Benefits of Weighted Blankets
A weighted blanket, or gravity blanket, is a heavier-than-usual duvet, comforter or throw blanket that’s meant to provide gentle pressure to the body that feels like a soothing embrace. These blankets were originally designed as therapeutic tools for people on the autism spectrum, struggling with anxiety or PTSD or diagnosed with sensory disorders. However, weighted blankets have become much more commonplace over the last five years.
If you’re considering purchasing a weighted blanket or simply wondering whether the benefits of this bedding trend are backed by scientific facts, this article will serve as a guide. Keep reading to learn what a weighted blanket is, the benefits of using one, who they’re best for, and the risks of weighted blankets. We’ll also share our top five picks for the best weighted blankets of 2021 and share tips for choosing the right one for you.
A weighted blanket is a therapeutic blanket that usually weighs between five and thirty pounds. The firm-yet-gentle pressure applied by the blanket is said to mimic a therapeutic technique called deep pressure stimulation.
Deep touch pressure stimulation (DPS), or pressure therapy, uses hands-on pressure to improve mood, ease anxiety, lower blood pressure, decrease heart rate and alleviate pain. Deep pressure touch works by switching the body from its sympathetic nervous system to its parasympathetic nervous system. In other words, the nervous system moves from “flight or flight” to “rest and digest.”
DPS was first used for people with disorders that keep them in the sympathetic nervous system state for too long, but weighted blankets have become popular in recent years as a tool to help reduce stress and improve sleep habits for the overworked, exhausted, and more.
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The science of weighted blankets is spotty, but self-reported studies show that some adults report benefits. The Journal of Sleep Medicine has also published research articles about the positive effects from the use of a weighted blanket for insomnia. Here’s how you may benefit from the use of a heavy blanket.
- Mimics a Comforting Hug—When someone gives us a hug, the body releases oxytocin, which decreases blood pressure, helps us relax, and slows heart rate. A weighted blanket can give you the same sensation when friends, family or a romantic partner aren’t around.
- Decreases Activity of the Sympathetic Nervous System—This proven physiological effect of the weighted blanket should affect sleep quality positively.
- Improved Sleep Quality—Insomnia is a common issue for adults and children, and a poor sleep-wake cycle can have a negative effect on one’s entire life. Weighted blankets provide a calming effect that can improve deep sleep.
- Release of Serotonin—Serotonin release impacts the sleep-wake cycle because it helps regulate the depth of sleep at various stages throughout the night. DPS has been proven to stimulate serotonin levels by encouraging them to release consistently and naturally.
- Stress Hormone Reduction—Cortisol (the stress hormone) is a necessary hormone for the human body, but too much of it can wreak havoc. Weighted blankets work to decrease cortisol and increase oxytocin (the feel good hormone).
Who Can Benefit from a Weighted Blanket?
Weighted blankets are often used in occupational therapy for people with mental health issues or those who have a sensory processing disorder, such as autism spectrum disorder. Although heavy blankets have been used for these patients for years, weighted blankets have recently become attractive to the general population and people with other medical conditions for a wide variety of other benefits. Here’s who a weighted blanket can benefit and how.
- People with Sleep Issues—If you struggle to achieve a good night’s sleep consistently and have tried prescription sleep medicine or over-the-counter aids like melatonin, a weighted sleep blanket could be a good addition to your toolkit. Natural melatonin levels have been found to increase with the use of deep touch pressure in patients who have insomnia.
- Those with Sensory Issues or Symptoms of Autism—Sensory integration therapy, which includes the use of weighted blankets, can help patients with sensory issues or autism regulate their emotions and behavior. People with sensory issues tend to be hyper-aware of touch and weight, and blankets can help them become less sensitive over time.
- People with Restless Leg Syndrome—People with restless leg syndrome (RLS) have a tingling sensation in their legs that happens most frequently at night. Many turn to compression socks for relief, but a weighted blanket can meet their craving for deep pressure without the constriction of socks.
- Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder Patients—OCD is characterized by obsessive behaviors and has a range of symptoms. Low serotonin is a common issue for OCD sufferers, and weighted blankets have been shown to increase its release. People who struggle from panic disorder, panic attacks, anxiety disorder or post-traumatic stress disorder can benefit from a weighted blanket for this same reason.
- Fibromyalgia Patients—Fibromyalgia is characterized by chronic pain that can be debilitating. There is no cure for this disease, but a weighted blanket’s pressure may help ease pain during flare ups.
- Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder—People who are diagnosed with ADHD struggle with a lack of focus. Restlessness, inability to complete a task, and impulsiveness may be issues for ADHD patients. The DPS offered by weighted blankets can help release anxiety, improve the mood and promote stillness.
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While weighted blankets are appropriate for most adults and children, there are a handful of risks associated with weighted blankets to be aware of.
- Weighted blankets should not be used for children ages 2 and under, as it may increase the risk of suffocation.
- Weighted blankets are not appropriate for people with disrupted breathing at night (sleep apnea), asthma, or claustrophobia, among other health issues.
The most important factor to consider when deciding on a weighted blanket is the right weight for your body type. The general recommendation is to find a blanket that weighs about 10% of your body weight, so if you weigh 200 pounds, look for a 20 pound weighted blanket.
That being said, it’s important to make sure your weighted blanket feels comfortable to you. Look for options that are breathable, durable, and filled with high-quality materials.
Which weighted blanket should you buy? It depends. These are some of our top picks for weighted blankets. We listed options for shoppers on a budget, light and heavy body types, and more.
The Gravity Blanket—Editor’s Pick
The Gravity Blanket, available on Amazon, is sold in 15 pound, 20 pound and 25-pound options and comes in three neutral colors. It has a gridded stitching for even weight distribution and an eco-friendly micro glass bead filling. The cover features a velboa plush that’s soft and warm for people who sleep cold. If caring for the environment is one of your primary concerns, take a look at our best organic mattresses.
Layla Weighted Blanket—Most Versatile
The Layla Blanket is sold in a 15- to 25-pound range and has a reversible, 2-in-1 design with two sides (one with plush microfiber and the other with 300-thread count cotton). The softer side is warmer for winter, and the cotton side is cooler for people who tend to sleep hot. The cover is filled with glass beads between two layers of polyester batting.
Blanquil Chill Weighted Blanket—Best Cooling
The Blanquil Chill is the perfect weighted blanket for sleepers who want to ensure they’ll sleep cool with the extra layer. The Chill is designed with a special fabric that disperses body heat and is filled with eco-friendly glass beads. It’s not the most affordable option on this list, but it comes with a 60-night sleep trial. If you sleep hot, our best cooling blankets roundup could also help you find your next favorite blanket.
Baloo Weighted Blanket—Best Value
The Baloo Cool Cotton Weighted Blanket has a 15- to 25-pound weight range and is made with a quilted cotton cover that makes it especially warm for winter. It’s priced very affordably considering its quality, and the cotton makes it breathable for summer. It’s filled with lead-free glass microbeads and is free from harmful chemicals.
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