Weighted blankets have been soaring in popularity over the last few years, with many people claiming they aid sleep and relieve stress. One of the central benefits of weighted blankets is that they can help calm the central nervous system by a process called “deep pressure stimulation” or “deep pressure therapy”. Several scientific studies have demonstrated that this deep touch pressure stimulation lowers stress hormone levels (cortisol and adrenaline) and triggers the release of neurotransmitters, which improve mood and soothe aches (serotonin and dopamine). Though further research needs to be done, more and more people are turning to weighted blankets thanks to the many benefits.
Weighted blankets – also referred to as pressure blankets or gravity blankets – are becoming increasingly popular due to their compelling benefits to overall health and well-being. As a result, more and more people are considering integrating them into their daily routine. Overall, the benefits of weighted blankets include they can be an effective way to improve sleep quality, reduce anxiety, relieve stress and alleviate symptoms of various medical conditions.
They were initially created to help people with sensory processing disorders like autism as a non-medicated and natural form of therapy to help ease their anxieties or calm them down when stressed.
Weighted blankets may reduce or manage the symptoms of:
- General sleep issues, insomnia, and other sleep disorders
- Mood disorders such as depression and bipolar disorder
- Anxiety such as Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and panic attacks
- Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS) and general restlessness
- Arthritis, fibromyalgia, and chronic pain
- General stress and tension
- Poor concentration and focus
- Poor mood, anger and irritability
- Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) and Autism
It is worth bearing in mind that weighted blankets are by no means a medical device or meant to cure or even treat the symptoms of medical conditions. However, the benefits of weighted blankets means that they can be an excellent addition to your treatment plan and overall well-being.
Do weighted blankets actually work – Scientific studies
Several small studies have looked at the effectiveness of weighted blankets on autism, sleep, and anxiety. In addition to older research, there are a number of recent promising studies that provide even more evidence of the benefits of weighted blankets and that they may offer relief from physical pain or symptoms of other conditions.
A 2021 study performed by Swedish researchers (The effectiveness of weighted blankets on sleep and everyday activities) found that weighted blankets helped adults and children with autism spectrum disorder or ADHD to fall asleep and stay asleep.
Another potential benefit of weighted blankets is that they may help relieve chronic pain, according to a 2021 study (Widespread pressure delivered by a weighted blanket reduces chronic pain: a randomized controlled trial) published in the Journal of Pain.
A 2020 study by Swedish researchers (A randomized controlled study of weighted chain blankets for insomnia in psychiatric disorders) published in Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine found that weighted blankets were a safe and effective option for treating insomnia in people with certain conditions like major depressive disorder, bipolar disorder, generalised anxiety disorder and ADHD.
A 2021 study (The effectiveness of weighted blankets on sleep and everyday activities), also performed by Swedish researchers, found that weighted blankets helped adults and children with autism spectrum disorder or ADHD to fall asleep and stay asleep.
A 2020 study (1203 Worth The Weight: Weighted Blanket Improves Sleep And Increases Relaxation) included 28 participants with trouble falling and staying asleep. With the use of a weighted blanket over six weeks, there were self-reported improvements in sleeping through the night, sleep quality, and getting to sleep faster.
A 2020 review in the American Journal of Occupational Therapy (Weighted blanket use: a systematic review) concluded that weighted blankets could sometimes help reduce anxiety, although the researchers noted that more studies are needed to understand better why weighted blankets work and how to use them therapeutically.
Although these studies are of small groups of people, they support the anecdotal experience of the many people who say weighted blankets can help relieve physical pain, reduce anxiety, and improve sleep.
How weighted blankets work
Weighted blankets act like a hug, using a technique called deep pressure stimulation (DPS) to make the user feel more secure. Research has shown that this deep touch pressure applied to the body has abundant positive effects on hormones governing the nervous system, affecting mood and stress levels.
Research has shown that light but firm pressure around the body (resembling hugging or cuddling) releases and boosts oxytocin. Known as the ‘cuddle or love hormone’, oxytocin is an important neurotransmitter that can stimulate feelings of relaxation and generate a deep sense of calm (think about the relaxing feeling of a warm, welcome hug – that is oxytocin at work).
The blanket’s extra weight applies pressure to different parts of the body, enabling them to simulate a hug-like effect. This provides warmth and a sense of security. The release of oxytocin makes you feel calm, relaxed and helps you fall asleep faster.
Releases dopamine & serotonin
A weighted blanket provides a gentle yet deep pressure that penetrates deep within the body. Researchers have found that this “deep touch pressure stimulation” can help trigger the release of serotonin and dopamine, which are feel-good hormones produced in the brain. These hormones are associated with calmness, relaxation, and happiness. They also have a calming effect that can help relieve anxiety, combat stress and alleviate symptoms of depression.
When we are stressed, we tend to have higher cortisol levels – a stress hormone – in our bodies. Constant stress is essentially keeping your cortisol switch permanently ‘on’ – increasing heart rate, blood pressure and sending other body systems into high gear too. It can also negatively affect blood sugar, digestion, immunity, and cardiovascular health.
A therapeutic weighted blanket may reduce cortisol levels during nighttime sleep, reducing sleep dysfunction, pain, and stress. When cortisol levels drop, there is an overall improvement in our physical and mental comfort by increasing general feelings of calmness. Weighted blankets help you feel grounded and relaxed, which may help you sleep better.
Melatonin is a chemical hormone that is naturally produced in the body and known for promoting sleep and even helping with regulating our sleep cycle, or circadian rhythm. Decreased levels of melatonin may result in insomnia and other sleep problems.
Melatonin’s release is catalysed by serotonin, which is triggered by pressure and, therefore, the weight of a weighted blanket. Melatonin levels have been found to increase with the use of deep touch pressure stimulation, promoting sleep and helping regulate the sleep cycle.
Top benefits of weighted blankets
From easing the symptoms of autism spectrum disorder to helping insomniacs get the sleep they need, weighted blankets may help alleviate a host of health problems. Here we are going to explain some of the benefits of weighted blankets and why it may be worth considering investing in one:
#1 – Helps with insomnia
Insomnia has a variety of patterns. Maybe you have trouble getting to sleep. Or you just cannot stay asleep, waking up in the wee hours – much too early. It is a problem many people face – but a weighted blanket can potentially help.
According to a 2015 study (Positive Effects of a Weighted Blanket on Insomnia) published in the Journal of Sleep Medicine and Disorders, weighted blankets improved sleep in four out of five subjects tested. The study tested 31 adults with chronic insomnia. Their sleep was tracked for one week with their usual bedding, then two weeks with a weighted blanket, followed by one more week with their usual bedding set-up. Four out of five study participants in the group were able to sleep longer and spent less time awake in the middle of the night when using the weighted blanket. They were less restless before going to sleep when they used the weighted blanket. Plus, they indicated they slept better and woke up feeling refreshed.
Weighted blankets are also called therapeutic blankets because their weight is evenly distributed over the entire body and creates a pleasant hugging sensation. As a result, your whole body is relaxed, stress and anxiety levels drop, and the wearer can fall asleep or relax peacefully.
#2 –Improves sleep quality
People with insomnia often feel that they have tried absolutely everything under the sun to help them fall asleep – from melatonin pills to the art of meditating. Being an all-natural sleep solution, a weighted blanket could be the answer to your best sleep routine yet. One of the top benefits of a weighted blanket for adults and kids is improved sleep quality. Fatigue is often caused by poor quality of sleep. You get some sleep, night after night, but you do not get truly restorative sleep.
A study (Weighted blankets can decrease insomnia severity) conducted by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine found that participants who used weighted blankets were almost 26 times more likely to have a decrease in sleep deprivation and were 20 times more likely to achieve remission of their insomnia.
Another study (1203 Worth The Weight: Weighted Blanket Improves Sleep And Increases Relaxation), conducted by the Sleep Journal, observed the sleep patterns of those who struggled either going to sleep or remaining asleep throughout the night. Researchers found that a notable amount of participants who used weighted blankets that were 10% of their body weight:
- Fell asleep faster
- Experienced higher quality sleep
- Felt rested upon waking up
- Had less interrupted sleep
- Felt less stressed at bedtime
- Were more relaxed at bedtime
So their conclusion – implementing a weighted blanket into the bedtime routine resulted in less stress and more feelings of relaxation due to good sleep maintenance. Weighted blankets are in many cases helpful when it comes to inducing sleep and improving sleep quality.
#3 – Decreases nervous system activity and lowers anxiety levels
When the nervous system is overactive, it can lead to anxiety, hyperactivity, and a range of other issues.
The deep touch pressure (DTP) stimulation from a weighted blanket can put your nervous system into “rest mode” — mitigating the effects of anxiety, such as shortness of breath or quickened heart rate.
Deep touch pressure (DTP) reduces anxiety in two ways: It increases the body’s production of the “happy” hormone, serotonin. This uptick in serotonin leaves us feeling less anxious and more relaxed. It taps into the part of our nervous system responsible for breathing and heart rate and helps regulate these processes. Slowed breathing and steadied heart rate helps reign in feelings of anxiety.
A systematic review (Weighted blanket use: a systematic review) by the American Journal of Occupational Therapy concluded that weighted blankets are an easily accessible and effective therapeutic tool for reducing anxiety.
#4 – Instills calmness
If your day has been filled with too much stress, wrapping yourself up in a weighted blanket when you finally get home can help make things better.
Normally, cortisol spikes in stressful situations, but chronically high cortisol levels can harm your health. Natural solutions to keeping cortisol in check, like using a weighted blanket, can help you feel less stressed and bring a sense of inner calm. Weighted blankets have been helpful for calming everyone from college students to animals.
#5 – Promotes a happier mood
If you feel irritable, sad or depressed, you may not be getting enough mood-lifting brain chemicals. Serotonin is a brain chemical that has several important jobs in the body. It is a natural mood stabiliser that controls well-being and happiness.
Using a weighted blanket can improve your mood and ease your sadness. This is because the pressure of a weighted blanket increases the production levels of serotonin. Combined with a decrease in cortisol (the stress hormone), this can significantly impact a person’s state of mind.
#6 – Eases chronic pain
The nagging discomfort of chronic pain can stem from old injuries, posture, habits, medical conditions, overuse, or even stress. Left untreated, chronic pain can eventually begin to take over our quality of life.
Many people resort to taking over-the-counter painkillers daily or seeking out costly surgeries to treat chronic pain. In some cases, these interventions can be helpful and even necessary. However, in other cases, there are more natural and side-effect-free ways to improve your health and beat pain. One simple solution that is often overlooked is using a weighted blanket, which has a unique ability to use therapeutic pressure which may reduce pain while improving overall well-being.
#7 – Relieves painful fibromyalgia
Fibromyalgia, also called fibromyalgia syndrome (FMS), is a condition characterised by widespread pain in the body accompanied by tiredness, sleep, memory lapses, and mood issues. Some research has concluded that integrating medicinal and natural treatments is the best way to help patients suffering from this multifaceted disease. A weighted blanket is an easy-to-use tool that might benefit people living with this complex illness. The compression from weighted blankets can help suppress symptoms, resulting in lessened muscle pain, sounder sleep, reduced anxiety, better mood and memory.
#8 – Eases symptoms of Restless Leg Syndrome or RLS
Restless leg syndrome affects many people. Nighttime is particularly difficult if you have restless leg syndrome (RLS), as the tingling is often most apparent at night – significantly impairing sleep. You may have difficulty travelling because you constantly feel the need to move your legs.
While compression socks provide some relief, they can become very uncomfortable if they are too tight. If you have arthritis, you may even have trouble putting the socks on your legs.
So instead, a weighted blanket can act as a more comfortable and less restricting compression sock, enabling a great night’s sleep.
#9 – Improves attention span and eases ADHD
Deep touch pressure (DTP) stimulation from a weighted blanket can address restlessness, helping both adults and children who struggle to focus or have Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). It has been shown that a weighted blanket can help to calm down hyperactive bodies and minds. It also allows for better focus, concentration, and attention.
#10 – Relieves travel anxiety
Travel anxiety is something many travellers encounter. If you are nervous about flying or travelling in general, the soothing weight of a weighted blanket can prompt your body to produce feel-good hormones. Weighted blankets use the power of deep pressure stimulation to simulate the feeling of being held -like a hug. This increases serotonin and melatonin, the hormones responsible for relaxation, and decreases cortisol, the hormone responsible for stress.
#11 – Alleviates Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a severe problem that affects many people who have experienced a stressful or traumatic event such as a natural disaster, a serious accident, a terrorist act, war/combat or other violent personal assault. It can happen to people of all ages.
Everyone takes some time to recover after experiencing a traumatic event, but PTSD represents a condition in which the person cannot recover with time and self-care. Panic disorder, panic attacks, negative thoughts, and lack of sleep can all result from untreated PTSD. There are a variety of clinical treatments and lifestyle changes that can help, including in-person therapy, medications, but also the benefits of weighted blankets.
Recently, attention has been given to weighted blankets as a non-medicinal treatment to help ease the symptoms of PTSD, such as fewer nightmares, better sleep, relief of physiological symptoms of
#12 – Helps control panic disorder
Panic attacks occur when we feel sudden, intense levels of anxiety. They can also come out of nowhere and be unexplainable. People can experience panic attacks in different ways, but common symptoms include feelings of intense nervousness, racing heart rate, feeling extremely scared, and struggling to catch a breath. All in all, the way one feels during a panic attack can be frightening and overwhelming.
Panic attacks can be treated in various ways, by therapy or medication from a medical professional. Another natural way that may help with panic attacks is a weighted blanket. The deep-pressure touch or stimulation from the weighted blanket causes the release of serotonin and dopamine. Serotonin and dopamine are two neurotransmitters that can make people feel more calm, peaceful, and relaxed.
#13 – Eases Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is characterized by consistent and obsessive thoughts or behaviour. Compulsions include washing your hands, counting, checking on things, or cleaning. With OCD, the thoughts and rituals cause distress and get in the way of your daily life. Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) has been linked to low serotonin levels. Researchers believe that the deep touch pressure stimulation therapy provided by a weighted blanket can supercharge serotonin, which could benefit people with obsessive-compulsive disorder.
#14 – Helps ease Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD).
Because of its calming effect, weighted blankets have been used as drug-free addition when treating Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD).
Weighted blankets provide deep-touch pressure to the body, slowing down the nervous system and making a person feel more grounded and secure. Researchers have noted that touch therapy helps by decreasing the stress hormone cortisol levels and increasing levels of the neurotransmitters serotonin and dopamine, which improves anxiety, mood, impulse control, and more.
Consideration before you buy a weighted blanket
A growing body of research suggests deep touch pressure stimulation (DTP) may positively affect a range of conditions – from sleeping issues and anxiety to autism and ADHD. So it may be worth giving a weighted blanket a try so long as you pick the right weight for your body size and strength – around ten per cent of your body weight.
At the same time, it is important to keep in mind that it is a complementary tool and should not replace medication and appropriate medical supervision and therapies.
As a general rule, weighted blankets are safe for healthy adults, older children, and teenagers. Weighted blankets, however, should not be used for toddlers under age two, as they may pose a suffocation risk.
People with certain health conditions should also avoid weighted blankets. These include chronic respiratory conditions, such as asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and obstructive sleep apnea. In addition, a weighted blanket may also be unsuitable for those who are claustrophobic, as it may cause anxiety rather than ease it.
DISCLAIMER: Features published by THEGREATADDRESS. are not intended to treat, diagnose, cure or prevent any disease. Always seek the advice of your GP or another qualified healthcare provider for any questions you have regarding a medical condition, and before undertaking any diet, exercise or other health-related programmes.