Weighted blankets have become the rising star of the booming sleep industry. According to a 2018 report by Prescient & Strategic Intelligence, approximately $69.5 billion is spent annually on sleep aids worldwide. In the pursuit of sleep, we’re willing to try just about anything — be it sleep apps, teas, sound machines, or even essential oils. Insomnia affects one in three people, the Sleep Health Foundation revealed, so it’s no surprise that many of us are willing to splurge on pricey pillows that promise seductive slumber or blackout curtains meant to drown out all the light.
Weighted blankets, however, may be a cut above the rest. As detailed by Forbes, these blankets are filled with evenly distributed beads that provide full-body pressure similar to that of a comforting hug. They were first used as tools to help both adults and children with disabilities or mental health conditions, but have since become a trendy and popular item for any and all seeking more sleep, better sleep, and even anxiety relief.
While definitive proof may be lacking, many researchers, doctors, and otherwise sleep-deprived individuals swear by weighted blankets. Trying to decide if you should splurge on one of these cozy quilts? This is what happens to your body when you sleep with a weighted blanket every night.
You may snooze more soundly when you sleep with a weighted blanket every night
Most people invest in a weighted blanket for their supposed sleep-enhancing benefits, but is there scientific evidence behind this or is it purely anecdotal based on smart marketing moves?
According to WebMD, a Swedish study asked 31 people suffering from insomnia to use a weighted blanket for 14 days. Unanimously, the participants said they experienced enhanced sleep quality with fewer disruptive episodes of movement. Of course, it should be noted that this research was funded by a company that manufactures weighted blankets — so you may want to take that with a proverbial grain of salt.
Still, Raj Dasgupta, a spokesperson for the American Academy of Sleep and assistant professor of clinical medicine at the University of Southern California, told WebMD that he believes weighted blankets are effective and could even be considered ”a good alternative to life-long sedative hypnotic medications (sleeping pills) at night.” Nevertheless, he admitted that they should not be viewed as a definitive fix for all sleep issues. “You also have to pay attention to the foundation of good sleep hygiene,” he said. This would include, among other things, putting away your phone before bed.
Sleeping with a weighted blanket every night could reduce your anxiety
Weighted blankets are specifically designed to mimic the relaxing effects of “deep pressure touch stimulation,” as noted by Medical News Today. In a sense, they engulf your body in gentle calming compression, which could ultimately help to reduce overall anxiety. Moreover, the stillness it provides could have a meditative effect of sorts.
A small study published in Occupational Therapy in Mental Health found that using a 30-pound weighted blanket reduced electrodermal activity, one measurement of physiological stimulation, in 33 percent of participants. What’s more, 63 percent of people said they were significantly less anxious and 78 percent concurred that they felt calmer.
But don’t run out to the store to buy a 30-pound blanket just yet. As noted by Psychology Today, when selecting a weighted blanket, you want to find one that weighs ten percent of your body weight. So a person who weighs 150 pounds would want to go with a 15-pound weighted blanket.
When you sleep with a weighted blanket every night, your body may release more of these chemicals
While many question the efficacy of a weighted blanket, it is hard to deny a few potential chemical effects. Deep Touch Pressure, in its many forms, has been shown to increase the release of serotonin, according to the National Sleep Foundation. Per Healthline, the neurotransmitter serotonin is a “natural mood stabilizer” as well as activates regions of the brain that regulates sleep and wake times.
Similarly, the full-body cuddle of a weighted blanket can also foster the release of oxytocin, the National Sleep Foundation explained. Under “stress-free conditions,” this chemical can have a calming effect and enhance sleep, as noted by a study in Regulatory Peptides.
Finally, the Deep Tissue Pressure produced by a weighted blanket can help you produce the ultimate sleep-enabling hormone, melatonin, according to Psychology Today. This can be considered the icing on the sedative cake.
If you have ADHD, you could benefit from sleeping with a weighted blanket every night
Occupational therapists have long used weighted blankets and other means of Deep Touch Pressure therapy as tools to help children with Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD) and Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD), ADDitude magazine detailed. “The weight is intended to provide proprioceptive input to the brain, which has a calming and organizing effect on the central nervous system,” according to the publication.
As Penn Medicine explained, a weighted blanket can activate a child’s “sense of touch,” and help them avoid “becoming distracted by other sensory stimuli,” which can in turn “help them improve their attention, remain on task, stay in their seats, and fidget less.” Of course, your kiddo may not be too keen on wearing a weighted blanket at school, but a weighted vest is a smart alternative with similar outcomes, as explained by the medical site.
Children and adults on the autism spectrum may find comfort in sleeping with a weighted blanket every night
Similar to how a weighted blanket can help those with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) find focus, its pressure can also calm anxiety and stress in individuals on the autism spectrum, according to Penn Medicine. Furthermore, “it can also make them feel as if they’re being rewarded.”
People on the autism spectrum can easily become overstimulated by sensory stimulation, which can make social interactions extremely difficult and everyday sights, sounds, and encounters feel overwhelming. The gentle all-encompassing pressure delivered by a weighted blanket can help to provide soothing relief and block out outside factors, per the medical center.
Nevertheless, hard evidence supporting the claim that weighted blankets make a tangible difference is limited. A study by the American Academy of Pediatrics found that the use of a weighted blanket yielded no significant difference in children with autism. Anecdotally, however, the participants who used weighted blankets — and their parents — found them to be helpful.
If you have arthritis, you may find relief when sleeping with a weighted blanket every night
As of this writing, no studies have been conducted that specifically examine the use of weighted blankets in people suffering from the aches and pains associated with arthritis, noted Healthline. Still, a potential connection could be drawn from existing research around massage therapy’s effect on the degenerative joint disease.
A study published in Pain Medicine found that deep pressure during massage — as opposed to light pressure — can help to relieve osteoarthritic pain of the knee. Since weighted blankets employ Deep Touch Pressure, too, they may help those with arthritis in a similar way, as deduced by Healthline.
Furthermore, people with rheumatoid arthritis often have trouble sleeping at night due to pain. In some instances, they may experience even more discomfort when they haven’t gotten adequate rest, as confirmed by a study in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine. It’s a vicious cycle, but since weighted blankets can help promote the onset and quality of sleep, they could consequently reduce arthritis pain. Likewise, this theory could be applicable to chronic pain sufferers. A study published in the International Journal of Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork found that pressure (albeit via massage) helped relieve patients’ discomfort.
You may breathe easier if you sleep with a weighted blanket every night
It might seem counterintuitive, but a weighted blanket could actually help you breathe better at night. According to HealthMed, the publication of Indiana University’s School of Public Health, the “extra pounds surrounding your body seem to relax your respiratory system and even out your breathing.” This could potentially quell mild, but still disruptive snoring spells. The site noted, though, that a weighted blanket would most likely not be effective nor is it advisable for those with obstructive sleep apnea. During episodes of this condition, the “throat muscles intermittently relax and block your airway during sleep,” per Mayo Clinic.
As noted by Penn Medicine, the compression created by a weighted blanket “puts your autonomic nervous system into ‘rest’ mode,” which can help with a “quickened heart rate” or rapid breathing. If your partner lightly snores when he snoozes, consider gifting him a weighted blanket. You will both be grateful.
Sleeping with a weighted blanket every night may quell symptoms of restless leg syndrome
According to WebMD, restless leg syndrome (RLS) affects one in ten people in the United States, though it is most prevalent in women. It causes an “overpowering urge to move your legs” and is often described as a combination of tingling, itching, and throbbing in one or both legs. Since episodes of RLS occur most often at night and are frequently accompanied by sleeplessness, medical professionals have classified the condition as a sleep disorder, per WebMD.
As noted in a post on HealthMed, Indiana University’s School of Public Health’s official blog, doctors frequently advise patients with restless leg syndrome to try sleeping with a weighted blanket, as it can help reduce symptoms and lead to an overall improvement in sleep quality as well as longer stretches of restfulness.
One Byrdie writer tried sleeping with a weighted blanket for the first time and remarked, “The blanket felt like a comforting hug lulling me to sleep. I felt calmer — and not once did I have that irksome compulsion to kick my legs.” So if you find yourself wiggling around in bed most nights without relief, a weighted blanket may just be the answer you’re looking for.
You may feel suffocated when sleeping with a weighted blanket every night
While you may look to a weighted blanket to help reduce your anxiety, you may find that using one can actually have an opposite effect. “For some people, the feeling of being under a weighted blanket feels trapped and imprisoning and claustrophobic and anxiety-provoking,” Debra Kissen of the Anxiety and Depression Association of America told Refinery29.
She also stated that, while sleeping with a weighted blanket may not be for everyone, some may still benefit from just wrapping it around their shoulders or placing it on their legs during moments when they’re feeling an acute sense of worry.
Ensuring that you select a blanket of the right weight for your body can help mitigate this feeling of being trapped or suffocated. Per Healthline, the general guideline is to go with one that is about 10 percent of your body weight. However, if you are prone to panic or have existing issues of claustrophobia, a weighted blanket probably isn’t the best option.
You may feel overheated when you sleep with a weighted blanket every night
If you tend to run hot, sleeping with a blanket that adds an extra 15 to 20 pounds of pressure to your body might sound like a recipe for a sweat-soaked night of tossing and turning. But it turns out that there are weighted blankets that also boast breezy materials and cooling properties.
Shape rounded up some of the best cooling weighted blankets and they use all sorts of fabrics — from natural bamboo to moisture-wicking microfiber to good old-fashioned breathable cotton. The filler material in these blankets are distributed evenly to cradle your body in cooling comfort.
Still, it is important to know what you need before dropping up to $250 on one of these blankets. As explained by Sarah Riccio, bedding expert for Sleepopolis, in The Strategist, not all cooling weighted blankets are created equal: “Ultimately, a weighted blanket isn’t necessarily cooling just because it’s advertised as such.” She continued, saying, “If there are no special textiles or cooling fabrics to be found, chances are, it’s just a regular, temperature-neutral weighted blanket.”
Your skin may improve if you start sleeping with a weighted blanket every night
Using a weighted blanket may have a surprising effect on your complexion. This is because tummy and side sleepers may be coerced into sleeping on their backs with the gentle encouragement of a weighted blanket.
As it turns out, your sleeping position can vastly hurt or help your skin. Dermatologist Joshua Zeichner told MindBodyGreen that sleeping on your back is the best sleep position for the health of your skin. “Side or stomach sleeping means that the skin on your face is pushed against the pillow, leading to folding of the skin. Besides folding, frictional forces of the face against the pillow can cause pressure and inflammation of the skin leading to premature wrinkles,” he told the publication.
Furthermore, the author of the Mind Body Green article found that using a weighted blanket herself not only helped her transition to back sleeping, but it also enhanced her quality of sleep, which can also lead to improved skin, per the site.
Using a weighted blanket can even help you when you're not sleeping
The next time you have to get a cavity filled or undergo a dreaded root canal at the dentist’s office, make it a BYOB visit. That is, bring your own blanket. A study in the Journal of the Formosan Medical Association sought to examine the potential use of “deep pressure input” to help “normalize physiological arousal due to stress.”
During regular wisdom tooth extractions, scientists measured the “autonomic responses” (for example, heart rate) of patients and found that those in the experimental group — the ones using weighted blankets — were better able to regulate their acute anxiety than those in a control group where no stress-minimizing tactics were employed.
A second similar study in the same medical journal, set out to measure the stress-reducing potential of using weighted blankets during molar extractions in adolescents, and the results again were positive, indicating that weighted blankets could be beneficial as a stress-relieving tool during certain medical procedures. Although weighted blankets may be most beneficial for aiding the tired to sleep, this is an inarguably cool perk.
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