of a study examining the therapeutic benefits of deep pressure stimulation with a weighted blanket reported feeling a “sense of relaxation” using the weighted blankets.
5. They may aid sleep.
Weighted blankets are cozy. So, if you have trouble sleeping, they may be the remedy you’ve been missing. Weighted blankets, when used, may activate physiological processes in the body that help it wind down for a good night’s rest.
A 2020 study suggests that weighted blankets may improve sleep health and daytime activity and alertness in people with major depressive disorder, bipolar disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, or ADHD.
The study investigated the effects of weighted blankets in 120 people with depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety, and ADHD. And after four weeks, it found significant improvement in their insomnia symptoms. A 12-month follow-up phase of the study supported the long-term benefit of weighted blankets on sleep. It found that participants who continued using the blankets sustained the sleep benefits, while patients just adopting the weighted blankets had similar improvement in insomnia symptoms as the participants after the four weeks.
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How Can a Weighted Blanket Improve My Sleep?
A weighted blanket produces a “grounding” effect similarly to deep pressure stimulation that makes it particularly effective for inducing a relaxing experience for its user. And according to a study, grounding during sleep may reduce night-time cortisol levels, improve sleep, and support a person’s circadian rhythm (internal body clock regulating sleep-wake cycles).
Also, according to experts, weighted blankets increase parasympathetic activity (responsible for processes relating to rest, digestion, and recovery) and reduce sympathetic nerve arousal (the fight-flight mechanism of the nervous system), which may help you relax and wind down for quality sleep.
Generally, the coziness and the feeling of security a weighted blanket provides makes it particularly useful for helping you fall asleep faster and sleep deeply.
How Do I Pick the Right Weight for Me?
You may be confident that the weighted blanket is what you need to improve your sleep health, but how do you choose the right one for you?
Manufacturers of these blankets recommend that you get one that weighs about 10% of your body weight. But babies and people with health conditions like obstructive sleep apnea, respiratory problems, claustrophobia should avoid using weighted blankets as it may adversely affect their health. Always consult your healthcare provider if you have concerns before trying a new product for health and wellness.
Weighted blankets make you feel like you’re being held or hugged, and sometimes that’s all we need to feel better and calm. Numerous studies support their therapeutic effects on the mind and body, so getting one may be a great choice to improve your sleep and wellbeing.