You’ve read the research about the correlation between sleep quality and mattress comfort, you’ve purchased the perfect mattress for your needs, and improved your sleep hygiene. But you still can’t sleep. Anxiety, stress, or inexplicable insomnia continue to make counting sheep your only reliable nighttime activity.
While you might be tempted to turn to pharmaceutical solutions, there is an alternative. For people like you, the solution to your sleep woes may not be what you’re lying on, but what you’re lying under. Enter weighted blankets.
Now before you conjure an image of a medieval restraint, let’s look at just what a weighted blanket is.
What is a weighted blanket?
Imagine the satisfying heft and contouring of a bean bag. Now imagine that bean bag big enough to wrap around your shoulders, spread across your lap, or cover your entire body. Much like a bean bag, weighted blankets are filled with plastic or glass pellets surrounded by lightly padded outer layers. Separate internal compartments keep the pellets evenly distributed. Weighted blankets can weigh anywhere from 2 to 30 pounds and conform to the shape of your body for a hugging sensation that is at least relaxing if not downright therapeutic.
Sound like some New Age-y gadget designed by marketers looking to cash in on your desperation for a good night’s sleep? Hold on! There’s actually a long history of therapeutic use of weighted blankets and a body of research that suggests they can improve sleep quality and overall well-being.
Occupational therapists have long used weighted blankets and vests to relieve anxiety, stress, and hyperactivity as well as to provide sensory integration therapy for people with sensory processing disorder (SPD). According to Theresa May-Benson, occupational therapist with the Spiral Foundation in Newton, MA, people with sensory processing disorders are often hypersensitive to touch or textures to the extent that even clothing becomes an unbearable irritation. Deep pressure touch like that provided by a weighted blanket can help desensitize them to normal tactile experiences.
Deep pressure touch also triggers the production of the “feel-good hormone” serotonin, which calms anxiety, relieves stress, and can even lull them into a sound sleep.
Occupational therapists have long used weighted blankets and vests to relieve anxiety, stress, and hyperactivity.
Twenty years ago, you might have never heard about weighted blankets, but today a quick Google search of “weighted blankets” yields a plethora of results. Why the uptick in interest? The dramatic increase in the rate of autism is one answer. The CDC estimates that 1 in 68 school-aged children has been diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder, which represents a 30% increase since just 2012. According to the STAR Institute for Sensory Processing Disorder, at least 75% of children with Autism Spectrum Disorder also have sensory processing disorder and respond well to weighted blankets and vests.
It’s no secret that stress and associated sleep disorders are on the rise. In fact, more than a third of adults in America get less than the recommended seven to eight hours of sleep. As these sleep-deprived people become more aware of the dangers of running a sleep deficit, they are searching for ways to improve their sleep performance. Maybe you’re one of them.
But high rates of autism, sensory processing disorder, and sleep deprivation are not the only reasons why weighted blankets are attracting national attention. People with a host of conditions can benefit from weighted blankets. These conditions include:
- Post-traumatic stress disorder
- Sleep disorders
- Nervous system disorders
- Restless leg syndrome
- Menopausal symptoms
75% of children with Autism Spectrum Disorder also have sensory processing disorder and respond well to weighted blankets and vests.
How does a weighted blanket work?
The deep pressure touch a weighted blanket provides is called “grounding” and has been shown to reduce nighttime levels of cortisol, a stress hormone. Cortisol is your “fight or flight” hormone that is produced when you feel threatened or in danger. Even stress can trigger excess cortisol production that can weaken your immune system, leading to depression, anxiety, insomnia, and weight gain. Deep pressure touch also triggers the release of dopamine and serotonin, which help fight stress, anxiety, and depression. The production of serotonin also leads to increased levels of melatonin, a hormone that promotes sleep and helps regulate the sleep cycle.
Which weighted blanket is right for you?
Occupational therapist, May-Benson cautions that weighted blankets are not for everyone. She recommends people try snuggling under a pile of their own blankets and quilts to see if they like the feeling of extra weight before purchasing a weighted blanket. She also warns against using weighted blankets in children younger than seven unless they are supervised. Also, you should not use a weighted blanket if you suffer from a respiratory, circulatory, or temperature regulation problem or are recovering from surgery. If you’re unsure, consult with your doctor before trying.
Occupational therapists recommend a blanket that is 5-10% of your body weight. Your doctor or occupational therapist can also help you determine the right weight for you or your child. If you tend to sleep hot, choosing a breathable 100% cotton blanket will help keep you comfortable.
Some insurance plans will even cover the cost of a weighted blanket as long as you have a doctor’s prescription.
Occupational therapists recommend a blanket that is 5-10% of your body weight.
Our favorite weighted blanket brands
Just the facts
|20″ x 30″
54″ x 78″
|4-24 lbs.||$70 – $270|
Why we like them
Twenty years ago, Magic Blanket founder Kevin Zivalich got the idea for weighted blankets from the relaxing hug of his daughter’s Beanie Baby lizard. He’s been making custom-made Magic Blankets ever since. Choose whatever size, fabric, color, and weight you want. You can use this chart to help you pick the right blanket for your size. Your blanket will be available for free shipping in five days. And if you don’t love it, you can send any non-custom blanket back for a refund (minus return shipping fees) within 10 days of receiving the blanket.
Just the facts
|38″ x 42″
42″ x 72″
|2-30 lbs.||Varies with size and weight|
Why we like them
Mosaic offers so many fabric colors and patterns, you’ll have no problem finding the one for you. Styles for adults, young adults, and children are available and blankets are fully customizable for pattern, weight, and size. Their website includes a handy weight chart that uses your body weight to determine the recommended weight of your blanket. Custom blankets usually ship within 1 -2 business days. If you don’t love your Mosaic blanket, you can return it within 5 days of receiving it in its original packaging. You’ll get a refund of the purchase price, minus a 10% restocking fee.
Just the facts
|30″ x 48″
58″ x 80″
|3-25 lbs.||$57 – $238|
Why we like them
Sensory Goods is a family-owned company started by parents of two children with autism. All blankets are custom-made in the USA with over 1600 color and patterns to choose from. You can also choose between two fillings: glass beads or plastic beads. All orders are shipped the next business day after ordering. If you don’t love your blanket, you can return it for a full refund within 30 days of receiving it.
Have an experience with weighted blankets you’d like to share? Drop us a line in the comments below.