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What You Need to Know About Weighted Blankets

by BetterSleep
Mar 14 2022 • 8 min read
Last Updated on Oct 15 2022
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When it comes to adding comfort, relieving stress, and practicing different sleep habits to promote relaxation, there are many options to choose from. Sleep environment factors like choice of bedding are important additions to help you fall asleep and relax.

Weighted blankets are a popular choice for people of all ages. There are plenty of benefits to using weighted blankets, including reducing stress and anxiety symptoms, helping with sleep disorders, and more. While the benefits may be enticing, there are a few risks associated with using weighted blankets. These risks depend on the person and their particular circumstances, like health conditions and age.

If you’re thinking about investing in a weighted blanket, it’s important to know these things first. Let’s take a look at how weighted blankets work and if they are right for you.

What Is a Weighted Blanket?

Weighted blankets are heavier than standard blankets. These blankets are sometimes referred to as gravity blankets because of the amount of weight they exert on the body. Weighted blankets are usually filled with things that make them heavier yet are safe and comfortable enough to be placed on the body.

Weighted blankets can weigh anywhere from 5 to 30 pounds. What a weighted blanket is filled with depends on the weight of the blanket. Blankets that are lighter in weight are usually filled with glass beads or poly pellets. If you are using a heavier blanket, weighted discs will most likely be used instead. The extra weight in the blankets applies gentle pressure to different parts of the body.

This type of added pressure on the body helps promote stress relief and can give you a good night’s sleep. For the most part, a weighted blanket can be just as mobile as standard blankets. They can be used in the bed, on the couch, or in any of your chosen relaxation areas.

How Do Weighted Blankets Work?

Weighted blankets act like a hug by using a technique called deep pressure stimulation, sometimes referred to as pressure therapy. The therapeutic and calming effects of pressure therapy provide a secure feeling for people who use them. During deep pressure stimulation, the body enters a calm state. This in return relaxes the parasympathetic nervous system.

What Is the Parasympathetic Nervous System?

Your nervous system is packed with different nerves that help your body regulate movement, response, sensing things, and more. The parasympathetic nervous system is part of your autonomic nervous system that helps regulate certain bodily functions. The PNS is also known as the rest and digest system. Some of the things this system regulates include, but are not limited to:

  • Constricts pupils to regulate how much light enters the eyes.
  • Helps the mouth produce saliva and mucous in nose glands.
  • Reduces the work lungs do while resting.
  • Lowers heart rate during rest.
  • Helps the body break down food into sugars for energy.
  • Relaxes muscles to remove waste from the body (using the restroom).

Benefits of Using a Weighted Blanket

Weighted blankets come with different benefits that can be useful for your everyday life. While relaxation and improving sleep are some of the main benefits of weighted blankets, there are many other ways they can be beneficial:

Helps Reduce Stress and Anxiety

High levels of stress can be tied to many other health conditions, like sleep disorders, obesity, heart problems, and more. Weighted blankets have been proven to decrease stress levels in the body. When using a weighted blanket, your system activates its rest system more instead of being on alert and active. This helps bring a sense of calmness. You may realize that your body is calming down when your breathing slows down and your heart rate is not as high.

During this time, stress hormones are also decreased. Cortisol is known as the main stress hormone. Too much cortisol can cause the body to stay in a fight response because it is always triggered. Weighted blankets can lower the production of cortisol by increasing serotonin levels.

What Is Serotonin?

Serotonin is known as the feel-good hormone. This hormone helps regulate your overall mood. Apart from how you feel during the day, serotonin also helps regulate body temperature, attention, and behavior. Increased serotonin levels also play a role in how healthy sleeping patterns are formed. People who suffer from anxiety may have low serotonin levels.

Weighted blankets can increase these mood-changing hormone levels by using pressure to trigger different reactions in the body.

This is why weighted blankets can be great for college students and even animals. One study used college students with an equal but high coursework load. The students who used weighted blankets over the semester reported lower stress levels than those who used standard blankets.

Improves Sleep Quality

People who use weighted blankets may experience reduced levels of insomnia. When serotonin levels are increased, not only does it help reduce cortisol and other stress hormones, but it also increases melatonin levels.

What Is Melatonin?

Melatonin is known as the sleep hormone. This hormone is produced more at night to help you sleep. People with sleep problems like insomnia or sleep deprivation have low melatonin levels. This is what makes falling asleep difficult. Not only do weighted blankets help you sleep by producing more melatonin in the body, they also help you sleep longer.

Some people with insomnia may not have problems falling asleep. The issue becomes the amount of sleep that they get. Some people may get an hour of sleep before waking up again and waiting up before being able to go back to sleep. Some reports show that weighted blankets help people sleep faster than usual.

Brings a Feeling of Security

The increased feelings of security come from the techniques of deep pressure therapy mentioned earlier. Newborns love being swaddled because of the warm feeling it creates. Older people may enjoy hugs because of the sense of comfort they bring. The pressure from using weighted blankets can be described as a similar comfort.

This is also a good addition for people who are used to having the weight of another person on them. Weighted blankets can come in handy when your partner is away from you. Because they feel secure, people will relax better, leading to more sleep and rest.

Improves Overall Mood

You may be more social the day after a good night’s rest. People who don’t get enough sleep the night before are usually groggy, slow, and not up for socializing. Studies show that well-rested people have higher daytime social interactions, more energy, and are more likely to be in a better mood. The sleeping benefits that weighted blankets provide may help with mood and energy levels.

Can Weighted Blankets Help with Restless Leg Syndrome?

Restless leg syndrome is a condition that causes unpleasant or uncomfortable sensations in the legs. These sensations can sometimes be so uncomfortable that people with RLS have to move around to bring themselves relief. Researchers are not completely sure if weighted blankets truly help people with RLS. It is believed that using the pressure of weighted blankets on the legs for a certain amount of time can decrease symptoms or mask uncomfortable sensations.

It is important to note that weighted blankets do not cure RLS. If you are looking for cures for this condition, talk to your doctor about treatment plans and different lifestyle changes you can make.

Who Can Use a Weighted Blanket?

Many people could benefit from using a weighted blanket. For the most part, weighted blankets are good for healthy adults and children. Children over three years old can start using a weighted blanket to help improve sleep. This can help calm children who may be too active before bed.

The older the individual, the heavier the weighted blanket can be. Adults can use anything from a medium-weight blanket to a heavy blanket depending on the symptoms they are trying to relieve.

People with ASD

Autism spectrum disorders are disabilities caused by differences in the brain. People with this condition may have difficulty working or interacting in social settings that call for a lot of communication. This condition may also affect how they learn.

Weighted blankets can help people with this disorder because they focus on the deep pressure provided by the blanket instead of other sensory stimuli that may be around. The therapeutic benefits of weighted give comfort and lessen the symptoms of sensory disorders and bipolar disorder.

People with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder is a common neurodevelopmental disorder. It is usually diagnosed as a child and can last into adulthood. People with this disorder are overly active, have problems paying attention or learning in certain environments, and may have impulsive behaviors.

People with ADHD usually have trouble sleeping because they have sleep disturbances and wake up in the middle of the night. There is limited evidence of the effect of weighted blankets on people with this disorder. However, some studies have shown that children with ADHD using a weighted blanket have less social anxiety, more restful sleep, and relaxation.

People with Chronic Pain

Chronic pain can be a tough diagnosis to live with. Pain is considered chronic when it has been consistent for more than 12 weeks. The deep pressure stimulation from weighted blankets can help relieve this pain. For example, chronic pain like fibromyalgia can be alleviated with the right weighted blanket. You can use weighted blankets to help with pains that keep you up at night so you can start getting better sleep. The intensity of chronic pain can be reduced by a lot if you use a weighted blanket consistently.

Is It Safe for Pregnant Women to Use Weighted Blankets?

For the most part, it is safe to use weighted blankets during pregnancy, but it might not be recommended for everyone. Some women may experience discomfort. This discomfort may be caused by the additional heat that weighted blankets can create. If this is the case, you can try using a light blanket instead.

Other People Who Shouldn’t Use Weighted Blankets

There are people with certain medical conditions who shouldn’t use weighted blankets. If you have chronic respiratory issues like asthma, you should avoid using weighted blankets. The added weight can make it more difficult to breathe and cause the body to overheat.

Claustrophobic people may feel the same uncomfortable feelings if they use a weighted blanket. These people may feel more anxiety than comfort. A small weighted blanket may do the trick, but be sure to go with what feels best.

People with sleep conditions like sleep apnea may also have difficulty breathing while using a weighted blanket. Sleep apnea is when breathing starts and stops randomly throughout the night. This creates poor sleep hygiene.

How Heavy Should a Weighted Blanket Be?

You can find the ideal weighted blanket for you with a weighted blanket calculator. All you need to do is divide your weight by 10 and add 1 to 2 pounds (around 0.5 to 1 kg).

  • Adults should use a 12 to 30-pound weighted blanket.
  • Older adults should use a 5 to 8-pound weighted blanket.
  • A 20 to 70-pound child should use a 3 to 8-pound weighted blanket.
  • A 30 to 130-pound child should use a 5 to 15-pound weighted blanket.

What Is the Best Fabric for a Weighted Blanket?

The best fabric for a weighted blanket depends on the individual. To choose the right material, you’ll have to think about your needs and what kind of sleeper you are. Here are a few common fabrics to consider:

  • Cotton weighted blanket. Cotton is a natural fiber, breathable, and easy to care for. It’s best for warm sleepers and those sensitive to touch.
  • Fleece weighted blanket. Fleece is a plush-feeling fabric, durable, and great at retaining heat. It’s best for those who get cold easily and want an extra soft touch.
  • Bamboo weighted blanket. Bamboo is a cooling fabric designed to wick moisture away from the body. It’s best for hot sleepers, women experiencing menopause, and those living in hot climates.
  • Flannel weighted blanket. Flannel is lightweight and soft to the touch. It’s a good insulator, so it’s great for keeping cold air out and heat in.
  • Linen weighted blanket. Linen is durable, breathable, and absorbent. It’s best for use in the summer and for those wanting an environmentally friendly choice.

If you’re unsure if a weighted blanket is right for you, always check with your healthcare provider. While more studies are needed, weighted blankets have been shown to improve sleep quality and relieve anxiety. If sleep health is still a struggle for you, consider trying out the BetterSleep app.

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