Weighted Blankets: Do They Actually Work?
You have to wonder if the weighted blanket would be as popular if it went by a more appropriate name. For example, adult swaddling. In essence, these trendy comforters, also known as gravity blankets, are meant to achieve the same effect as wrapping a newborn — providing a womb-like sense of comfort and security. Still, some claim that weighted blankets are a godsend, able to help correct physical as well as mental health issues that otherwise disrupt sleep.
So what’s the truth? We take a look at some of the claims made around weighted blankets to see if you really do need to sleep under 20 lbs. of duvet.
What Is a Weighted Blanket Exactly?
In short, a weighted blanket is a comforter filled with small objects such as pellets or beads (usually plastic or glass), giving it added weight that presses down on the user. Some filling types are blended with material like cotton so that the blankets maintain a more traditional feel. They can weigh anywhere from 10 to 30 lbs. for adults, with child-safe options that aren’t recommended for infants.
Weighted Blanket Benefits*
There are claims that weighted blankets can be helpful for everything from ADHD to fibromyalgia. But a lack of conclusive research makes such claims hard to validate with any degree of certainty.
1. May help insomnia
In 2015, a study published in the Journal of Sleep Medicine & Disorders tested the effects of weighted blankets on a group of adults who suffered from chronic insomnia. After a week of sleep tracking, 84 percent of the participants slept longer and woke up less during the night than they did with a normal blanket. They also reported finding it easier to settle into sleep under a gravity blanket, and felt more refreshed in the morning.
2. May reduce anxiety
There’s limited research suggesting that a weighted blanket promotes “feelings of safety, relaxation, and comfort,” according to a quantitative analysis published in the Journal of Medical and Biological Engineering. Additionally, a pilot study of patients in a psychiatric unit found gravity blankets “particularly useful” in significantly reducing distress. They’ve even been shown to help reduce stress among patients undergoing wisdom tooth removal.
3. May ease restless leg syndrome
There’s a growing sense that weighted blankets might be the combination of physical and mental soothing uniquely suited for the treatment of restless leg syndrome (RLS). “While I can only speak to the sleep topics,” says Dr. W. Christopher Winter, president of Charlottesville Neurology and Sleep Medicine and author of The Sleep Solution: Why Your Sleep Is Broken and How to Fix It, “weighted blankets do help with RLS.” In fact, the Cleveland Clinic included weighted blankets in its list of doctor-approved home remedies for RLS.
How Do Weighted Blankets Work?
One reason explaining the benefits some people derive from weighted blankets may be that, in addition to their sheer weight, they stimulate what researchers refer to as “tactile inputs.” The material inside the blankets produces a tangible sensation when you move, which can feel like a caress or a cuddle. That’s believed to promote the release of endorphins and serotonin, which have relaxing, calming effects.
The problem with prescribing weighted blankets comes down to the lack of definitive science one way or the other. A lot of it comes down to personal preference over quantifiable results.
“People like them, but that may fall short of scientific proof,” says Dr. Winter. “Which is OK. I think my wife loves me. I don’t really need proof to enjoy her company!”
Dr. Winter believes that choosing a weighted blanket is a personal preference rather than a radical form of treatment. “I think for some people they do [help them sleep better], but the question of ‘do weighted blankets actually help you sleep better?’ is right up there with ‘do comfy pajamas help you sleep better?’ ‘Does a better mattress?'”
How to Shop for a Weighted Blanket
The first thing you have to consider when buying a weighted blanket is: How heavy should it be? It turns out that not all gravity blankets are the same size and weight, so to reduce the risk of crushing yourself in the night, you’ll want to look for a blanket that’s roughly 10 percent of your bodyweight.
For example, someone who is 150 lbs. would be most comfortable with a 15-pound blanket. If you fall between the standard weights of blankets, it’s generally better to choose the heavier option.
Weighted blankets come in different types of fabric as well, so you’ll need to consider whether you have any sensitivities (like, say, you can only sleep under cotton or else your skin will feel irritated). The same is true of the filling: A blanket with beads and cotton will feel more like a “regular” blanket, while other types of fillings (like plastic pellets or even sand) will provide different sensory experiences.
Best Weighted Blankets on Amazon