Weighted blankets are heavy blankets that can weigh between 5 and 30 pounds. According to the manufacturers of weighted blankets, the pressure that the blanket places on a person’s body has a therapeutic, calming effect.
In this article, we look at weighted blankets in more detail, including how they work and their benefits and risks. We also discuss research on the use of weighted blankets for several specific health conditions.
A weighted blanket is a blanket that contains weighted balls or pellets.
Weighted blankets work similarly to a technique called deep pressure stimulation (DPS). This technique involves applying firm but gentle pressure equally across the body.
Some psychologists suggest that DPS allows the body to switch from the sympathetic nervous system (SNS) to the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS). The SNS governs the so-called fight-or-flight response, whereas the PNS controls the rest-and-digest response.
Some people may describe the sensation of using a weighted blanket as similar to that of a hug. A lot of people, therefore, find comfort in using a weighted blanket.
A lot of claims relating to the benefits of weighted blankets are anecdotal. Nonetheless, scientific research is starting to investigate the potential benefits of weighted blankets.
Some manufacturers claim that weighted blankets may be beneficial for specific conditions. This section lists these conditions along with any available scientific evidence to support or refute the claims.
A 2020 systematic review of eight scientific studies found that weighted blankets may be a useful therapeutic tool for alleviating anxiety. However, the authors note that further research is necessary to determine how weighted blankets may produce this effect and whether they are effective in clinical practice.
According to a 2013 review, there is a correlation between depression and low levels of the hormone oxytocin. This hormone is involved in providing the positive sensations associated with love and social bonding.
A 2014 review notes that light pressure on the skin may trigger the release of oxytocin. Therefore, it is possible that using a weighted blanket may help with some of the symptoms of depression. However, further research is necessary to explore this theory.
Children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) can experience severe sleeping difficulties.
A 2014 study investigated the effectiveness of a weighted blanket in treating sleeping difficulties among children with ASD. Each participant used either a weighted blanket or an unweighted blanket for 2 weeks before switching to the alternative blanket for another 2 weeks.
The researchers concluded that the weighted blanket did not significantly improve sleep duration or quality compared with the unweighted blanket. However, children with ASD and their parents preferred the weighted blanket.
There is very little scientific research exploring the effects of weighted blankets on children with ASD. However, a 2018 review suggests that weighted vests, which work in a similar way, may improve attention in children with ASD.
Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
Children with ADHD may experience difficulty falling asleep. Anecdotal claims suggest that weighted blankets provide sensory feedback that helps promote calm and improve sleep in children with ADHD.
A 2016 review investigated whether the use of a weighted blanket could improve sleep in children with ADHD. Due to the lack of research into this area, the review consisted of a single study from 2010. The results of this study suggested that children who used a weighted blanket fell asleep more quickly and showed a 10% improvement in attention and activity levels in the classroom.
The authors of the review note that further research is necessary to examine the potential benefits of weighted blankets for children with ADHD.
A 2015 study found that the use of a weighted blanket improved sleep duration in participants with insomnia. Participants also reported that the weighted blanket improved their ability to get to sleep and made them feel more refreshed the following morning.
However, a 2020 systematic review suggests that there is currently insufficient evidence to determine whether weighted blankets are useful for people with insomnia.
Restless leg syndrome
Restless leg syndrome (RLS) is a condition in which a person experiences an overwhelming urge to move their legs. The condition is typically worse at night, when it may interfere with a person’s sleep.
There is some anecdotal evidence that weighted blankets may help lessen the symptoms of RLS. However, there is currently no scientific evidence to support this claim.
The heaviness of a weighted blanket may cause difficulties for people with certain preexisting conditions, such as:
- Asthma: A weighted blanket may worsen breathing difficulties in people with asthma.
- Sleep apnea: Sleep apnea is a condition in which a person stops breathing for short periods during sleep. A weighted blanket may cause further breathing difficulties in people with sleep apnea.
- Diabetes: Diabetes can cause problems with circulation. The heaviness of a weighted blanket may further restrict circulation in people with diabetes.
- Claustrophobia: A weighted blanket can feel tight and restrictive, and this may trigger a fear response in people with claustrophobia.
People with any of the above conditions should talk to a healthcare professional before considering using a weighted blanket.
A person should see a doctor if they are considering using a weighted blanket but have a preexisting condition that may worsen as a result of using this item.
People should also see a doctor if using a weighted blanket does not result in the expected improvements in their symptoms. There is still very little research into the effectiveness of weighted blankets for specific conditions. A doctor will be able to recommend alternative treatments or therapies that have better scientific backing.
A weighted blanket is a blanket that contains weighted balls or pellets. These blankets exert a firm but gentle pressure equally across the body, which may promote rest and relaxation.
There is currently very little scientific research exploring the effectiveness of weighted blankets. However, the available research suggests that weighted blankets may be beneficial for children with ASD and people with ADHD or anxiety.
Weighted blankets may not be suitable for people with certain preexisting health conditions. Anyone who has a health condition that affects their breathing or circulation should consult a healthcare provider before using a weighted blanket.