Everything You Need To Know Before You Start Sleeping With A Weighted Blanket

There's nothing as amazing as a good night's sleep, but quality Zs seem to be evading most of us on a regular basis. The internet is full of tips and tricks on how to improve sleep, and if you've tried some of them without success, there's one more thing that might finally give you the sleep of your dreams — a weighted blanket. They are incredibly popular and come with a slew of health benefits.

So, what exactly makes a weighted blanket different from your favorite comforter or fluffy blanket? Well, it's all in the weight, of course. The Sleep Foundation explains that weighted blankets are outfitted with materials like plastic pellets, glass beads, and ball bearings to make them heavy. Weighted blankets can vary in heaviness — you'll find anything from 15 to 25 pounds in stores. There are also some that are much lighter (around 10 pounds) that are great for children or to take with you when you are traveling.

The blanket's weight applies extra pressure to your body, and this not only helps you to fall asleep, but it can also help kick anxiety to the curb, making for a splendid night of rest. Intrigued? Read on for everything you need to know before you use a weighted blanket.

Here's what you can expect when you sleep under a weighted blanket

Before you buy a weighted blanket, you'll probably want to hop on Google and figure out if you'll even like the sensation of sleeping under one. We'll save you the extensive search session — sleep expert and psychologic Michael J. Breus says that you can expect a weighted blanket to feel "like being held in a gentle hug."

In an article Breus wrote for Psychology Today, he explains that weighted blankets distribute weight evenly across the body. Don't expect it to feel super heavy — it's just enough to feel super comfortable. "[A weighted blanket] can help keep you more still when you're in bed and provides the soothing sensation of being gently held, which creates for many people a deep sense of relaxation and calm that makes it easier to fall asleep," Breus writes. As a result, you'll be less likely to wake up during the night and get better quality sleep. What's not to love?

How do weighted blankets work their magic?

If you're wondering how a heavier-than-normal blanket could possibly help you sleep better, you're not alone. It can seem like a far-fetched idea, but there's actually a bit of science behind why they work for so many people.

According to Penn Medicine, weighted blankets provide what is known as pressure therapy to the body. Its weight applies the gentlest of pressure, and you'll experience a similar sensation to that of being held or hugged. Many of us constantly exist in a state of fight-or-flight mode, but pressure therapy, like that administered by a weighted blanket, triggers the body's parasympathetic nervous system (also known as rest and digest). Your heart rate will automatically lower, dialing down your stress levels so you can sleep soundly. For the 40 million Americans who suffer from anxiety every year, this sure is great news! If racing thoughts have been keeping you from getting your beauty sleep, a weighted blanket could be just what you need.

Sleeping with a weighted blanket has many benefits

There's a reason weighted blankets are gaining popularity — they have various benefits that many of us could use in our lives. Healthline notes that the gentle pressure of weighted blankets can help people who are suffering from symptoms of depression. It can also help relieve pain and send anxiety packing in addition to improving sleep quality.

While pressure therapy can be hands-on, weighted blankets provide a way to receive this therapy in the comfort of your own bed while you're sleeping. We don't know about you, but we love a good at-home hack that can help us deal with poor sleep and anxiety. Of course, it's always wise to speak with your doctor first before you opt for a weighted blanket to help you address any symptoms you might be experiencing. While it can be effective, it's not a cure, and your doctor might suggest that you take medication in addition to trying a weighted blanket.

Weighted blankets can alleviate anxiety

So, we've established that weighted blankets can be real heroes when it comes to curbing anxiety, but how exactly do they work to alleviate some of the most common symptoms associated with this condition? We're glad you asked!

First of all, let's define anxiety: Penn Medicine explains that existing in a constant state of worry or uneasiness are common symptoms of this condition. If it's so bad that it's wreaking havoc on your life, chances are pretty good that you suffer from an anxiety disorder. You might also notice that you tend to obsess and worry over normal, everyday situations, effectively putting your body in stress mode 24/7. Your autonomic nervous system responds by going into fight or flight mode. 

When you sleep with a weighted blanket, the pressure it generates signals to your autonomic system that all is well, and it switches from stress to rest mode. As a result, your heart rate and breathing will slow to a normal pace, and your body will start to calm down and enter a more relaxed state that invites a good night's rest.

Weighted blankets can mimic a hug

We all need a good old hug every now and then, and with a weighted blanket, you can get hugs on demand. Medical News Today notes that weighted blankets create the same sensation as that of a hug, and this comes with lots of benefits.

You may or may not know that hugging someone actually causes a chemical reaction in the body that leads to the production of oxytocin. This hormone not only makes you feel super relaxed, but it also works to slow down your heartbeat and lower blood pressure — sweet!

When using a weighted blanket for the first time, you might be surprised at just how much it imitates a hug — it creates the same kind of warmth while its gentle pressure reaches deep into your body, creating the feeling of security we all experience when we hug someone we love. You can't help but feel relaxed once you snuggle under one of these.

Weighted blankets can trigger the production of serotonin and melatonin

In need of a major mood boost? Your weighted blanket's got your back. Medical News Today explains that the gentle pressure it applies to your body will trigger serotonin production in your brain. This feel-good hormone does away with stress while also working to lift your mood. Think of your weighted blanket as your adult security blankie — whoever said only kids can have them?

In addition to giving your brain a major serotonin boost, weighted blankets also trigger the production of melatonin, which — you guessed it — will help you fall asleep and stay asleep. This is why weighted blankets are often touted as a great tool to help restless sleepers obtain quality sleep. The blanket's ability to create the sensation of physical contact sets the mind at ease, as does the sensation that you're being swaddled. Your mind starts to realize that you're safe and warm, and your body will relax as a result.

A 2020 analysis published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine found that weighted blankets can help people who suffer from mental health disorders and insomnia improve their sleep. Researchers found that patients using weighted blankets had better sleep maintenance and were able to be more active during the day as a result. Patients also showed an improvement in anxiety and depression symptoms and reported less fatigue. There you have it! Get ready for some quality Zs and sweet dreams.

Weighted blankets could help with autism

We told you that weighted blankets have some interesting benefits, and helping people with autism feel more comfortable is one of them. Healthline notes that occupational therapists often use these blankets to help patients who suffer from Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) feel more at ease, especially when they are feeling stressed or restless. Penn Medicine adds that reduced stress levels automatically help ASD patients to improve their focus and complete necessary tasks.

Many ASD patients find that dealing with sensory stimulation (like physical touch and noise) makes them feel overwhelmed. This can make everyday activities like work and socializing very challenging. The pressure weighted blankets provide is thought to be able to calm these feelings of overwhelm, helping patients to relax. 

There isn't a whole lot of research on the efficacy of weighted blankets when it comes to alleviating symptoms of autism, but a 1999 study published in the American Journal of Occupational Therapy found that Grandin's Hug Machine, which is a device that applies deep pressure to the body, has the ability to help ASD patients feel less stressed and anxious. Researchers concluded that deep-pressure therapy could be effective at alleviating anxiety and arousal in ASD patients. Since weighted blankets aim to create the same sensation as Grandin's Hug Machine, they are often utilized for ASD patients.

Those with ADHD might also benefit from weighted blankets

According to Cross River Therapy, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in the United States is pretty common, with approximately 4.4% of adults having this condition. Those suffering from ADHD often struggle with inattention, focus, and forgetfulness. Hyperactivity and impulsivity are also common symptoms (via PhychCentral). These symptoms can be addressed through therapy and medication, and if you're looking for something extra to help, a weighted blanket might just do the trick.

Just as with autism, there aren't exactly hundreds of studies that have been conducted on the efficacy of weighted blankets when it comes to treating ADHD. However, one 2014 study published in the American Journal of Occupational Therapy found that weighted vests can help address some of the most common ADHD symptoms people experience. Researchers concluded that, while weighted vests most certainly do not cure ADHD, they can help alleviate some of the everyday struggles ADHD patients face.

It stands to reason, then, that weighted blankets should be able to yield the same results since they basically work in the same way. This is likely why occupational therapists often recommend weighted blankets as an additional tool to help children with ADHD manage their symptoms. Of course, it can work just as well if you're an adult. Weighted blankets can help people with ADHD to set aside irrelevant concerns and order their thoughts, thanks to the effect it has on the body's central nervous system. This leads to a sense of calm and focus.

Weighted blankets can help ease chronic pain

Anyone who suffers from chronic pain knows the toll it can take on a person — both physically and mentally. If you're one of those people who deal with pain on a daily basis, you'll be happy to learn that a weighted blanket might help alleviate your symptoms and bring some relief.

A 2021 study published in the Journal of Pain found that weighted blankets had a notable impact on participants' chronic pain. Within one week of sleeping with a weighted blanket, participants reported that they experienced a reduction in broad perceptions of chronic pain as well as anxiety. Those who specifically dealt with anxiety appeared to experience the most significant improvement in pain.

Researchers concluded that the pressure weighted blankets put on the body do indeed have the ability to help people experience less severe chronic pain. Thus, weighted blankets can be an effective at-home treatment. Of course, it's crucial you speak to your doctor first before opting for a weighted blanket as a means to treat chronic pain. They can advise you on how to use it and what weight would be a good fit for your condition.

Weighted blankets are not a good option for everyone

There's no arguing that weighted blankets can be a great tool, but they aren't always a good fit for everyone. The Sleep Foundation notes that those who have been diagnosed with circulatory or respiratory issues might need to steer clear of weighted blankets, or at least consult their doctor before they use them. This includes conditions like type 2 diabetes, asthma, and low blood pressure. Healthline notes that those suffering from sleep apnea should also refrain from using a weighted blanket unless advised to do so by their doctor.

If you have mobility issues, the weight of the blanket might make movement a challenge, so check with your doctor before you buy one. If you're claustrophobic, the extra weight might make you feel anxious instead of relaxed, in which case there's no benefit to using the blanket.

If you want to buy a weighted blanket for your child, it's important to ask your doctor's advice first. Casper notes that children who weigh 50 pounds or less and are under three years of age could face some risks like suffocation. Some weighted blankets are designed specifically for kids, but you should still consult with your doctor. The same goes if you're pregnant — ask your doctor if using a weighted blanket poses any risks to your pregnancy before sleeping with one. Older people should also practice caution when using a weighted blanket, especially if they deal with health conditions that could be exacerbated by the extra weight.

Tips for using a weighted blanket

You don't really need a user manual to use a weighted blanket — for the most part, you'll simply use it the same way you do your favorite comforter. Casper notes, however, that you should use the blanket consistently to reap the results.

Weighted blankets work great as a replacement for or an addition to your current comforter. If you want to use both, you can simply place the weighted blanket underneath your comforter (or on top, if that's what feels more comfortable). When it comes to actually taking your weighted blanket for a test drive, sleeping under it overnight is the best way to gauge how you like it. Make sure you cover your whole body (all the way from your feet to your shoulders) with the blanket for optimal results. You do have the option of only covering your legs if that's more comfortable. Initially, you might find that only covering your legs helps you to adjust to the weight.

When it comes to preferred sleeping positions, there aren't any. You can sleep on your side, on your stomach, or on your back — your weighted blanket will still do its job. Many find that lying on their backs allows the weight to distribute pretty evenly, but again, opt for what feels comfortable for you. If you're curious about how well your weighted blanket works, track your sleep and energy levels and see if you notice a difference.

What to look out for when you buy a weighted blanket

If you're ready to invest in a weighted blanket, the myriad of options can be daunting. You also don't want to buy one that is too heavy and end up feeling like you're being suffocated instead of gently swaddled.

Casper notes that it's important you choose the right weighted blanket for your body weight. Typically, a blanket that is 10% of your body weight is ideal. Most adults feel good sleeping with a weighted blanket that's 10-20 pounds. The most important thing is to feel like you can still move when you pull the blanket over you. The blanket should feel just right and not uncomfortable or super restrictive in any way.

Next, inspect the blanket and make sure that its weighted material (many manufacturers use microbeads) is evenly distributed throughout. The fabric of the blanket is also important: Weighted blankets made from cotton are super comfortable and breathable. You might have to try a few blankets to find one that's right for you, but keeping these tips in mind before you buy should (hopefully) help you get it right the first time. Check out the manufacturer's return policy before you buy so you can easily return the blanket if you find that it doesn't work for you.

Can a weighted blanket be too heavy?

Too much of a good thing isn't good at all, and the same principle applies to weighted blankets. They can, indeed, be too heavy, and you'll notice it almost instantly.

Hush notes that the heaviest weighted blankets on the market weigh 35 pounds. Any heavier than that compromises the benefits and is a total waste of money. Why? Because instead of feeling like a gentle hug, the blanket will more likely resemble the feeling of being buried under several pounds of dirt — not a pleasant sensation. You'll be super uncomfortable, unable to move, and hot. A blanket that's too heavy can also place unnecessary pressure on your joints while you sleep. Dreamcloud notes that it might even cause respiratory issues and make you feel like you're being suffocated. That's only going to heighten your anxiety, and you won't be able to get a good night's sleep. A blanket that's too heavy can also negatively affect your blood circulation, which can be dangerous.

A weighted blanket shouldn't make you feel like you can't move at all — it needs to be super comfortable. Any weighted blanket that doesn't provide that feeling is the wrong weight. Feeling calm, experiencing less stress and anxiety, and getting a good night's sleep are all signs you've got the right weight. If that's not your experience, it's time to exchange your blanket for a lighter one.