Sleep problems such as insomnia affect the lives of young and old Americans alike. This is concerning since sleep is an essential part of health and well-being. Inadequate sleep can lead to problems with metabolism, recovery, attention span, memory, mood, and much more.
Fortunately, weighted blankets may offer a simple solution to the sleeping problems of many. These blankets have a history of being used on patients with insomnia and anxiety to promote sleep (1).
What Are Weighted Blankets?
As the name entails, weighted blankets are heavier than your typical blanket. They are stuffed with plastic beads or pellets to increase their weight so that they may apply pressure on the person sleeping. In doing so, the blanket is in a way providing a “hug” sensation than helps promote calm and comfort.
Weighted blankets can weigh from 5 to 30 lbs and recommendation is ~10% of the person’s body weight. They have been used in the clinical setting to help calm children with autism and behavioral disturbances (1). While scientific backing is inadequate, many of those who have tried it report better sleep and better rest.
How do they Help?
There seems to be something about the extra weight that helps calm a person and provide them comfort. The theory is that pressure provided by the extra weight helps calm the nervous system which in turn improves a person’s ability to onset and maintain sleep. These blankets are usually designed not to retain excess heat in order to improve subjective comfort.
People with breathing problems including sleep apnea and COPD should consult a physician before trying out a weighted blanket. It is important to ensure that the extra weight does not interfere with a person’s ability to breathe at night.
Why Are They Significant?
While concrete proof of the effectiveness of weighted blankets is lacking, research is still promising. In most studies, at least 50% of participants report improved sleep and prefer a weighted blanket over a regular blanket (1)(2).
Given that inadequate sleep is extremely taxing to our health and well-being, these blankets may be worth a try. An even better option is to combine them with sleep hygiene techniques to improve sleep quality. For those with the appropriate skill-set, making your own weighted blanket is also an option.
- Harvard Health Publishing. “Anxiety and Stress Weighing Heavily at Night? A New Blanket Might Help.” Harvard Health, https://www.health.harvard.edu/mind-and-mood/anxiety-and-stress-weighing-heavily-at-night-a-new-blanket-might-help.
- Ackerley, R, et al. Positive Effects of a Weighted Blanket on Insomnia. Journal of Sleep Medicine & Disorders, 25 May 2015, https://www.jscimedcentral.com/SleepMedicine/sleepmedicine-2-1022.pdf.