Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock for the last year or so, you’ve probably heard people talk about how amazing weighted blankets are. People credit these blankets with curing everything from anxiety to restless leg syndrome, saying they feel like you’re getting a hug for hours on end. But many people are still asking the question, “Do weighted blankets work?”
The research on weighted blankets is still early, but it does look promising. Weighted blankets may, in fact, be helpful for people with anxiety, autism, ADHD, insomnia, chronic pain, and more. Read on to learn more about these blankets, how they work, and what they can help with.
What Is a Weighted Blanket?
It may seem obvious, but a weighted blanket is a blanket that’s filled with pellets to give it extra weight. These blankets can weigh between twenty and twenty-five pounds and come in a variety of colors and patterns. Many of them may look like a regular blanket, and you may not know until you pick it up that it’s weighted.
Weighted blankets are generally filled with small pockets that contain a number of weighted pellets. This helps to keep the weight distributed across your entire body, rather than the pellets gathering at the edges of the blanket. Many of these blankets use hypoallergenic and soft-touch materials that are good for people with touch sensitivities.
How They Work
Weighted blankets work by simulating something called deep touch pressure. This is the sustained, gentle contact we feel when we get a hug or when someone holds us. It’s a very comforting sensation and one our body is biologically hardwired to react to; it’s why we feel good when someone gives us a hug.
But you don’t have to rely on another person to provide that sensation of being gently held. A weighted blanket provides the same sort of deep, gentle pressure across your body. And as we’ll discuss more in a moment, that sustained pressure can have a number of positive benefits.
Increased Serotonin and Dopamine
When we get a hug or lie under a weighted blanket, our brain starts releasing serotonin and dopamine. These hormones are associated with calmness and happiness, as well as decreased stress.
Dopamine is related to the reward centers of the brain and can help to reinforce bonds between us and people we hug – or between us and our weighted blanket, as it were. Serotonin aids in digestion and regulates a host of other systems in your body.
Both dopamine and serotonin help to regulate your sleep cycle and your mood. Higher levels can make it easier to fall and stay asleep, improve your mood, and improve your blood flow.
One of the major benefits of having a weighted blanket is that it can help to decrease anxiety. When you get anxious, your body starts up autonomic arousal, which causes the usual symptoms of anxiety. This can include increased heart rate, nausea, shaking, shortness of breath, and feelings of unreality. as it were.
When you lie under a weighted blanket, your autonomic arousal response slows down. About 33 percent of participants found that lying under a weighted blanket reduced their anxiety. This may be related to the simple act of lying down, but the weighted blanket can improve your results.
Do you ever find yourself lying awake at night tossing and turning and fighting with restless leg syndrome? Or does your partner complain that you roll and kick them all right long? A weighted blanket can help you both get a better night’s sleep.
A weighted blanket can provide gentle pressure to your legs, reducing the sensations of restless leg syndrome. It can also make it a little bit harder for you to move around in your sleep. This little bit of discouragement can go a long way to keeping you still and asleep throughout the night.
One of the more popular uses for weighted blankets in recent years has been as a way to help manage autism challenges. Many people with autism, especially children, have difficulty sleeping. A weighted blanket can help to improve their insomnia and make nights easier on everyone involved.
Many people with autism also struggle with sensory overload. Sounds, lights, smells, and other sensory cues can become overwhelming and even painful. The gentle, constant pressure of a weighted blanket can give the person one sensation to focus on and reduce this feeling of overload.
ADHD affects more than 6 million children in the United States. These children can find it difficult to sit and stay in one place for a long amount of time, tasks that are important for success in a traditional classroom. This can lead to these children doing poorly in school and having more behavioral issues.
Weighted blankets can provide a light background stimulation that helps to calm these children down. They may find it easier to focus on one task for a longer period of time and stay in their seats for longer. This can be a great option for children who don’t do as well on traditional ADHD medications.
All of us have nights from time to time when we can’t sleep, but insomnia is a condition that can start to impact every part of your life. Your work and relationships may suffer, and it may seem like your only option is to start taking powerful sleeping pills. But a weighted blanket can help you get a better night’s sleep without sleeping pills.
The increased levels of serotonin and dopamine that weighted blankets cause can help you get to sleep easier and stay asleep longer. If you have insomnia due to anxiety, weighted blankets can help with that, too. And if you’re awake because your partner will not be still, putting a weighted blanket on them can help you rest a little easier.
If you have osteoarthritis, pain may be a constant presence in your life. And while there’s no specific research connecting weighted blankets and a reduction in arthritis pain, it’s possible that they can help.
Oftentimes, doctors will recommend massage therapy as a treatment for osteoarthritis. Massage therapy works in part by applying deep touch pressure to these joints. Used properly, weighted blankets could apply this same pressure and help to relieve pain.
Even if you don’t have osteoarthritis, there are many other conditions that can cause chronic pain. From conditions like fibromyalgia and lupus to injuries and neuropathy, there are a number of reasons you may be in pain. And as with insomnia, it may seem like living life on painkillers is your only option.
A weighted blanket may help to reduce chronic pain to a certain degree. As with osteoarthritis, one of the recommended treatments for chronic pain is massage, and part of that benefit comes from the deep touch pressure. Because weighted blankets provide that same pressure, they may be able to confuse the pain centers of the brain and reduce pain at least a little.
One of the more experimental uses for weighted blankets in recent years has been to make medical procedures easier. Because our bodies have a neurological response to deep touch pressure, we don’t necessarily have to be completely conscious to gain the benefits of this pressure. So some medical practitioners have started using it as a way to keep patients calm during medical procedures where they may be semiconscious.
Obviously weighted blankets can’t be used during surgeries, and since patients are deeply unconscious, their benefits would be minimal anyhow. But for procedures like wisdom tooth and molar extractions, where the patient is semiconscious, a weighted blanket could be beneficial. Some studies have shown that it lowers anxiety and keeps the patient calmer during these procedures.
What to Look For
By this point, you may be ready to start shopping for your own weighted blanket. If this is the case, there are a few things you should look out for. Not all weighted blankets are made equal, and getting a cheaply made blanket could leave you with a sub-par product that falls apart in a relatively short time.
In general, if you’re shopping for a weighted blanket, you should look for one that’s about ten percent of your total body weight. Look for one that’s made with soft, durable materials and comes in a pattern and color that you like. And be prepared to spend a fair amount of money on this blanket; good weighted blankets start around $150 and can be as expensive as $300.
Answer, “Do Weighted Blankets Work?” for Yourself
Weighted blankets have become hugely popular in the last few years. Aside from the question, “Do weighted blankets work?” they are very comforting, and many people enjoy the sensation of sitting under them. But they can also be helpful for a number of problems and conditions thanks to their deep touch pressure capabilities.
If you’d like to discover the benefits of a weighted blanket for yourself, check out the rest of our site at I’m Rested. We provide weighted blankets and a number of other sleep aids to help you get the best night’s rest you can. Shop our weighted blankets and start sleeping easier today.