I have written before about having generalized anxiety disorder and insomnia and how I genuinely struggle with getting great quality sleep. Both anxiety and insomnia are insidious, silent ailments that strike often in the dead of night and leave me feeling out of it and exhausted the next day and the next day after that.
I’ve researched the heck out of non-medication solutions, and all the research leads back to a fairly simple solution: weighted blankets. I’ve had the opportunity to try one out and there is a very comforting feeling when curled up under the weight. It doesn’t feel smothering or super heavy since the weight is distributed throughout the whole blanket and not all in one or two spots. If I had to compare it to something, maybe it would be a good analogy to being cuddled or hugged.
The Science Behind Weighted Blankets
Weighted blankets utilize deep pressure touch stimulation. Deep pressure touching is when you apply pressure to your body to increase the release of serotonin, which helps you sleep more comfortably. According to Applied Behavior Analysis Edu, “When you apply deep pressure to the body, the body switches from running its sympathetic nervous system to its parasympathetic nervous system. This is the so-called switch from ‘fight or flight’ to ‘rest and digest.’”
Outside of weighted blankets, other forms of deep pressure touches are massages and hugs. Deep pressure touch stimulation has been shown to help more than just people with anxiety, in fact, it works for people with autism, children, animals, and more.
Weighted blankets help relax your body, calm your mind, and improve your sleep simply by giving you a gentle pressure evenly distributed across your entire body.
The blankets are sewn so there are squares or “pockets” throughout the entire thing, and each pocket has beads or pellets inside, so the weight is throughout the blanket, not centered or localized. These stitched pockets are the most common way to keep the weight evenly distributed so that the weight doesn’t shift or all fall to one side or area of the blanket. Most weighted blankets use hypoallergenic, non-toxic polypropylene beads, but some can have glass beads, steel shot beads, or even rice for the weight.
There have been multiple studies showing the efficacy of weighted blankets on anxiety, insomnia, autism, children with sensory issues, depression, mania, and even people going through detoxification and rehabilitation.
What Weight Should You Get?
Most weighted blankets have various size and weight options from five to 25 pounds and come in smaller sizes for lap blankets or for children, up to larger sizes to cover your whole bed. It is generally recommended to have your own individual weighted blanket suited to your needs and size as opposed to sharing it with another person.
For the best results, experts agree you should use a weighted blanket with a total weight of about 10% of your body weight plus one or two pounds. If you’re between two weights, go with the slightly heavier one.
For example, a 180-pound adult should have to get one that is about 20 pounds of weight, but a 75-pound child should have one that weighs approximately 8–9 pounds.
Most weighted blankets come in multiple sizes and weights, so make sure to pick the right size and weight for your specific needs, as they can come in all different dimensions from 36” by 48” for kids up to 80” by 87” for adults and large beds. You want it to be able to cover your whole body (if you’re using it for sleeping) and have some room to move, in case you toss and turn.
As with most things, it may take a few days of sleeping with the blanket before you’re completely used to it or don’t kick it off during the night.
They Make Great Holiday Gifts!
Are you looking for a great gift for anyone who has sleep, mental health, or sensory issues?
As the holidays are coming up, consider getting your loved one a science-backed weighted blanket for better quality sleep, improved focus, and reduced anxiety. They are thin, breathable cotton and can go right into a duvet cover for easy cleaning and soft textures.
When looking at holiday gifts, don’t forget about Black Friday deals! Weighted blankets can be a bit pricey, anywhere from $90-$250, depending on what size, weight, and brand you buy. But there are often sales and it’s a one-time purchase that really pays off.
You can get some weighted blankets that can be put into duvet covers you already own or purchase separately, or you are able to buy weighted blankets that come in a set with duvet covers that match and fit your new weighted blanket perfectly.
Look for weighted blankets made from breathable cotton or bamboo, as the weight can make you sweat during the night if you end up with a polyester blend, however, a polyester blend may be perfect for colder areas! Make sure to check sizes and get the right size and weight for your individual needs.
Also, definitely read reviews, especially if you are purchasing a weighted blanket for someone with sensory issues, as you want to be sure the fabric is right.
Have you ever used a weighted blanket? What was your experience like?