Weighted blankets have become more popular recently, with marketers claiming that these blankets can improve sleep and serve as a remedy for anxiety. As it turns out, the science behind weighted blankets suggests that these claims are actually true. Weighted blanket studies tell just how beneficial these products can be and answer the question, “Why do weighted blankets work?”
What Is a Weighted Blanket?
A weighted blanket is a specially designed blanket that has weight, commonly glass beads, sewn into small pockets to produce pressure on the body while sleeping.
This pressure creates the principle of deep touch pressure (DTP), which is why a weighted blanket can improve the sleep experience for many people.
Let’s take a further look at the science behind weighted blankets.
The Principle of Deep Touch Pressure (DTP)
Weighted blankets are believed to work because of a principle called deep touch pressure (DTP). Some research with patients having dental surgery shows that DTP has a beneficial effect on the nervous system during stressful situations.
This may be the reason that weighted blankets are reported to reduce insomnia and anxiety. Weighted blankets apply deep pressure to the body which can be expected to have a calming effect.
Feels Like the Dentist X-Ray Vest
Some people say that the pressure from a weighted blanket feels like the weight of the heavy protective vest used to cover your body when you get an X-Ray at the dentist.
DTP and Feel-Good Hormones
Another benefit of DTP is that it can have a positive effect on body chemistry. Touch increases levels of melatonin, a brain chemical that is responsible for regulating mood and sleep.
It also decreases the stress hormone cortisol. By applying deep pressure, weighted blankets can impact body chemistry in a way that promotes improved sleep and reduced anxiety.
Studies on Weighted Blankets and Sleep
Weighted blankets are believed to work because of DTP and their beneficial impact on both the nervous system and body chemistry, and studies on sleep have shown that these benefits are real.
People Sleep Longer and Move Less
One study, published in 2015 in the Journal of Sleep Medicine & Disorders, found that when people used weighted blankets, they slept longer, moved less during sleep, and reported that they slept better and felt more refreshed in the morning.
Good for ADHD and Mood Disorders
Weighted blankets may be particularly useful for people who have a mental health condition.
A study carried out in Stockholm, Sweden, showed that among people with ADHD or mood disorders, weighted blankets significantly improved insomnia and cut the time it took to fall asleep by 40 minutes.
Based on weighted blanket studies, the science behind weighted blankets truly is effective for promoting restful sleep.
Our son, who is a hot sleeper, has ADHD and anxiety disorder and finds benefits from using a cooling weighted blanket.
Studies Involving Weighted Blankets and Anxiety
Weighted blanket studies also show that these products are highly effective for improving anxiety.
In fact, a report published by researchers at Northwestern College Department of Nursing indicates that multiple studies have found that deep pressure touch via weighted blankets is an effective remedy for anxiety.
Weighted Blankets Can Decrease Anxiety
One such study supporting the use of weighted blankets found these products to be beneficial for adults receiving inpatient treatment for mental health problems.
Study results, which were published in a 2015 edition of Occupational Therapy in Mental Health, found that the majority of patients enjoyed considerable decreases in anxiety with the use of weighted blankets.
Other Science Behind Weighed Blankets
While there have been weighed blanket studies that directly evaluate their benefits, additional research that doesn’t necessarily include the direct study of weighted blankets still suggests that these are useful devices.
Avoid the Negative Effects of Sleep Deprivation
For example, a 2017 study in the European Journal of Applied Physiology found that just one night of sleep deprivation made it more difficult for men to recover from an intense exercise session.
Body Compression Helps Recovery from Physical Activity
Weighted blankets may also be useful because of the compression they apply to the body. A 2010 study in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research found that full-body compression helped people to recover from intense weight training.
The Safety of Weighted Blankets
Beyond the benefits of muscle recovery, sleep, and anxiety, weighted blankets are effective products because they come with little to no risk.
Weighted Blankets are Confirmed to be Safe
Weighted blanket studies have confirmed that these blankets are safe to use.
For example, the 2015 study in Occupational Therapy in Mental Health found that a 30-pound weighted blanket was safe and it did not cause any adverse changes in vital signs like blood pressure or heart rate.
Based on the weighted blanket research, these products provide benefits such as reduced anxiety, improved sleep, and enhanced muscle recovery, without any significant adverse effects.
Some Cautions to Using Weighted Blankets
While weighted blankets are considered a safe way to improve sleep and decrease anxiety, there is a couple of cautions to keep in mind.
Weighted blankets should never restrict the person using them. They should always be able to get under and out from under the blanket using their own strength.
Also weighted blankets are not recommended for infants under two years of age. And as adults, you should always take care with using one if small children and pets share your bed.
Overall, those who are looking for a natural remedy for improved sleep and other ailments can turn to weighted blankets with the knowledge that they are generally considered a safe, effective treatment for sleep and anxiety issues.