Weighted Blankets: What You Need to Know

Should you tuck into bed with a weighted blanket? These trendy blankets are heavier than normal ones. The weight of the blanket puts pressure on your body as you sleep under it, almost like a warm hug. Weighted blankets may have health benefits, too.

What Are Weighted Blankets?

These blankets have extra heft. They may be made of heavier materials or layers of fabric filled with tiny glass or plastic pellets. They can weigh anywhere from 3 pounds to more than 20. It feels like the lead apron your dentist places over you when you get an X-ray.

Where Do You Find One?

Weighted blankets are sold at drugstores, department stores, or online. You can even make your own.

Weighted blankets aren’t cheap. They often cost between $65 and $200.

Why You Might Try a Weighted Blanket

Weighted blankets are used as an alternative therapy for several conditions:

Occupational therapists (OTs) sometimes use weighted blankets as part of therapy for children with sensory issues like anxiety or ADHD.

How Do They Work?

The theory behind these blankets is that the pressure of the weight provides some therapeutic value. It’s almost like a baby’s swaddling blanket that soothes it as it sleeps. Weighted blankets can:

Calm your nerves. Pressure from the blanket may trigger nervous system responses that lower your heart rate and breathing when you’re anxious. This can help you calm down and sleep. Weighted blankets could also help you stop tossing and turning in bed, so you lie still and go to sleep.

Trigger natural chemicals. The pressure could trigger your brain to release a chemical called serotonin, which helps your mind and body calm down. Serotonin can keep your mood steady and help with sleep.

Pressure may help your body release oxytocin, which may improve your immune system response, ease pain and stress, and help you sleep.

Sensory therapy. Weighted blankets may help some people with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) or ADHD who are overstimulated by noise around them. At bedtime, the blanket’s pressure may help them feel safe and protected. They calm down and get some rest.

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Do They Work?

There’s no solid proof that weighted blankets treat health or sleep problems. One study found that college students who slept under weighted blankets for one semester had lower anxiety and better-quality sleep. People who had dental treatments with a weighted blanket placed over them said the pressure reduced their anxiety.

Weighted blankets don’t improve sleep for kids with autism, according to one study. Children who slept with the blankets didn’t fall asleep faster, sleep longer, or wake up less often.

If you have insomnia, try using a weighted blanket along with a good sleep routine, like going to bed at the same time each night or turning off your phone. You could also try proven techniques like cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) to help you sleep better.

Who Shouldn’t Use Weighted Blankets?

Infants, toddlers, or very young children shouldn’t use a weighted blanket. The pellets or glass beads can fall out and become a choking hazard. The heavy blanket could cover a child’s face while they sleep.

If you have sleep apnea, breathing problems, or any chronic health condition, check with your doctor before you use a weighted blanket. Ask your child’s pediatrician or therapist before letting your child sleep under one. They aren’t safe for children with epilepsy, breathing or heart problems, skin allergies, blood circulation problems, or those who can’t remove the blanket on their own.

Before You Buy One

Select a blanket that weighs no more than 10% of your body weight, and check the washing instructions first to see if it’s easy to launder at home. Make sure you or your child like the way the fabric feels and are comfortable with how much it weighs. You don’t want to feel hot or trapped by the blanket’s weight.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Carmelita Swiner, MD on April 20, 2020

Sources

SOURCES:

Harvard Medical School: “Anxiety and stress weighing heavily at night? A new blanket might help.”

Penn Medicine: “More Than Just a Fad: 4 Ways Weighted Blankets Can Actually Help You.”

Understood.org: “Weighted Blankets and ADHD: What You Need to Know.”

Gillette Children’s Specialty Healthcare: “Weighted Blankets Bring Calm and Comfort.”

Oxford Health/National Health Service: “Guidance on the Use of Weighted and Compressing Products.”

National Sleep Foundation: “Will a Weighted Blanket Help You Sleep Better?”

Endocrine Society: “What Is Serotonin?”

Illinois Wesleyan University School of Nursing: “Effects of Weighted Blankets on College Students’ Anxiety.”

Journal of Medical and Biological Engineering: “Physiological Effects of Deep Touch Pressure on Anxiety Alleviation: The Weighted Blanket Approach.”

Pediatrics: “Weighted Blankets and Sleep in Autistic Children: A Randomized Controlled Trial.”

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