Here are the benefits of using a weighted blanket:
- Reduces stress and anxiety. Using a weighted blanket feels like being hugged, which can trigger the production of serotonin and oxytocin (the “love hormone”) that makes you feel good and less stressed. This is the primary benefit of weighted blankets and one that many people have reported on (link, link, link, link, link, link).
- By reducing stress and anxiety, weighted blankets can also result in better sleep.
- Improving sleep, in turn, also helps with pain management and can reduce chronic pain (see Can Weighted Blankets Help Reduce Chronic Pain?)
- Provides sensory input that allows the brain to relax and stop doing extra work to determine the body’s location (link). This can be especially beneficial for autistic children.
I have included comments submitted to us on the benefits of weighted blankets below, which go into more detail on the above points. Among the contributions below, there are many professionals who are very much qualified to comment on this topic, and who have seen first-hand the benefits that weighted blankets can bring. These include a licensed clinical social worker, a licensed professional counselor (here) and a licensed marriage and family therapist (here), among others. Where specific claims are made, studies supporting them are also given.
If you’re qualified to comment on the benefits of weighted blankets, you may also make a submission here and we’ll add it to this article.
Weighted blankets provide a type of sensory input called proprioception, also known as how someone understands where their body lies in space. In other words, proprioception helps us to comprehend how our body interacts with its environment. Basic examples are: Are we sitting or standing? Are our arms up or down? However, proprioception can also give our bodies information about more complex movements or bodily processes we are not even aware of. Low proprioception can cause symptoms such as anxiety, inability to regulate emotions, difficulty understanding where our bodies are in relation to our environments, poor sleep, low energy levels, and more. A brief way to increase the amount proprioception we receive is to seek out deep pressure over large surface areas. What does this mean? Pressure or outside input that places weight on our muscles and joints will send internal signals that reach deep below our skin. This must be provided over a large surface area, for example, our entire torso, all of our limbs, or our entire body, in order for our bodies to register this input and relieve symptoms.
Sensory input from weighted blankets provides the body and mind of an individual who has difficulty regulating their movements and emotions with information as to the body's location in their environment. This type of information/input allows a person's brain to stop doing extra work to determine the body's location on its own. In this sense, once the brain is no longer devoting extra energy to this task, it can focus on other vital functions, including sleep.
Similarly, if the brain is consistently working to determine the body's location in order to calm a person's system down, this can be very disorienting and distressing to the mind. This can result in symptoms such as anxiety, irritability, impulsivity, and other mood changes. When the brain sends the information it needs to the body, this calms the mind and relieves mood-related symptoms such as anxiety. Just as this orienting information calms the brain and relieves mood changes that result from poor proprioception, this same information also allows the brain more energy and space to focus on the vital function of sleep. Additionally, less anxiety typically helps to improve the quantity and quality of sleep.
Children with autism typically demonstrate mild to severe sensory regulation concerns. As such, proprioception is a type of sensory input (just like seeing, hearing, tasting, touching, and smelling) that can be dysregulated in children with autism. Autism can cause some children to demonstrate behavioral and/or social difficulties as a result of their bodies and minds being dysregulated, depending on the severity of their condition. Weighted blankets can provide children with autism with the information their bodies need, which can serve to regulate their behaviors and improve their ability to function in daily activities.
Muscle recovery is largely dependent on the release of hormones and the synthesis of proteins. While these are basic cellular functions that our bodies are programmed to engage in, our cells need rest and recovery in order to help our muscles with large-scale recovery that may be needed after a major workout, race, or illness. Sleep also helps our bodies absorb the water that we took in during the day, which is then used to power our cells for continued recovery. Rest allows our bodies to heal from the lactic acid build-up that occurs after major muscle use or injury.
--Brittany Ferri, Simplicity of Health, LLC
The science behind weighted blankets is pressure therapy or deep touch pressure, which can be thought of similarly to being hugged/held or getting a massage. The weight of the blanket mimics these, which could trigger the production of serotonin (a feel good neurotransmitter that can aid in sleep) and oxytocin, which is our love hormone that supports the management of stress levels.
When individuals experience anxiety, their heart rate can increase which is distressing to the body. If prolonged anxiety or stress occurs, one's body could be exposed to heightened levels of the stress hormone, cortisol, which can be tiring to our body. The pressure of a weighted blanket can slow our heart rate. Therefore when we use a weighted blanket when experiencing anxiety, it can slow our heart rate and trigger our parasympathetic nervous system (much like the process that occurs when we take deep breaths). When our parasympathetic nervous system is activated, it creates a calming feeling. An additional benefit is that we could slow or stop the production of cortisol.
Overall, weighted blankets can be extremely comforting to those that use them. Who wouldn't want to try something that could improve sleep, challenge anxiety, and help us manage stress?
--April Hope, Clarity Clinic
Weighted blankets are on my list of suggested items to try for clients with anxiety, especially those who find it hard to fall asleep due to a looping soundtrack of anxious thoughts. Some clients report liking the feel of the gentle pressure and say that it helps calm their nervous system as they initiate sleep. Is this scientifically supported? Not robustly, but even if you chalk it up to a personal preference like having a white noise machine or using a body pillow, it could be worth a try. A weighted blanket is not going to cause harm, except a ding to the wallet, and if it makes clients more comfortable and feel better as they sleep, that is benefit enough.
In the past, prior to the pandemic, I have kept one in my therapy office for clients to sample during the session. Typically, that's enough time for them to say if they like the feeling of pressure or not. (On a personal note, two of my own kids swear by their weighted blankets, while I absolutely cannot stand using one because it makes me feel trapped and uncomfortable.)
--Elizabeth Brokamp, Nova Terra Therapy
Touch is an incredibly important element of life that produces happiness and increased quality of life, which many of us have been missing during COVID-19 (such as individuals who are either single or separated from their networks and family). As a couples therapist, a lot of the work I do has to do with building or rebuilding meaningful connections between people. Touch is important because it stimulates the production of oxytocin, which is known as the love hormone, as it helps to negotiate the experience of attachment and creates a feeling of well-being. Oxytocin is both a hormone and a neurotransmitter that inhibits stress and increases calmness. Studies show that increases or decreases in neurotransmitters such as oxytocin can have a striking impact on thoughts, feelings, and behaviors.
I mention all of this because even if you're alone, there are hacks that can be used to simulate touch if you're isolated and one of the primary options is a weighted blanket. Weighted blankets imitate the effects of a warm embrace from a loved one. If you really want to get the most impact from your use of a weighted blanket, I'd recommend having a video chat with someone you care about while having the blanket on top of you. Between the emotional connection you have with the person and the sensation of weight from the blanket, you can get boosts of oxytocin, which can be really impactful for your overall mood. Additionally, weighted blankets are preferred by many for sleeping, as it helps stir anxiousness in general and restlessness in sleep. Overall, weighted blankets have a lot of benefits, so I recommend them for patients.
--Kelly Edwards, Just Mind Counseling
Weighted blankets can be called as therapeutic blankets as they relax your nervous system with deep pressure stimulation. It plays a role similar to massage therapy, and by relieving pain, reducing anxiety enhances your mood. It makes you feel secure and comfortable, which increases the quality of sleep. In both adults and children, weighted blankets help to sleep better with a calm mind. (https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32204779)
Anxiety makes you feel nervous and worried. Racing thoughts in your mind during anxiety results in an inability to sleep. Weighted blankets help to reduce the persistent occurrence of thoughts and worries by deep pressure stimulation. Thus it reduces anxiety resulting in better sleep.
Trouble sleeping is one of the symptoms of autism. Using weighted blankets in children with autism works similar to a therapist. During autism therapy, a therapist applies touch pressure on some points of the body that brings calmness and reduces anxiety. Weighted blankets help in calming the nervous system, which enhances the release of serotonin and dopamine. This improves the mood and helps to focus better. Serotonin also boosts the release of melatonin hormone, which is responsible for restful sleep. (https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25022743)
--Dr. Rashmi Byakodi, Best for Nutrition
Weighted blankets work similarly to pressure therapies, where the body experiences deep pressure from the blanket's weight. The sheet's ideal weight should be within the five to ten percent range of a person's body weight for optimal results.
According to a study in 2016 published in the Journal of the Formosan Medical Association (https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0929664616301735) (Volume 115, Issue 10), weighted blankets helped reduce the anxiety of levels of patients that underwent tooth extraction.
Aside from relieving anxiety and pain management, weighted blankets also show promise in alleviating symptoms of autism and ADHD (https://www.healthline.com/health/anxiety/do-weighted-blankets-work#who-may-benefit) in small children. The best part is that there is minimal risk of using weighted blankets, as long as people keep it away from toddlers, asthmatics, and claustrophobes.
--Jeremy Owens, Seriously Smoked
Some people like their blanket a little heavier, some a little lighter. The weighted blankets are often suggested in mental health communities, particularly for people with anxiety or depression. They're also commonly used by people with insomnia or by people with autism.
According to a study (A Systematic Review Assessing Bidirectionality between Sleep Disturbances, Anxiety, and Depression ), anxiety and sleep are closely related to each other. You must have noticed you get a good sleep when you do not have any problems or worries. And on the contrary, if you are thinking about something before sleeping, then your sleep breaks frequently at night, or you have to face a lot of difficulty in sleeping.
Besides, a study (https://adaa.org/understanding-anxiety/related-illnesses/sleep-disorders) also claims that stress and anxiety can cause sleep problems or worsen existing problems.
Well, if you somehow succeed in getting good sleep, then you can easily get rid of both anxiety and insomnia.
In such a situation, a weighted blanket can prove to be very effective. Weighted blankets generate deep pressure touch (https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/3688151/) for hyperactive children and adults who are in an aroused state, which helps them getting calmer behavior.
In data obtained from a study (https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1300/J004v24n01_05) conducted on deep pressure stimulation using weighted blankets, 63% of people reported less anxiety after use, and 78% preferred weighted blankets as a calming method.
Choosing a weighted blanket can be challenging for you. So if you are going to buy a weighted blanket, keep in mind that the weight of the blanket should be one-tenth of your body weight.
--Priyank Pandey, Healthroid
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