In recent years, a lot of conversation and internet buzz has been created around the idea of weighted blankets. Although the name is certainly indicative of what a weighted blanket is, a whole host of questions exist around the topic. In this article we’ll take a deep dive into the subject of weighted blankets, providing answers to the questions that you have been asking (and probably some you hadn’t thought to ask also!)
How Do Weighted Blankets Work?
When looking at why weighted blankets work, it’s important to understand the underlying science of pressure touch stimulation. Referred to in the medical and psychiatric community as Deep Pressure Stimulation (DPS), an increasing amount of research has been made into how touch affects various factors of people’s health.
Some people may ask the question: why are weighted blankets comforting? The concept of DPS and weighted blankets follows along with the idea of how it feels good to receive the gentle squeeze of a hug. In the same way that swaddling a baby or holding a child tends to relax the nervous system, pressure applied to the body through the use of a weighted blanket may work in a therapeutic manner for children and adults.
When deep pressure is applied to the body, anxiety and stress that are part of the ‘fight or flight’ response can be calmed and soothed, resulting in the body and mind functioning within the ‘rest and digest’ mode instead. This can be thought about as if there is a switch in the nervous system that can be triggered by using pressure. This switch takes the body and mind from feelings of being on high alert to a sense of calm. The muscles relax, heart rate slows, circulation improves, and endorphins are released. An overall sense of well-being is experienced.
Are Weighted Blankets Good for You?
Although they may not be for everyone, for most people who use them weighted blankets can be very beneficial. They can provide a myriad of benefits to the physical, mental, and emotional health.
Weighted blankets used for natural, therapeutic purposes can result in the following benefits:
- Increased sense of happiness and well-being
- Decreased anxiety and depression
- Improved social interactions
- Better quality sleep
- Increased mental focus
- Lowered touch sensitivity
- Effective treatment for various health conditions
- Relief of symptoms related to sleeping disorders
What Are Weighted Blankets Used For?
Weighted blankets can be used for a wide variety of health problems, disorders, and just for a general feeling of well-being. Because they are completely natural and do not require a prescription or doctor’s recommendation, weighted blankets can be tried out by almost anyone. Issues ranging from insomnia to Alzheimer’s, from sensory processing to seizures, and a whole host of others can be impacted by the use of deep pressure therapy from a weighted blanket.
Of course, anyone who has a medical condition or mental illness should be under the care of a physician and should discuss with their doctor the use of weighted blankets as an alternative, natural treatment.
Can Weighted Blankets Help with Anxiety?
Many people who have anxiety find that medication is not effective for them, or they prefer to try a more natural form of combatting their struggles. Weighted blankets work for anxiety because they help to ground the body during sleep by pressing it down into the bed, offering a deeply calming and therapeutic effect.
Cortisol is a stress hormone that is released as part of the ‘fight or flight’ response, creating a sense of restlessness and anxiety when a person is not actually in a situation of danger. Cortisol can have a negative impact on the immune system, circulatory system, and nervous system. This stress hormone can also wreak havoc on the digestive system, increase blood sugar levels, cause unhealthy weight gain and compromise the overall health and well-being of a person.
Studies have shown that the use of a weighted blanket can help to reduce levels of cortisol that are released during use. Cortisol is released when the brain is experiencing stress and feels under attack. The grounding effect of weighted blankets can give the brain reassurance that all is right with the world and break the cycle of anxiety and stress. This can trigger the release of serotonin and dopamine, the feel-good hormones that fight off stress, anxiety and depression.
One study (reported in Journal of Occupational Therapy in Mental Health) specifically related to the use of weighted blankets showed that they can be safe and effective when used to reduce anxiety. This study of 32 adults revealed that 63% of participants reported lower levels of anxiety with the use of a weighted blanket.
Can Weighted Blankets Help with Depression?
Depression is one of the world’s most common mental disorders. As anxiety and depression are often linked together and may people who struggle with one, struggle with the other. And in the same way that weighted blankets can help with anxiety, they can also be a useful tool to battle against depression. The release of feel-good hormones such as serotonin and dopamine mean that the body and brain are getting an extra dose of happiness simply by making use of a weighted blanket.
Many users of weighted blankets have stated that it has helped them to break out of the downwards spiral of depression. In addition to the release of hormones, depression sufferers can also benefit from the help that weighted blankets give for sleeping. As depression and insomnia are often linked together, as well as negative thought patterns that reduce harmony and create stress, getting a good night of sleep through the use of a weighted blanket can help. When you have slept well and your body is producing happier hormones, things tend to look just a bit better in the morning and it may be easier to get through the day.
Of course, depression is not something to be taken lightly or treated on your own. Talk to your doctor about whether using a weighted blanket for depression would be an effective, natural treatment option. It’s a small change that could make a big difference in the battle against the darkness and fatigue of depression.
Can Weighted Blankets Help with Fibromyalgia?
Weighted blankets and chronic pain is a connection that is still being studied, but many benefits are being discovered. Although there is no cure for fibromyalgia, efforts can be made to minimize the amount of pain experienced. One study which was reported in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine has shown that the grounding effect of the human body during sleep may help to reduce pain. As the use of a weighted blanket helps to reduce cortisol production, it can improve sleep, reduce stress, and even alleviate pain.
One of the main problems that fibromyalgia sufferers deal with is the inability to get sleep that is properly restorative. As weighted blankets tend to help with insomnia and lack of sleep, increasing the product of melatonin and serotonin, it stands to reason that they can be helpful when used by people with fibromyalgia. When a deeper sleep is gained, the pain and fatigue of fibromyalgia can be reduced and quality of life restored to a higher level.
People who have fibromyalgia or other forms of chronic pain may need to be cautious when trying out weighted blankets as it is difficult to know how each individual person will react. Some people with fibromyalgia have reported an increased ability to sleep and a sense of well-being, along with relief from some aches and pains. This is likely due to the increased levels of serotonin that can be released with using a weighted blanket. Other people, however, may experience an increase in pain due to the pressure of the weighted blanket, especially if the blanket is very heavy and the person is particularly sensitive to pain.
Can Weighted Blankets Help with RLS?
Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS) is a condition that occurs when have uncomfortable sensations in their limbs during sleep, causing them pain, discomfort, and a sense of needing to move them. Most commonly occurring in the lower extremities (but may also occur in the arms or torso), RLS may be caused by a number of underlying issues, it may be hereditary, or it may exist on its own. Getting a full night of sleep is difficult for a person with RLS, as well as for their spouses.
Treatment for RLS may include medications, massage, iron supplements, and relaxation techniques. Weighted blankets and Restless Leg Syndrome may be a combination that works just as well as medication for some people. Deep pressure stimulation may be used as an effective form of relief to provide a calming solution to the nervous system while releasing serotonin that soothes the body.
When people with RLS use a weighted blanket, they are able to be soothed into healthy sleeping patterns more easily, reducing movement while inducing feelings of relaxation and calm. Healthy, restorative sleep patterns can change everything for people who suffer from restless leg syndrome. And this is great for the person with RLS, as well as for the spouse.
Why Weighted Blankets for Autism?
Autism was one of the earlier conditions that was linked with the use of weighted blankets, vests, and other items. Because of the growing need for help with sensory issues, weighted blankets were developed to help provide a soothing calm, especially to children with autism who were not able to soothe themselves. Many weighted blankets have been designed specifically with children who have Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) in mind.
Children with autism may use weighted blankets while they sleep, but they also may access them during the day as a form of therapy to promote a sensation of peace and calm. The Deep Pressure Stimulation that the blanket offers produces much-needed serotonin and offers a feeling of safety and comfort. Even just draping a weighted blanket over the lap or shoulders of a child who is struggling with autistic behaviors can help the child find relief throughout the day.
Children with autism who have struggles with sleep disruption may also benefit from the use of a weighted blanket. Some children who fall on the autism spectrum will have troubles falling asleep or staying asleep, and are unable to soothe themselves back to sleep if they wake up in the night. The use of a weighted blanket for autism, can help to reduce sleep disturbances and make sure the child (and parent!) is well rested and more able to function the next day.
Because weighted blankets are a completely natural form of therapy, and relatively affordable in comparison to many other options, many doctors and occupational therapists are recommending weighted blankets for children with autism. These can be a tool for reducing the frequency and intensity of meltdowns, increase academic focus at school, promote healthier attitudes toward social situations, and help to get better sleep.
Weighted Blankets for ADHD
Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) has become more and more prevalent in today’s world. Again, the concept of Deep Touch Pressure lends itself as a natural aid to battle the many symptoms related to ADHD. For children and adults alike, weighted blankets for ADHD can help to ease stressful disturbances throughout the day by taking advantage of the soothing effects that they have on the body.
Weighted blankets act as a trigger for the brain for chemical hormone production. As the natural calming chemicals (serotonin and melatonin) are released by the brain into the body, the stress hormones (cortisol and adrenaline) are counteracted and the body and mind are calmed.
One study of children with ADHD found that those who used Deep Pressure Therapy were able to concentrate better and focus longer than those without. This is particularly effective as occupational therapists see a vast improvement for children in the classroom who are taking advantage of weight therapy.
Weighted blankets for ADHD can be used in a number of scenarios throughout the home by simply draping the blanket across the lap or over the shoulders. They can be sued in the car for children who have difficulty staying calm during travel, for concentration during homework time, or for help with relaxation when it is time to go to bed. Because children with ADHD are more likely to have sleeping issues than children without ADHD, using a weighted blanket can help significantly with overall quality of life.
Are Weighted Blankets for Dementia?
With a growing aging population, older adults can often come to a place where they are physically well but their minds have been affected by dementia. Whether Alzheimer’s disease or some other cause, dementia is a serious concern that affects a large number of people, and can lead to anxiety because of the loss of memory or awareness of current situations.
Many caregivers of people with dementia are looking for non-drug, natural options for reducing anxiety in their elderly patients or family members.
Scientifically shown to relieve anxiety through the use of Deep Pressure Therapy, weighted blankets offer a sense of comfort through gentle pressure. As the body triggers the production of serotonin, the muscles release tension and the mind tends to calm down. In older people struggling with the confusion and distress that is related to dementia, a weighted blanket can help to change everything.
One important note when using weighted blankets for dementia is to be sure that the person’s doctor is aware of its use. Certain medical conditions in elderly people may not be compatible with the use of weighted blankets, such as poor circulation, or lack of temperature.
It is important that the weight of the blanket must be such that the user is still able to move comfortably underneath. As people with dementia may be a in a physically weakened state, it is critical to make sure that the person is not weighted down under the blanket and it doesn’t limit the user’s circulation.
Are Weighted Blankets for PTSD?
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a mental health condition experienced by people who have been exposed to traumatic events. These may be especially prevalent in war veterans who have witness troublesome events, or for people who have gone through some other form of terrifying event. Sometimes the emotional struggles of PTSD are delayed and do not show up until later in life.
PTSD often comes along with distressing brain activity, whether awake or asleep. These may be flashbacks or nightmares which often manifest themselves as difficulty sleeping. The weighted blanket helps to increase feelings of comfort, pump up the amounts of serotonin (feel-good hormones) and reduces anxiety. Combined, these factors all make people with PTSD ideal candidates for the use of a weighted blanket as part of their therapy and treatment to help regain a healthy sense of life.
Are Weighted Blankets Good for Sleep?
These seemingly magical weighted blankets offer a variety of benefits, and one of the most notable is the use of weighted blankets for insomnia and sleep issues. When it comes to weighted blankets and sleep, the potential for positive benefits certainly shouldn’t be ignored.
Weighted blankets have been shown to trigger the release of serotonin, a feel-good hormone that reduces stress. Not only does serotonin help you feel good during the day, but it is a brain chemical that stimulates the release of melatonin. And melatonin is the chemical that instigates deeper and healthier sleep patterns. Because of the use of unnatural lighting and, melatonin production may be compromised in today’s world, but a weighted blanket can restore melatonin and help promote a more regular sleep schedule.
As a weighted blanket creates that feeling of being swaddled, the weight is believed to promote a sense of comfort and sleepiness that is beneficial to relaxing the body as well as the mind. The simple fact that weighted blankets are heavy can help to reduce the amount of tossing and turning that a sleeping person does at night, allowing for a deeper and more effective time of sleep.
One study from the Journal of Sleep Medicine and Disorders showed that people who suffered from insomnia were able to sleep better with a weighted blanket, simply because they felt more settled in bed. It is important to note that a weighted blanket is not a cure-all for every sleep related problem. For instance, using a weighted blanket for sleep apnea or other sleep breathing disorders may be counterproductive as it could cause more difficulty for the person to breathe during the night. Check with your doctor if you have questions about a weighted blanket and sleep apnea.
Can Weighted Blankets Help with Night Terrors?
Nightmares and night terrors can be just as scary and stressful to the mind and body as events that happen during real life when we are awake. Night terrors often occur in children, who are not very aware in the morning of what happened during the night. People who have night terrors may physically move around in bed, kicking or lashing out in a violent manner.
Some people have found that the use of weighted blankets for night terrors can be helpful by increasing the ability for the person to sleep more deeply. In addition, the weight of the blanket offers a comfort factor that may decrease the fear of the night terrors that are happening during the non-REM stage of sleep.
Because night terrors are believed to be caused by an overactive central nervous system, and they tend to happen more often when a person is under a significant amount of stress, the use of weighted blankets makes sense. As serotonin is released, it helps to calm the nervous system, stress and anxiety are decreased, and night terrors are less likely to happen. Plus, the weight of the blanket may keep the person from thrashing around as much during a night terror, allowing them to get better quality rest overall.
Are Weighted Blankets Comfortable?
Most people find that a weighted blanket is comfortable and soothing for use all night long. Because of the heaviness, these blankets can sometimes create additional heat, making it ideal for the temperature in the bedroom to be kept low when possible. Well-made blankets should distribute the weight evenly without feeling too heavy.
Using a weighted blanket may take some getting used to for some people. But others find that they like the feeling immediately. It is critical that the person using the weighted blanket is able to easily move underneath without feeling trapped or uncomfortable. Having a blanket that is just over 10% of the person’s body weight is ideal for a healthy child or adult.
Can Weighted Blankets Be Too Heavy?
It is certainly possible to get a weighted blanket that is too heavy and actually does more harm than good. This could be particularly true if the person using the blanket is a child, elderly, or has some other reason that they are unable to move as easily underneath the weight of the blanket. Weighted blankets and claustrophobia may be linked in situations when the person using the weighted blanket has a feeling of being trapped, rather than feeling comforted.
Are Weighted Blankets Hot? (Are weighted blankets warm?)
In general, weighted blankets are likely to feel warmer than a normal blanket, simply because of the amount of material that goes into making them. But the amount of heat that a one generates on your body will likely depend on the materials from which it is made.
Weighted Blankets and Night Sweats
A weighted blanket with glass beads may be cooler than one that is made with plastic, simply because the plastic would have a tendency to conduct heat while the glass beads may remain cooler and more comfortable. People who use weighted blankets with night sweats may find that they are uncomfortable. Of course, keeping the room at a lower temperature for sleeping is always recommended.
Are Weighted Blankets Noisy?
Although most manufacturers seek to add batting or padding to weighted blankets, they may make some noise when the beads shift as you move about under your blanket. This would depend on the type of filling used to make the blanket, as well as the way the blanket is made. Blankets made with sand are likely to be less noisy, and the padding used will also help to muffle any sound made by the weights.
Are Weighted Blankets Safe?
While weighted blankets are safe for most of the general population, there are some people who should not use a weighted blanket because of the certain risks. People who should check with their doctor before using a weighted blanket include those with:
- Chronic health conditions
- Circulatory issues
- Breathing or respiration problems
- Issues with temperature regulation
- Menopausal symptoms
Who Are Weighted Blankets Good For?
Useful for almost anyone who struggles with sleeping problems, anxiety, or even chronic pain, weighted blankets are typically used for individuals as they are weighted to the size of the person using them. Weighted blankets for couples would be more complicated if made into one full blanket, because each person needs a different weight. Many couples who use weighted blankets find that it is best to purchase a separate blanket for each person so that they can be tailored in size.
Are Weighted Blankets Safe for Children?
Children with various struggles are great candidates for need of extra comfort and care. Weighted blankets for kids can be effectively used and safe, as long as they are made to the right weight specifications and are not too heavy.
Are Weighted Blankets Safe for Toddlers?
Toddlers over the age of two may benefit from the use of a weighted blanket, assuming that it is carefully chosen to have the right amount of weight distribution. A blanket that is too heavy could be detrimental or even dangerous for a small child if they find themselves trapped and unable to move or breathe.
Some people want to use weighted blankets for babies, but this is a very risky endeavor. As babies are still developing their ability to move and breathe properly, a weighted blanket could cause a baby to get trapped underneath and be unable to breathe. For safety purposes any child under the age of two years old should not be exposed to the use of one. For newborns, it is suggested that no loose bedding is used as any type of blanket could contribute to breathing problems or even suffocation.
Are Weighted Blankets Safe During Pregnancy?
Pregnant women who are otherwise healthy may find the use of a weighted blanket to be soothing and comfortable, battling against pregnancy woes. Insomnia, restless leg syndrome, pregnancy anxiety and other issues can keep moms-to-be from getting the quality of sleep that they need. It is wise to ask a doctor or midwife in case there are complications to your pregnancy, but for the most part a weighted blanket should be safe and effective for use during pregnancy.
Are Weighted Blankets Safe for Pets?
Pets that experience anxiety may benefit from the use of a weighted blanket in the same way that humans do. Cats who pace in the middle of the night or dogs who whimper during thunderstorms can be particularly upsetting and stressful. Some dogs and cats who appreciate the benefits of the weight may use a small weighted blanket, appropriate for their size.
Small pets, or those that have breathing troubles or arthritis, may be at risk if using a weighted blanket. And if your pet is one that chews things, then this could make a terrible mess if they chew through the blanket and release the beads everywhere. Some pet owners prefer to use a weighted vest that fits on the pet like a garment, making it easier to control.
Are Weighted Blankets Covered By Insurance?
Some insurance companies are beginning to cover the cost of weighted blankets if they are prescribed by a doctor and related to a diagnosed health issue. The same applies to weighted blankets covered by FSA. Of course, all of this depends on each policy and should be researched prior to purchase. The same answer is given when people ask: are weighted blankets are covered by Medicaid? Check with your doctor and insurance provide for more information.
How Are Weighted Blankets Made?
Weighted blankets are more than just that pile of heavy quilts that you used to lie under at your grandma’s house. Weighted blankets are made so that their inner lining is filled with weighted material that is evenly distributed throughout the blanket.
Typically made from a lightweight cotton material on the outside, weighted blankets are filled with some sort of bead or sand, possibly made of plastic, glass or (less commonly) metal. The outer shell of fabric should be sewn into smaller ‘pockets’ that each contain some filling. They may also have some sort of batting or padding that is usually made from cotton or polyester. This batting helps to pad the weight and keeps the blanket feeling soft and comfortable so that the pressure is gentle.
Can Weighted Blankets Be Washed?
The answer to this question depends on the specific manufacturer’s instructions for laundering. Many weighted blankets can be washed on a gentle cycle in cold water. Some can be tumble dried while others may need to be hung to dry. When using a weighted blanket with removable cover, it is easier to take care of the blanket because it is protected most of the time.
Where to Buy Weighted Blankets?
Because of the wide variety of sizes and weights needed for different people, weighted blankets are often not well-stocked in local stores. Instead, they can be ordered online through individual company sites or, even easier, through Amazon. Purchasing your weighted blanket online allows for the best possible size and feature options that are tailored specifically to the person who will be using it.
Why Are Weighted Blankets So Expensive?
If you’re not prepared for it, shopping for weighted blankets could cause a bit of sticker shock at first. Buying a weighted blanket is not the same as buying a down comforter or a new bedspread. Weighted blankets are specifically created to therapeutic and they are specialized products that are not cheap to make.
High quality, breathable cotton for the outer shell is pricey, as well as the cost of the glass or plastic pellets or sand that are used to fill the blanket and add weight. Not only are the materials expensive, but the process of manufacturing them is not as simple as making normal bedding. The precision required to keep the weight evenly distributed is complicated as it must be weighed and result in a specific weight for different sizes of people.
In addition, the stitching and thread that is used in a weighted blanket must be much more secure and durable than that of a regular blanket. This is because the pellets or beads can put pressure on the seams of the pockets and will be susceptible to leaks. Quality control issues must be put in place to keep blankets from leaking and falling apart.
Which Weighted Blanket Should I Buy?
Choosing which weighted blanket to buy can feel a bit overwhelming considering that there are many types and brands of weighted blankets for sale and it’s difficult to know which weighted blanket is best.
Some of the factors you’ll want to consider when choosing a weighted blanket include:
- Size Options. Some companies offer a greater range of weights and sizes to fit different beds and people.
- Materials. Higher quality materials such as weighted blankets from organic cotton will be more expensive but also probably more durable.
- Warmth. Certain weighted blankets are made to conduct less heat and keep you comfortable without getting too warm. Natural materials such as cotton and glass will conduct less heat than synthetic materials, such as polyester and plastic.
- Warranty. Because weighted blankets are a long-term investment, you want to make sure that the company stands behind its product. Choose one that offers a warranty for 1-2 years so that you know you are protected in case of manufacturer’s defects.
- Cover. Because laundering isn’t easy, you may want to choose a weighted blankets with a cover. Or at least one that has a cover available for separate purchase. This is especially true if using you weighted blanket for children. The best covers will come with ties on the inside so that they can be easily secured to the blanket and avoid bunching.
- Style. Some people are concerned about the look of their weighted blanket. Many companies offer color variations or fabric patterns that match décor or are interesting to children.
- Sensory Fabrics. Weighted blankets that are made for people with anxiety or autism may have a side that is made from minky dots or some other soft fabric that helps to soothe.
What Size Weighted Blanket Should I Buy?
Typically weighing between 4 and 30 pounds, each weighted blanket should be purchased with the individual user in mind. The standard for weighted blankets is that they should weigh approximately 5-10% of the person’s body weight for adults, and 10% plus 1 to 2 pounds for children. So a person who weighs 100 pounds should have a blanket that weighs around 10 pounds.
It is very important not to use a weighted blanket that is too heavy for your body or you may not be able to move underneath and could be dangerous. This is especially true when trying to decide what size weighted blanket to buy for children or for the elderly, who may be less likely to communicate of they are uncomfortable or unable to move well.
Are Weighted Blankets Worth It?
The answer to this question is dependent on personal experience, but most people would answer this with a resounding ‘Yes!’ Weighted blankets are worth the investment because of the therapeutic benefits, peace of mind, and increased health that they offer. Some people say that their weighted blanket has actually changed their life and they would never try sleeping without one again!