For those of you suffering from difficulty sleeping, anxiety, or insomnia, there may be an answer for you that does not involve medication. Weighted blankets are known to help when it comes to getting the rest you need and are a great solution for those looking to solve their sleep issues naturally.
A weighted blanket is exactly what it sounds like — a heavy blanket usually weighing anywhere from 5 to 25 lbs. They are known to be calming which is how they help you sleep. Many describe their experience using a weighted blanket as feeling a sense of security.
Weighted blankets work by providing deep touch pressure evenly distributed to touch receptors throughout the body. When deep touch pressure is applied, the body switches from its “fight or flight” response of the sympathetic nervous system to its “rest and digest” response of the parasympathetic nervous system.
The sympathetic nervous system is there to help us cope with daily stresses life throws our way. For many people, this “fight or flight” response runs overtime into the evening and causes us to feel tired and even anxious. This keeps us from relaxing and being able to sleep. When we apply deep touch pressure, such as with weighted blankets, our body activates the parasympathetic nervous system. As a result, the weighted blanket calms our anxiety, lowering our heart rate and helping us rest and relax.
Deep touch pressure is known to release a chemical neurotransmitter called serotonin, which is known as the “feel good” chemical that makes us happy, calms anxiety, and helps us to relax.
Serotonin is needed in the body to help produce the hormone melatonin. Melatonin is crucial for our circadian rhythms, also known as our sleep/wake cycles. It’s produced in the pineal gland and is responsible for making us feel sleepy when daytime changes to nighttime.
Weighted blankets are known to mimic a hug and hugs release a hormone called oxytocin, which makes us feel warm and happy. Oxytocin is known to decrease blood pressure, decrease heart rate, and aid in relaxation.
Weighted blankets have benefits such as reducing anxiety, lowering heart rate, and decreasing blood pressure. For this reason they have the potential to alleviate certain disorders, although this isn’t a guarantee and heavily depends on each person’s individual case. Here are some of the disorders a weighted blanket may help relieve.
Weighted blankets are filled with poly pellets, glass beads, or steal shot beads. Some people also make them using rice or barley on the inside. Poly pellets, made from polypropylene, seem to be the most common filler for weighted blankets. It’s important to make sure that the pellets (or other filler) are evenly distributed throughout the blanket before using.
Your doctor may want you to try a weighted blanket with a different weight than what’s typically recommended, so always check with them first. Usually, it’s recommended your blanket be 10 percent of your body weight. For example, someone weighing 150 pounds would use a 15-pound weighted blanket. Some companies recommend 10 percent of your ideal body weight and others recommend 10 percent of your body weight plus 1 or2 pounds. Before purchasing your weighted blanket, check the company’s recommendations, or better yet, check with your doctor to be sure.
You’ll want to make sure you get the fabric you want since different companies use different materials for their weighted blankets. Weighted blankets are quilt-like and are many times hand-sewn. Cotton and polyester are two of the most common fabrics used to make weighted blankets. Polyester does not breathe easily and is probably best for those in colder climates or people that don’t get hot when they sleep. Cotton is more breathable, so it would be a better choice for those that get warm at night or live in warmer climates.
Choosing the appropriate size is important because weighted blankets are meant to fit you, not the bed. If you have a king size bed, you can choose a king size blanket that will cover both you and your partner, if desired. Weighted blankets are made to fit on the top of the bed and should not hang over the side. If a weighted blanket is too large, there’s a good chance it will keep falling and you’ll be fighting to keep it on all night. If you aren’t planning on sharing with your partner, avoid the hassle altogether by buying a smaller blanket that fits you only.
With access to the internet, purchasing a weighted blanket is only a couple of clicks away. Many mainstream retailers now sell weighted blankets. Some medical supply stores also carry them. It’s important to research the weighted blanket before buying to make sure you get the size, weight, material, and filler you want. Most manufacturers recommend a blanket weight between 8-15% of your body weight.
Most, if not all, of these reviews and comparisons are anecdotal. At the time of this publication, there were no large scale trials comparing weighted blankets for sleep efficacy.
While it’s important to check with the manufacturer of your particular blanket, most weighted blankets can be washed in cold water and air dried.
There’s a very large price range for weighted blankets. Price seems to depend on size, material, quality, and whether it’s handmade or factory made. Blankets can range from $60 to $360 or more.
Many insurance companies do not cover weighted blankets, but there are some that do. You’ll need to check with your insurance provider to be sure.
Talk to your doctor before using a weighted blanket if you suffer from:
Weighted blankets are a great, natural treatment for helping you sleep, as well as possibly alleviating symptoms of certain disorders. If you’re interested in trying a weighted blanket, it’s always a good idea to check with your doctor to make sure it’s the right solution for you. Not only can doctors advise you on whether weighted blankets are the best treatment, they also can help you decide which blanket and weight will offer you the biggest benefit.
© 2021 American Sleep Association.