Posted on by Amber Merton

child with a weighted blanket

For many individuals, a weighted blanket has become a routine part of healthy sleep habits and stress relief, and for good reason. Studies show weighted blankets could benefit those with autism, insomnia, anxiety and other conditions.

What is a Weighted Blanket?

A weighted blanket, sometimes referred to as a gravity blanket, is a therapeutic blanket, typically weighing between five and 30 pounds. The extra weight adds pressure similar to deep pressure stimulation, a therapeutic technique.

Deep pressure stimulation involves hands-on pressure for relaxing your nervous system. Doing this could help:

  • Lessen anxiety
  • Relieve pain
  • Improve mood

This technique doesn't need to be totally hands-on. With a weighted blanket, just wrapping the blanket around your body can deliver the same pressure.

Deep pressure stimulation is an efficient part of other types of treatment such as the use of support animals and massage therapy.

Weighted blankets became very popular a couple of years ago with the use of the Gravity Blanket on Kickstarter, and customers swear by the calming effects of the blankets. This is why occupational therapists have been using weighted blankets for some time now.

Weighted blankets, which are perfect for children with sensory processing disorders, work by using tactile sensation (deep touch pressure). However, adults can also benefit from weighted blankets on their beds in various ways.

Benefits of a Weighted Blanket

There are numerous benefits of weighted blankets, including:

1. It Produces a Calming Effect

A primary type of sensory information that is organizing and calming to your sensory nervous system is deep touch pressure. The weighted blanket's pressure and deep touch pressure overall is a fairly universal calming sensation.

2. It Could Increase Serotonin

A weighted blanket is designed for providing a gentle, warm pressure on you that is similar to the sensation of being held. This form of pressure could raise serotonin (a neurotransmitter that has a calming impact and helps regulate sleep).

Similarly, the weighted blanket's sensation of "being held" encourages the body to make oxytocin, which can help to relieve stress and pain as well as boosts the immune system.

3. It Feels Like a Hug

A weighted blanket makes it feel like someone is giving you a hug without you actually being near to anyone. And, you don't feel hot and constrained.

4. It Benefits Neurotypical Children

While it might seem a weighted blanket is used only for helping kids on the spectrum who require the calming effect of weights, it can actually benefit all kids. Parents report that while the blanket was initially designed for benefiting kids with a sensory processing disorder, and on the autism spectrum, their kids who didn't receive such a diagnosis have experienced outstanding benefits from the use of weighted blankets, mainly in the form of better quality sleep.

5. It Can Be Beneficial for Adults Too

The blanket could also help adults experience more deep sleep. Deep sleep is essential as it helps to maintain proper memory, brain function, and health. It allows you brain to recover from a day of thinking and mental processing.  Medical News Today reports that deep sleep can play a role in balancing hormones, too.

6. It Decreases Restlessness

If you're tossing and turning all night long, or you're being woken up by your partner moving around, this blanket could be the solution. It features weights that are evenly distributed, and offer a slight downward force across your body, which helps encourage stillness and deters movement during sleep.

A weighted blanket introduces a gentle physical constraint that helps with movement. While there is extra resistance, individuals are still able to move around freely. It also benefits light sleepers whose small movements wake them up accidentally. This is because the blanket’s added weight helps to minimize or slow the movement which makes it more difficult to jolt yourself awake.

7. It Could Decrease Anxiety

If you find you lay awake at night with racing thoughts that keep you from falling asleep, a weighted blanket may be your answer. It could help lessen anxiety by reducing activity in your nervous system. If you pair a weighted blanket with quiet meditation, it may be just what you need to quickly drift off to sleep.

Weighted Blanket Shopping Tips

Because weighted blankets are extremely popular, you can find one that will suit just about any of your preferences.

  • Weight. When you're out shopping for a weighted blanket, you'll want to choose one that fits snuggly, and is about 10% of your body weight. It should also be washable so it stays beneficial, rather than becoming an inconvenience.
  • Size. Most weighted blankets are for a single user, so they are more the size of a throw blanket. Some manufacturers do make them in couple size, however. Tall users should carefully read the blanket’s dimensions.
  • Filler material and quality. Look for durable filler material, such as glass beads, which are about the size of a grain of sand. Some weighted blankets use plastic pellets, which are smaller than glass beads, and can make the blanket thinner.  Be sure the blanket has good stitching, so the filling is evenly distributed. If you sleep hot, be careful about weighted blankets containing robust polyester fiberfill. Instead, look for weighted blankets that are breathable, and contain lighter fillers.
  • Cover. Many duvets have internal attachments, or hooks, so the inside weighted blanket won't move around inside the duvet, such as a pillow inside a pillowcase that's too large. Look for stores where you can purchase separate duvet replacements, so you'll have a backup and various thicknesses and textures for different types of climates throughout the year.

Whether you’re purchasing a weighted blanket for yourself or as a gift, knowing the benefits of weighted blankets and how to shop for one, will help you make the best possible purchasing decision.

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