Weighted blankets are gaining popularity in both clinical and personal settings. You may have heard personal testimonies from those who say that these blankets helped them sleep better and reduce anxiety. Are they just another fad, or do weighted blankets really work? Let’s check out the benefits of weighted blankets for anxiety and look at the scientific explanations for why they may help.
What is a weighted blanket?
Weighted blankets are heavy blankets used to relax the body. They have materials like glass beads sewn into the fabric for the purpose of adding weight. Sometimes, they’re made out of a material that naturally has heft and weight, woven in a way intended to be far heavier than a typical blanket.
They generally range in weight from 5 to 30 lbs. You can use a weighted blanket to cover your whole body or just part of your body. They come in different sizes and weights depending on how much pressure you find beneficial and where on the body you want to use them.
The purpose of a weighted blanket is to create a calming experience using gentle pressure to relax and soothe your body. Many people report that the sensation of gentle pressure across the entire body is comforting and helps them relax.
The benefits of a weighted blanket
Deep pressure touch (DTP) is associated with modulating cortisol which can help a person feel calmer. There’s also some research that this kind of pressure helps regulate sensory integration and processing issues.
Think of it like when a baby is swaddled—the light pressure of feeling “held” is soothing, and this is true for many adults and even various animals. This is what makes them a good choice when it comes to calming feelings of anxiety.
A 2020 weighted blanket sleep study showed that the use of this kind of blanket decreased the severity of insomnia and reduced symptoms of depression and anxiety in people with clinical insomnia, as well as a co-occurring mental health condition. While research on the benefits of weighted blankets is ongoing, these early findings indicate a positive trend.
Are weighted blankets safe?
Yes, they’re a safe and natural source of comfort for most adults dealing with a variety of issures. However, you should select a weighted blanket with care. One that’s too heavy may cause you to feel like your breathing is restricted, leading to higher levels of anxiety.
Are there any weighted blanket side effects? Not exactly, but people with joint disorders or similar physical conditions might find them uncomfortable.
Before experimenting with weighted blankets for children or small stature individuals, consult with a pediatrician or healthcare professional. This will help minimize the risk of suffocation. Be sure not to cover the face with a weighted blanket, which could interfere with breathing.
What about weighted blankets & sleep apnea? While these blankets can have a positive impact for people experiencing conditions like insomnia and anxiety, they’re not recommended for people who have obstructive sleep apnea. If you have sleep apnea, please consult your healthcare professional before using one.
Do weighted blankets help with anxiety?
There’s a small but growing body of evidence that sensory deep touch pressure (DTP) from a weighted blanket does help modulate anxiety and may have the potential to decrease insomnia.
What are weighted blankets good for? Many people report using them as a simple, non-invasive, and medication-free means to feeling calmer and more relaxed in your body and mind.
They can help people experiencing:
There are exercises to reduce anxiety, and if you aren’t sure where to begin, choose a few from recommended lists and practice to figure out which are most calming for you.
The benefits of weighted blankets are being studies in ongoing research. They’re being evaluated as a way to provide calming relief for chemotherapy patients, people on the Asperger spectrum, and people living with sleep or anxiety disorders.
Weighted blankets are sometimes used in occupational therapy and health settings or by neurodiverse people who have described them as physically soothing and mentally calming. One small study indicated that 78% of patients in an inpatient mental health sample expressed a preference for using a weighted blanket as a calming tool.
How to use a weighted blanket
There are no clear and widespread professional guidelines for the best way to use a weighted blanket. But a common assertion is that people like a blanket that’s approximately 10% of body weight. So, if you weigh 180 pounds, try using an 18-20 pound blanket.
For those interested in using weighted blankets for sensory integration and occupational health purposes, guidelines such as Sensoryproject.org are available. Check these out and discuss them with your healthcare provider.
Getting the most out of it
Like all new health habits, you may want to approach this one with care. Experiment with what weight feels best for you, as well as ease into use. For instance, you can start by using the weighted blanket on your legs only for a few days before trying it on your whole body.
There are also items like weighted vests and weighted lap pads, which can help people calm down and stay focused. For example, some people use a weighted lap pad to promote focus and calm while sitting in a classroom or working at a computer.
Our 5 favorite weighted blankets
Looking for the best anxiety blanket for adults? Here are 5 of our favorite products and providers.
One of the most popular options, also stocking weighted bathrobes and sleep masks.
The consistent winner in terms of weighted blanket reviews, offering eco-friendly chunky knits.
They offer weighted blankets with cooling options, in case you experience night sweats.
Another cozy and eco-friendly option, with both weighted blankets and comforters, as well as options for kids.
For the softest and coziest experience option, this blanket is made of 300TC cotton and filled with glass beads.
If you’re looking for sensory integration products for kids, check out the weighted vests at Fun and Function.
- Weighted blankets are heavy blankets for anxiety that create a soothing and calming pressure when laid across the body.
- DTP (deep touch pressure) may lower cortisol levels and relax the body, one reason why weighted blankets work.
- To find the best weighted blanket for anxiety, consider how much pressure you want—most opt for a blanket that’s approximately 10% of your body weight.
- Ackereley et al. (2015). Positive Effects of a Weighted Blanket on Insomnia.
- Chen et al. (2013). Physiological Effects of Deep Touch Pressure on Anxiety Alleviation: The Weighted Blanket Approach. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/286206556_Physiological_Effects_of_Deep_Touch_Pressure_on_Anxiety_Alleviation_The_Weighted_Blanket_Approach
- Ekholm et al. (2020). A randomized controlled study of weighted chain blankets for insomnia in psychiatric disorders. https://jcsm.aasm.org/doi/full/10.5664/jcsm.8636
- Eron et al. (2020). Weighted Blanket Use: A Systematic Review. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32204779/
- Mullen et al. (2008). Exploring the Safety and Therapeutic Effects of Deep Pressure Stimulation Using a Weighted Blanket. Occupational Therapy in Mental Health. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1300/J004v24n01_05?journalCode=womh20
- SleepFoundation.org (2021). Best Weighted Blankets of 2021. https://www.sleepfoundation.org/best-weighted-blankets
- Vinson et al. Weighted blankets: anxiety reduction in adult patients receiving chemotherapy. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32678376/