Originally developed to help those with behavioral and sensory processing disorders, weighted blankets are finding their niche in the wider population and are becoming more popular as anxiety and sleep problems increase with the current world climate. Many users equate the feeling of lying under one to that of a hug. Weighted blankets use what’s called “deep pressure” therapy.
By applying pressure to your skin, neurotransmitters like serotonin and melatonin are stimulated that help promote a sense of calm which also involves a decrease in the stress hormone cortisol. It is similar to the workings behind massage and acupressure. The calming effect blankets have can promote better quality sleep as well as reducing anxiety.
Though usage by occupational therapists and educators has only been around since the late 1990s, research into weighted blankets’ effectiveness is still growing. And trending results are leaning toward the positive. Recent studies in 2020 have reported findings in helping patients with anxiety and insomnia. For example, a study done by the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine reported study participants experiencing a decrease of 50% or more in their Insomnia Severity Index scores after using a weighted blanket for four weeks. Research studying the effects of weighted blankets on children with ADHD or ASD found either some positive associations or no associations with better sleep or reduced symptoms.
Weighted blankets are available in a number of sizes, colors, and fabrics. Blankets are typically stuffed with pellets— glass or a plastic like polyethylene—and can typically weigh from 5 to 25 pounds. This makes them costly, as pricing can range from $100 to $200 depending on the size and weight. However, there are numerous tutorials for do-it-yourself versions online at a fraction of the price.
However, there are some things that should be kept in mind when considering the use of a weighted blanket. People with conditions such as claustrophobia; asthma, sleep apnea or other respiratory issues; and children under 2 years old should always have a doctor’s consultation before usage. A weighted blanket should be 7 – 12% of your body weight (10% being ideal). Similarly, a blanket should not be oversized and you should still be able to move underneath it with the weight evenly distributed in order to avoid issues.