Our alumni group recently got into a lively discussion over the benefits of weighted sleep blankets to relieve anxiety and insomnia. Weighted blankets, also called gravity blankets, usually contain pellets sewn into the pockets of the lining to make them heavier than normal bedding.
Weighing from 10 to 25 pounds, the blanket’s pressure is evenly distributed across the body. Many people report that snuggling up under one has a calming effect, helping them feel more secure.
There’s some research to to suggest that weighted sleep blankets may be effective. A study in the Journal of Sleep Medicine found that people using weighted blankets reported finding it easier to settle down to sleep and felt more refreshed in the morning. Objectively, researchers found people slept for longer periods of time.
Research conducted in 2015 among adults in inpatient mental health hospitalization found that 60 percent reported a reduction in anxiety when using the weighted blanket.
Sleep blankets have also been used in children with autism, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder and other developmental and sensory disorders. Nursing homes have also started experimenting with sleep blankets to help the elderly who suffer from anxiety related to dementia.
The Science Behind Weighted Sleep Blankets
It’s not known exactly why weighted blankets work, but experts believe that the deep pressure created by the blanket may release serotonin, a neurotransmitter that helps regulate sleep and mood. Deep pressure may also simulate the feeling of being hugged or held, and, similar to swaddling a baby, may make people feel a sense of safety and tranquility.
There are multiple blankets on the market, through sellers including Amazon and Etsy, at prices ranging from about $90 to $200. Some Rosewood patients have made their own, filling the interior of a blanket lining with rice or plastic poly pellets, similar to the material found in Beanie Babies.
While a few of our former patients said the blankets made them too warm or were too difficult to move around under due to muscle weakness, the consensus was that the blankets made people feel safe, calm, comforted and that they slept better.
Weighted blankets are safe for almost anyone, except perhaps someone with serious respiratory or circulatory problems. Though weighted blankets will not help everyone, we think there’s enough evidence that weighted blankets may be worth a try.