Weighted blanket – Myth or a real relief?

asian man with weighted blanket

More and more people expect better sleep by buying a weighted blanket. These heavy blankets have become trendy in the past years. Many manufacturers and online shops offer tons of weighted blankets, but can they bring the expected relief to your sleep problems? Who can use them with success? In the following, take a short journey into the world of weighted blankets and learn more about the possible advantages and risks of using such a blanket. 

What is a weighted blanket, and how it works?

A weighted blanket looks like a regular blanket, but it is filled with plastic pellets. So they are heavy. Imagine how heavy: did you ever have an X-ray? They are just like those vests, only bigger. Weighted blankets are used for therapeutic purposes, and the weight varies on a big scale between 5 and 30 pounds. This therapy has a particular name called deep pressure stimulation. Weighted blankets appeared and became popular to supplement the formal hands-on treatment to relieve pain, improve mood, and lessen anxiety. Tons of weighted blankets flooded the market in the past few years, and they vary in size, material, color, shape, and obviously in weight.

Why can such a weight help with anxiety, pain, your mood? When you are stressed, your heart rate is high. The pressure of a heavy blanket activates the parasympathetic nervous system, which lowers your heart rate. Lower heart rate leads to the feel of overall calmness. So, weighted blankets imitate a hug, and they recall the feeling of being held, swaddled, or stroked.

How can a weighted blanket help with success?

There are medical conditions or sleep disorders, which for weighted blankets could give relief. If you face any of these problems, you could do anything to reduce the effect of your condition or get a night with sweet dreams. Let’s see for which problems can be a weighted blanket useful.

Reduce anxiety

At some point in life, everybody is facing anxiety. Many reasons could stand behind this anxiety, but it is a feeling of uncertainness and worry, usually about something in the future. If this problem and constant worries become permanent, and you start to fear everyday situations, we can say that you face anxiety disorder. Why do we consider it a sleeping problem? Anxiety results in higher blood pressure, elevated heart rate, faster breathing; all of these are preparing your body for stress. In this mood, the autonomic nervous system can’t prepare your body for rest. That’s the point where weighted blankets can step in. Lying under a heavier blanket can calm you down, lowering the heart rate and slowing down breathing. It leads to a condition where your body can switch in “rest-mode”.

Some researchers targeted this matter, and one of them found some positive relation between using a weighted blanket and reduced anxiety. Sixty-three percent of participants experienced improvement with reducing stress using a 30 pounds weighted blanket. To mention, in the case of weighted blankets, a so-called blind test is impossible since everybody can feel if a blanket is heavy or not. Independently from research, many people swear that these heavy blankets can help with anxiety problems.

Improve sleep quality

Many Americans face sleep problems that make them toss around in the bed dreamless and awaken, waking up more exhausted than they went to bed the day before. No question that all of them are desperately looking for a cure that can help with sleep disorders. One of these possibilities is using a weighted blanket. How does it work? It works like reducing anxiety. The pressure against the body lowers heart rate and slows down breathing. The body prepares for rest, so falling asleep becomes easier, and the desired sleep is deeper.

Researchers aimed at this area and stated that “weighted blankets are a safe and effective intervention in treating insomnia”.

Help ADHD 

With the topic of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), we step a bit away from sleep and touch a problem where weighted blankets also can show their beneficial effects. Children with attention deficit hyperactive disorder having a more challenging time with self-control than others. It is harder for them to stay focused, paying attention, and sit still. It causes many school problems and also affects family relations and interaction with teachers and schoolmates.

Using a weighted blanket activates the sense of touch, distracting other stimulations by the surrounding area. By eliminating the impulses from elsewhere, children with ADHD can easily remain in a task, stay in their seats, and improve their attention. It is understandable if your child wouldn’t like to wear a blanket in class so that a weighted vest can be a reasonable alternative, as this research points out.

Relieve stress for people with autism

Individuals with autism can feel that the noises and sounds around them are too stimulating. For them, everyday activities such as working, shopping, playing, or socializing can be challenging. Weighted blankets, with the pressure they provide a safe feeling and an opportunity to relax. 

There is no evidence that a weighted blanket is a common cure for overstimulation if we browse among the studies. One research that was made back in 2014 couldn’t reveal any objective positive effect of using a weighted blanket. There was one subjective positive outcome of the study; both the kids and the parents favored the weighted blanket instead of the regular one.

Who can’t use a weighted blanket?

There are a few circumstances that do not allow using a weighted blanket. Manufacturers suggest not using a weighted blanket under the age of 2 because it may increase suffocation risk. Otherwise, always consult with your pediatrician before buying a weighted blanket for your child.

A weighted blanket isn’t efficient for every medical condition. If you are facing the following problems, do not use such a blanket or consult with your doctor before trying any heavy blanket:

  • Sleep apnea
  • Asthma, or other respiratory problems
  • Claustrophobia

How to choose a weighted blanket?

In the paragraph before, I mentioned some cases when you shouldn’t use a weighted blanket, otherwise sleeping with such a blanket has a low risk. But how can you choose which size would fit the best? The thumb rule is that the blanket should be 5 up to 10 percent of your body weight and fits snugly into your bed. Adults can use a blanket in a 12 to 30-pound weight range, while older people should use a blanket not heavier than 8 pounds.

If a child wants to use a weighted blanket, consulting with a doctor is mandatory before choosing any. On the market, you will find small-size blankets designed for children from 3 up to 15 pounds.

Bottom line

Is a weighted blanket worth a few hundreds of bucks? Will it solve your sleeping disorder and lead to healthier and better sleep? The answer is not a certain yes, and still, doctors have doubts if these blankets are working. But, thousands of buyers and millions of dollars spent even justify the right of existing weighted blankets. If you like the idea, give it a try and find the best weighted blanket for yourself!

It is still worth keeping up with healthy sleep habits and following some general rules to get the best out of your nights.

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