How weighted blankets work: benefits and limitations
Weighted blankets are exactly what they sound like — they’re heavy blankets (typically 15 pounds or more) filled with a material such as plastic pellets. The theory is that the deep pressure you feel from being under all of that weight has a calming effect.
The deep pressure of the blanket makes you feel like you’re being hugged or swaddled, says Zhdanova. “Being hugged is a very powerful stimulus,” she says. “When you’re hugged, you feel more secure.” Plus, weighted blankets offer mild restraint, says Zhdanova — they make it harder for you to move and thus harder for you to disturb yourself while you sleep.
For a study published in the “Journal of the Formosan Medical Association,” participants undergoing wisdom tooth removal (which the researchers identified as one of the most stressful medical procedures) wore weighted blankets during their surgeries. Under the weighted blankets, the patients showed more activity in the part of the nervous system that is in control during times of low stress.
One of the most popular uses for weighted blankets is for treating children with disorders like autism and ADHD. “It’s absolutely true that some kids benefit from compression, either from weighted blankets or stretchy Lycra sleeping bags [which also provide deep pressure],” says Lynelle Schneeberg, PsyD, board-certified sleep psychologist and director of the behavioral sleep program at Connecticut Children’s Medical Center. A study published in “The American Journal of Occupational Therapy” found that elementary school aged students who wore weighted vests paid attention more and fidgeted less in class.
That being said, there are a few cons to weighted blankets, especially when it comes to having kids use them. They’re heavy, which makes them hard to travel with, they get hot, and it can prove difficult for children to use them on their own without parents there. “When parents ask me about weighted blankets, I ask if their child can put it on, arrange it and tuck themselves in,” says Dr. Schneeberg. She prefers Lycra sleeping bags for children because they’re lighter, more portable and easier to use.
How to pick the best weighted blanket for you
If you are going to try a weighted a blanket, keep in mind that they can get pricey. A 20-pound Gravity Blanket, for example, costs $249. (If you’re crafty, Schneeberg says you can DIY your own version — here’s a DIY weighted blanket tutorial.)
Committed to shelling out some cash? Zhdanova recommends sticking with a weighted blanket on the lighter side. Most experts advise choosing one that’s roughly 10 percent of your body weight — so if you’re 150 pounds, you should buy a 15-pound blanket. Zhdanova notes that you shouldn’t use a weighted blanket if you snore or have sleep apnea, because anything that is placed on your chest can disrupt your breathing even further.
But if stress, a mile-long to-do list and funneling caffeine to get through the day is the battle you’re fighting, a weighted blanket may just help you put those sleepless nights behind you.