Why a weighted blanket? There’s nothing better than a warm snuggly bed to help you relax. You’ve got your pillows, you’ve got your sheets and you got that big old blanket to keep you warm no matter how cold it is outside.
Some say if you really want to let go of all your stress, you should try a heavier blanket like 13.5 kilograms heavier. That’s because a lot of people swear by weighted blankets as a way to reduce anxiety, self-soothe or just sleep better. And the research to date does kind of support their use but it’s not clear if these blankets do something specific or just act as a placebo.
What is a weighted blanket?
As the name implies, a weighted blanket refers to a blanket that’s been specifically made heavier usually with beads or chains sewn evenly through the fabric. Adding a dozen kilograms or so to your covers might sound smothering, but according to safety studies it doesn’t pose a significant health risk to adults. That said, it’s worth noting that this sort of extra weight isn’t suitable for everyone especially unsupervised children.
There’s no real consensus on what weight to use either. Many say around 10% of your body weight is the sweet spot, but how heavy you go is up to you. Some people like their blanket a little heavier some a little lighter. Different people are different.
Weighted blankets are often suggested in mental health communities particularly for people with anxiety. They’re also commonly used by people with autism, to soothe people with dementia or by people who have trouble sleeping. And with so many uses across diverse conditions, that sound too good to be true. Research suggests there may actually be something to them.
Benefits of Weighted Blankets
Weighted blankets were originally designed as a therapeutic tool for people with sensory issues, but now they’re being marketed for everyone. Marketing that a product works tends to be way in front of the science in terms of proving that it does, but in this case, it’s just a blanket. If it feels good, then in a way it’s working but there’s also good logic as to how they work.
- They decrease sensory input by sort of hugging you in a warm cocoon. Now, that may sound wonderful sort of for many people and not so wonderful for others like the claustrophobic out there but who has booths like processing disorders or even ADHD, those people can get a little more easily overwhelmed at times.
- Weighted blankets create that feeling of pressure and know that you’re kind of limbs are against your body that feeling of pressure really is a sensory experience. And what is scientifically know is that that sensory experience is that the tighter your space for many people not all be comfort.
- It can help in the same way that an anxious person can benefit by going into a dark and quiet room again to sort of calm a sense basis forget about anxiety. It helps create a more safe and emotional comforting space for sleep.
- Helps one to sleep faster and no interruptions. This is especially helpful to those people who experience stress and anxiety. Such people tend to take long before sleeping and when they sleep, they might wake up in the middle of the night hence not getting enough adequate sleep.
- Lowers stress levels and reduces anxiety. It is a proven fact, weighted blankets help alleviate stress and anxiety reducing the chances of duress.
- Reduces blood pressure and lowers pulse level. This is a proven fact, the body will be at ease and in relaxation mode. This way, weighted blankets not only help to boost your immune system, but also gives you peace of mind.
- Helps people with ASD. Weighted blankets were initially used for sensory integration therapy. This type of therapy helps improve autistic patients behavior as well as emotions.
- Helps alleviate symptoms of Restless Leg Symptom (RLS). This is because the deep pressure of weighted blankets help stimulate legs and people with RLS can sleep peacefully without waking up
Is there any research done on weighted blankets?
There are several studies that show subjectively at least that sleeping with a weighted blanket helps people feel less anxious. For example, in a 2008 study involving 32 adults, 63% of them reported reduced anxiety on a standardized questionnaire after sleeping with a 13.6 kilogram blanket and 78%% of them said they felt more relaxed with it.
Other anxiety studies have had similar results and even in studies that don’t look at anxiety specifically a pretty large portion of participants seemed to just like the experience for what it is. For example, 31 participants with chronic insomnia in a 2016 study reported feeling safer and more comfortable when they slept with a weighted blanket. They also believed they slept better and they were right. Sleep quality data revealed that they tossed and turned a whole lot less under the heavy blanket. They also stayed asleep for longer intervals.
Similarly, both the children and their parents in a 2014 study involving 67 kids with autism reported liking the weighted blanket better. The other thing is in that study it didn’t actually seem to help them sleep longer.
In fact, when it comes to improving sleep the researchers are pretty mixed bag same with their used by people with autism. Sometimes they seem to help with things like anxiety or behavioural symptoms. Sometimes they don’t.
There is some evidence that a weighted blanket can help you relax during a stressful situation. A 2016 study monitored 60 patients’ heart rates while they were getting their wisdom teeth removed with 30 of them receiving a weighted blanket halfway through. The data suggested that while everyone found the procedure stressful, those that didn’t receive a heavy blanket spent more time in fight or flight mode. Basically, they were freaking out while others were able to somewhat calm down.
But not all scientists think the heart rate measures used are reliable indicators of nervous system activity. And no one really knows how weighted blankets could trigger a more relaxed state.
Some scientists think they provide deep pressure stimulation a type of pressure that is thought to trigger your nervous systems chill mode. But even if that’s true, there’s a bit of a gap with regards to how that works. It could be a cognitive thing. That pressure makes you feel like you’re being held or hugged and that feeling is just super reassuring, something we’ve evolved to find relaxing.
Or something about the weight itself could trigger changes to the cells that nudge the nervous system towards relaxation. Or any benefits could be a placebo effect. People feel relaxed or sleep better when wrapped in these heavy blankets simply because they believe that’s what should happen
For many, weighted blankets are a source of relief and for some, pretty unpleasant symptoms. Blanket hugs are great, but they definitely don’t work for others and scientists can’t really say why. In the end, it all comes down to individual preferences. Different people are different. So ultimately, it’s up to you if you want to give this snuggly coping technique and try.