Could a Weighted Blanket Help You?
Recently, a new med-free remedy for anxiety has been getting lots of buzz: weighted blankets. This is your complete guide to weighted blankets, including my best heavy blanket recommendations.
If you suffer from anxiety, you know just how difficult it can be to deal with constant worry—but you’re not alone.
Anxiety disorders impact 40 million adults in the United States, making it the most common mental health issue in the country — yet less than half of those dealing with it seek treatment.
Anxiety can be a crippling disease, affecting not just you, but your loved ones, your friends, your business and more.
A weighted blanket may not be the first thing to come to mind, when dealing with anxiety, but it’s one of the simplest ways to help ease those crippling bouts of anxiety and panic.
Those suffering from anxiety have professed just how much weighted blankets help with easing their anxiety symptoms.
A weighted blanket can help anxiety by raising serotonin levels and decreasing cortisol levels through massage-like pressure.
The calming benefits of weighted blankets are supported by research.
A study published in the International Journal of Neuroscience suggests that
the stress-alleviating effects (decreased cortisol) and the activating effects (increased serotonin and dopamine) of massage therapy on a variety of medical conditions and stressful experiences.
Another study published in Occupational Therapy in Mental Health found that:
33% of people using a weighted blanket had decreases in their nervous system activity, while 63% reported having lower anxiety.
Overall, 78% of people in the study preferred the weighted blanket as a tool to relieve anxiety.
Generalized Anxiety Disorder and Sleep
There’s a lot of scientific evidence showing that anxiety and sleep are closely connected.
If you have anxiety, you may notice that you sleep better on days when your anxiety is under control.
On the other hand, when you’re worried and stressed, you may wake up more often or find it takes longer to get back to sleep.
Sleep problems can also cause anxiety, too. For many people, a poor night’s sleep exacerbates anxiety.
A study published in the Journal of Sleep Medicine and Disorders found that:
“A weighted blanket may aid in reducing insomnia through altered tactile inputs, thus may provide an innovative, non-pharmacological approach and complementary tool to improve sleep quality.”
What Are Weighted Blankets?
Filled with poly pellets, weighted discs, or glass beads, weighted blankets are heavier than standard blankets.
They apply pressure across the body to promote relaxation. They typically weigh anywhere from 4 to 30 pounds.
Benefits of Weighted Blankets
For many people who have disorders such as anxiety, insomnia, or autism, weighted blankets may provide a safe alternative to medication or other types of treatment.
Weighted blankets can also be used to complement existing therapies.
Benefits Beyond General Anxiety
Weighted blankets can help reduce symptoms and manage many conditions, including:
- Sensory Disorders of any kind (weighted therapy can help increase Serotonin and Melatonin levels overnight)
- Sleep disorders of any kind (again, levels of Serotonin and Melatonin overnight are increased)
- Insomnia, Falling asleep and staying asleep
- ADD/ADHD Spectrum Disorder (many ADHD kids use weighted blankets to calm down after school or during therapy sessions, or to relax and fall asleep)
- Asperger’s and Autism Spectrum Disorder (again, many of these kids use these blankets to calm down after school or during therapy sessions)
- Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS) and fidgeting legs due to chemotherapy treatments or Menopause
- Anxious Feelings and Panic symptoms, Stress and Tension. Cancer or Dental Anxiety, Peri-menopause and Menopause symptoms
- Sensory Integration Disorders/Sensory Processing Disorders
- People who are 65 or older: weighted blankets help calm a myriad of symptoms, including those who have Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s Disease.
The deep pressure touch stimulation, or swaddling that happens when you cuddle up with a weighted can help you or your loved one feel better and ease the mind allowing for complete relaxation.
Weighted blankets can help reduce anxiety in both children and adults. They’re typically safe to use. They help many people achieve a relaxed state, allowing them to sleep more deeply.
Grounding and Cortisol
Weighted blankets help ground your body during sleep by pushing it downwards.
This process, known as “earthing” or “grounding,” may have a deeply calming effect.
Studies show that grounding may help reduce nighttime levels of cortisol, a stress hormone. Cortisol is produced when your brain thinks you’re under attack, eliciting the fight or flight response.
Stress can escalate cortisol levels, which can have a negative impact on the immune system. It can also increase blood sugar levels and adversely affect the digestive tract (hello, irritable bowel syndrome!)
Elevated cortisol levels, especially those that don’t drop back down to normal levels naturally, can cause multiple complications. These include:
- weight gain
Deep Pressure Touch
These blankets also simulate deep pressure touch (DPT), a type of therapy that uses firm, hands-on pressure to reduce chronic stress and high levels of anxiety.
By providing deep pressure touch, weighted blankets can promote relaxation and help break this cycle. This may trigger the release of the neurotransmitters dopamine and serotonin, which are feel-good hormones produced in the brain. These hormones help combat stress, anxiety, and depression.
A study reported in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine indicated that:
Grounding the human body while sleeping is an effective way to synchronize cortisol secretion with its natural, 24-hour circadian rhythms, especially in women.
Grounding helped reduce cortisol production in the participants during sleep.
This improved their sleep and alleviated stress, insomnia, and pain.
Another study found that 30-lb weighted blankets are a safe and effective way to reduce anxiety in adults. Of the 32 adults who participated in the study, 63 percent reported lower levels of anxiety.
“In psychiatric care, weighted blankets are one of our most powerful tools for helping people who are anxious, upset, and possibly on the verge of losing control,” says Karen Moore, OTR/L, an occupational therapist in Franconia, N.H.
“These blankets work by providing input to the deep pressure touch receptors throughout the body,” Moore says. “Deep pressure touch helps the body relax.
Choosing the Right Weight
The first question is how to choose the right size of weighted blanket. The rule of thumb for this is 10% of your body weight plus a pound or two.
If you weigh 150 pounds, you’ll most likely want a blanket that weighs 16 to 17 pounds. If you are buying a weighted blanket for a young child that weighs 30 pounds, then a 4 to 5-pound blanket is what you’ll want.
Weighted Blanket Filling
There are 3 weighted blanket fillers that are most widely used; poly pellets, glass beads and sand, but there are also a couple more that you might see being used by some manufacturers.
Plastic Poly Pellets
They are small round plastic beads with a pebble-like texture. They are commonly made from ABS virgin plastic which means they have not come into contact with toxins and other chemicals.
Note that if you have skin or sound sensitivities, then this may not be the best option for you. A smoother texture may be better, like the one glass beads provide, for example.
If you choose to use plastic pellets inside a cotton stuffing, it could help a bit with the noise they make, but be aware that they might feel a bit uneven if they aren’t carefully constructed. Your blanket might end up being lumpy, and this could irritate you at night if you are sensitive to that type of thing.
Micro Glass Beads
These are one of the top-quality choices. These beads are extremely tiny and have a similar look and feel to white beach sand or salt crystals.
They will appear much smoother inside your blanket, and are probably the best selection for people with any type of auditory, sensory and physical sensitivities.
Steel Shot Beads
Steel beads are very strong, heat treated hyper-eutectoid steel micro balls. They’re super easy to wash, as they usually don’t retain a lot of dirt between them because of their smooth surface, and will just last about forever.
These beads are slightly larger in size than glass beads but are heavier, so less of them are needed in the blanket.
Also, because they’re bigger, steel shot beads are less likely to leak through the stitches of the blanket (although leakage shouldn’t be a problem in any well-manufactured blanket).
The only drawback is that steel shot beads can be a bit lumpy and noisy.
Sand is a somewhat decent (and very cheap) way of adding weight to the blanket or quilt, though it’s not the favorite, and can be problematice
Sand doesn’t spread out as easily as glass beads or plastic pellets, and it is much harder to wash and dry than the non-organic fillers.
Sand will expand when it comes into contact with water and will bundle or cluster up inside the pockets of your blanket, causing large uneven bumps in your fabric.
It will also take an inordinate amount of time to dry and depending on the fabric and the construction of the blanket, they will leak faster in the long run.
Weighted blankets constructed with sand are often some of the least durable, so be aware of that.
Is it Washable?
The design of the weighted blanket is important to look at as well. Is the blanket easy to wash? Check the manufacturer’s care instructions.
If a cover isn’t included with your blanket, purchasing one or two duvet covers will reduce the need to wash the blanket itself.
How is the Weight Divided?
Is the weight evenly divided into sections, or are you going to have to worry about the weight sliding all to one side?
With a high quality weighted blanket, this shouldn’t be an issue. Always check user reviews as part of your decision-making process.
What Size Do You Need?
The last thing you’ll want to look at is the dimensions. Keep in mind that a weighted blanket should be smaller than the size of your bed; it’s designed to sit on top of the bed, so it doesn’t slide off to one side.
Weighted Blankets Aren’t for Everyone
Weighted blankets aren’t for everyone, since they may add some heat as well as weight.
Before using a weighted blanket, you should discuss it with your doctor if you:
- have a chronic health condition
- are going through menopause
- have circulation issues
- have respiration issues
- have temperature regulation issues
Best Weighted Blankets
Amy Garden Weighted Blanket
The Amy Garden Weighted Blanket is made with 100 percent breathable cotton and filled with hypoallergenic, evenly distributed glass beads.
The weighted insert and duvet cover are sold separately, but opting for both will make it easier to clean (be sure to choose matching sizes!). Just slip the cover off and throw it in the wash.
One reviewer wrote: “I was skeptical about buying this product, but I have to say that it really does help with my anxiety, and does help me fall asleep, and have a deeper sleep at that.”
Melissa’s Weighted Blankets
Melissa’s Fleece/Flanel Weighted Blanket has earned excellent reviews on Amazon, and for good reason.
Each one is individually sewn and the weights range from five to 25 pounds for kids, teens, and adults.
They recommend starting with 10 percent of your weight, so if you’re 150 pounds go for a 15-pounder.
Bonus: Melissa’s Weighted Blankets in a variety of gorgeous colors (10, actually!), so you can easily find one that fits your decor.
YnM Cooling Weighted Blanket
A great option for the warmer weather, the YnM blanket is nice and soft, and utilizes a moisture wicking, breathable fabric, so you stay cool as you snooze.
The YnM Cooling Weighted Blanket and duvet cover are also sold separately here for easier machine-washable cleaning.
One reviewer wrote:
“I got it for my husband’s birthday, who suffers from occasional mild anxiety, and often slept with pillows on his body. I debated for a while as it’s not cheap, but it is WORTH the price. Thanks to the quilting, the weights don’t shift around. It conforms perfectly to the body.”
The Calmforter Weighted Blanket was designed for convenience. Not only does it come in a variety of colors, but you can zip off the outer cover (which comes with the blanket) for quick cleaning.
It is also textured with dots, which can be calming for those who have fidget-y hands.
According to one reviewer who bought the Calmforter Weighted Blanket for her daughter,
“The color is gorgeous and the weight of the blanket (12 lbs) is perfect. It is weighted enough to make you feel comfortable and cozy underneath it but not too heavy as to make you feel constricted or overheated.”
Weighting Comforts Coolmax
Weighted blankets can be a sweaty sleeper’s nightmare.
That’s why Weighting Comforts (Durham’s brand) created the COOLMAX weighted blanket, which is made with a special fabric that is engineered to keep you from overheating.
The COOLMAX technology transports moisture away from the body to keep the wearer cool and dry on hot days, while the fiber structures provide warmth on colder days, helping to optimize performance.
It is not only quick-dry but also provides amazing breathable functionality. The weave is denser than quilting cotton but still smooth and comfortable to the touch.
There are couple of Amazon reviewers who complained about the coarse texture of this blanket, but according to the company’s website, their new blankets are now 50% softer (it’s nice when a company listens to the customers!)
The new version of the Weighting Comforts has the fabric go through a tufting process hat makes the surface smoother and softer to the touch.
For women who are going through hot flashes in menopause, this can be an especially helpful blanket.
If you or someone you know suffers from anxiety or insomnia, a weighted blanket might be the perfect natural solution for calming comfort.
There is evidence, both through studies and anecdotally, that weighted blankets can be an effective drug-free way to relax your body and mind.
Plus, “grounding’ with a weighted blanket is proven to lower circulating cortisol levels, which improves many aspects of well-being.
Note that many people experience a deeper and more restful sleep on the first night, while others may find the blanket’s weight restrictive at first, and need some time to become accustomed to it; so do give yourself a little time to get used to your new blanket.
Of course, users experiencing extreme are often instantly comforted by a weighted blanket.
A weighted blanket would make a wonderful gift to yourself or someone you care about who needs some extra TLC.
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