Do Weighted Blankets Actually Work? Science Has the Answer

weighted blanket

As recently as 2019 — the same year I purchased my first weighted blanket — the research behind weighted blankets was scarce, at best. In fact, an assistant professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, Dr Cristina Cusin said “There are really no reputable scientific studies to back up the claims” and that “concrete evidence is unfortunately lacking.”

However, due to our obsession with sleep over the past few years — probably because we’ve lost sleep due to both COVID and stress — weighted blankets have risen in both popularity, and in scientific studies. And so, I have had to eat my words when it comes to weighted blankets (which takes a lot). Turns out, the benefits are not purely anecdotal; weighted blankets do actually work.

First off, what is a weighted blanket? Healthline says they’re therapeutic blankets that weigh between five to 30 pounds (2.2 kg-13 kg). They’re usually filled with glass beads, plastic pellets, or are multi-layered for extra weight. The pressure from this extra weight mimics a therapeutic technique, deep pressure stimulation.

As for their benefits? Well, we’ve got multiple studies to dive into. The first, from March 2020 and published in the American Journal of Occupational Therapy reviewed previous literature from 2018 and found that weighted blankets may be an appropriate therapeutic tool in reducing anxiety.

A randomised controlled trial, published in the tandard-weight, medical-grade therapeutic weighted blanket can be safely used to reduce anxiety in adult chemotherapy patients — regardless of their weight. In the same month, adults with autism reported benefits in sleep, sensory issues and stress reduction, from using a weighted blanket.

When it comes to people who suffer insomnia as a side effect of their mental health illnesses — including depression, bipolar, anxiety and ADHD — using a weighted blanket resulted in significantly better sleep maintenance and higher daytime activity levels. And there were reduced daytime symptoms of fatigue, depression and anxiety. A year after the study, in the follow-up phase, they found participants continued to use the blanket.

And the final study, published in November of last year? Well, it looked at patients who are involuntarily committed to a psychiatric facility; they often experience anxiety or increased anxiety in response to the environment. As for what was found — 20 minutes with a weighted blanket or weighted lap pad found a “statistically significant difference”, including reduced anxiety and pulse rates.

2020: The year weighted blankets truly proved their worth. 2021: The year to buy one for better sleep. If you’re going to go out look for a weighted blanket after reading this article, make sure to get one that’s roughly 10% of your body weight — that’s the best option for effectiveness and safety.

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