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Everything You Need to Know About Weighted Blankets for Adults

by Alescia Ford-Lanza MS OTR/L, ATP November 20, 2018 14 Comments

adult weighted blanket blog post

Are you wondering what a weighted blanket is? 

Are you wondering how they work and what there are to using one? 

Are you wondering if there are weighted blankets made specifically for adults and what you need to know about getting one?

If so, this post is for you!

In this post, you'll learn exactly: 

  1. Effects on Sleep and Anxiety 
  2. Effects on Sensory Processing Issues
  1. How should it be designed?
  2. How to Wash a Weighted Blanket?
  3. How Heavy Should it Be?

If you read our article on Weighted Blanket Therapy, you won’t be surprised to hear that weighted blankets for adults can have a positive impact on sleep, anxiety, autism, sensory issues, and ADHD.

While weighted blankets have been used for decades within the special needs community, and particularly for children with special needs, this doesn't mean that they can't have an impact on adults with or without special needs.

Before we dive into the science-backed benefits of weighted blankets for adults, let's take a quick overview of what a weighted blanket is.

What is Weighted Blanket Therapy? And, How Does a Weighted Blanket Work?

Weighted blankets offer proprioceptive or deep touch pressure (DTP), also called Deep Pressure Therapy (DPT), to the body. Since we know that proprioceptive, deep touch pressure helps to release serotonin, a neurotransmitter that helps to regulate some brain functions, weighted blankets are used to help with sensory modulation and regulation.  There are also tools available on the market, such as weighted vests and weighted lap pads. These tools also provide DTP, howeverare typically used more commonly during daytime hours. They provide the same benefits and effects as weighted blankets, so they are another potential option to explore.

minky weighted blanket

Sensory-based interventions that have a DTP component have been shown to have a calming, organizing effect on one’s nervous system. Like children, adults are also finding out the benefits of weighted blankets for themselves! Learn more about DTP here.

Weighted blankets come in different size, weights, and materials. When it comes to these factors, it typically comes down to user preference.

Often times, people will be looking for blankets that help with sensory issues and offer sensory inputs. Because of the DTP, all weighted blankets provide some sensory inputs. This can be especially helpful for those with autism spectrum disorder, as they often have over-reactive sensory systems. 

However, if you are looking for specifically for a sensory blanket for adults, then you'll typically want to find a fabric that you enjoy the texture of.

An example of a fabric that gives extra sensory input is the dotted minky fabric, as seen the picture above, which is what we use with our blankets here at Harkla.

 

Learn the Research-Backed Benefits of a Weighted Blanket for Adults

Weighted therapy blankets aren't just great to cuddle with!

Do Weighted Blankets Help You Sleep and Lower Anxiety? Yes, They Do! Here's How...

adult weighted blanket on bed

In a  2008 study published in Occupational Therapy in Mental Health, use of a 30-lb weighted blanket resulted in adult participants reporting lower anxiety (63%), lower physiological data (blood pressure, pulse rate, pulse oximetry), and positive calming effects (78%). These effects also have a positive impact on sleep, as sleep is more restorative when anxiety is low and factors such as blood pressure and pulse are well-maintained. Many people with sleep disorders, including restless leg syndrome, have difficulty falling or staying asleep, and a weighted blanket can help with those issues by providing calming, deep touch pressure. 

Weighted blanket use in mental health settings, proactively and in crisis situations, had a calming effect that was reported to lower stress and provide a coping strategy in times of anxiety. The use of weighted blankets has been expanded to include people with mental health diagnoses like post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), ADHD, anxiety, and obsessive-compulsive disorder. Study participants reported feeling safe, calm and grounded following weighted blanket use.

More recently, a  2011 study published in the Journal of Medical and Biological Engineering found the physiological effects of Deep Touch Pressure (medical data like heart rate, blood pressure, etc) corresponded with the participants’ reportedly lower anxiety levels following weighted blanket use. The study’s data validated a change in nervous system activity after deep touch pressure (weighted blanket) was introduced. Since we know that people who experience sensory overstimulation experience real physiological symptoms, this study supports that deep touch pressure can help regulate those medical changes.

Research indicates the potential positive effects of weighted blanket use for reducing anxiety, lowering physiological indicators of stress (blood pressure, pulse rate), positive calming effects, and impacts on sleep time and behavior. Some inpatient psychiatric units are turning to weighted blankets to promote regulation in adults with mental illnesses both proactively, and in crisis situations, in lieu of seclusion and restraint practices.

Weighted Blankets Help to Manage Sensory Processing Issues 

Harkla weighted blankets for adults

Sensory processing disorder (SPD) is a condition in which the brain has difficulty integrating messages received from the environment. It is common in people diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), however many individuals without an ASD diagnosis still experience sensory processing issues. For example, a person with sensory processing disorder may experience a soft noise as a very loud, overwhelming noise. SPD often first presents in childhood but often persists into adulthood. Most individuals with SPD find ways to manage their environments and more effectively cope with sensory stressors. A weighted blanket is one tool that can assist individuals with SPD. 

As discussed above, weighted blankets are used for the positive effects of deep touch pressure. This pressure signals a calming, organizing effect in the body and often results in improved sleep and overall improved behavioral symptoms, due to the effects of serotonin. This calming effect also frequently improves symptoms of sensory overload or sensory sensitivity experienced by people with SPD. Basically, the serotonin emitted through weighted blanket use helps more effectively regulate the signals entering and exiting the nervous system. A 2013 study found that young adults with ASD and sensory processing difficulties experienced decreased sensory over-stimulation when they used a weighted blanket regularly. The participants in the study also indicated a feeling of calmness and security while using their weighted blanket.

If you are looking for additional sensory products for adults, click here.

Buying an Adult Weighted Blanket: What Do You Need to Know?

As you consider buying a weighted blanket, you may want to consider these items to ensure you get a high-quality product that is right for you or your loved one:

How is your weighted blanket designed?

When describing the construction of a weighted blanket, it’s best to relate it to a down-filled comforter in that the design of each ‘box’ or compartment contains a weighted material, much like the down comforter would contain feathers. The box-compartment or channel compartment construction allows for the weighted material, often poly pellets or glass beads, to be evenly distributed throughout the blanket so that, when draped over the body, the weight is then distributed evenly over the body.  

How do you wash your weighted blanket?

Just like you would put your down comforter inside of a fabric shell, many weighted blankets offer a machine washable outer layer, or duvet cover, that can be customized by fabric texture, color, or pattern. 

What weight should I get for a weighted blanket?

When selecting your weighted blanket, first calculate the total weight based on your own body weight. A general guideline when deciding on your blanket’s weight factor is to multiply your body weight by 10% and add 1-2 lbs. depending on preference. So a 150 lb. adult would select a 15 lb. weighted blanket on the low end and a 17 lb. blanket on the high end. A 180lb. adult would be looking the range of 18 to 20-pound blankets. Here is a sizing chart to help:

weighted blanket chart

How to Use a Weighted Blanket

Weighted blankets can be draped on the shoulders of the adult user, or placed on top of his body when lying down. There is no right or wrong time to use a weighted blanket -- overnight while sleeping, or during the day while seated or at rest. The individual applications of weighted blankets are specific to what, when, and how the user deems necessary to benefit from the calming proprioceptive input.

No matter what you decide for a weight factor, fabric preference, or wearing scenario, be mindful of any changes you may notice as your body adjusts. Monitor your mood, levels of anxiety, physiological responses like breathing rate or heart rate, and/or sleep patterns.

Conclusion

So as you've learned now, adults can use weighted blankets as a sleep aid as well as to reduce anxiety. These are two very important things in our highly connected, fast-paced world.

If you have any questions or comments about weighted blankets for adults, please let us know in the comments!

Alescia Ford-Lanza MS OTR/L, ATP
Alescia Ford-Lanza MS OTR/L, ATP

Alescia Ford-Lanza MS OTR/L, ATP is an Occupational Therapist and Assistive Technology Practitioner with over 15 years of pediatric experience. She specializes in educationally-relevant interventions with a focus on sensory integration and assistive technology supports to learning.

Alescia strives to help children by fostering a love of learning and supports families with her parent-friendly, informative blog posts. Alescia founded Adapt & Learn, LLC on the mission that children of all abilities can play, learn, adapt, and develop with the right therapeutic, family, and educational supports.

You can get more information on Alescia and her practice at www.adaptandlearn.com.


14 Responses

Nicole
Nicole

June 19, 2019

Hi Nicole,

Harkla weighted blankets are filled with glass beads and cotton. Please let us know if you have any other questions!

All the best,
Nicole from Harkla

Nicole
Nicole

June 19, 2019

HI Patricia,

Thanks for your question! If you tend to sleep warm, you may want to use a weighted blanket without a cover or with a cooler cover. There are definitely options out there so you can still get the benefit of better sleep without feeling like you’re going to overheat. Let us know if you have any other questions!

Nicole from Harkla

Nicole
Nicole

June 19, 2019

What are your weighted blankets for kids filled with, glass beads or plastic beads?

Patricia Parnham
Patricia Parnham

June 19, 2019

Could a weighted blanket be used if one is very warm at night, even in the winter?

Nicole
Nicole

March 29, 2019

Hey Pam and Gloria,

As I mentioned in my response below, you could always put a comforter over a weighted blanket but it might make you too warm. You could also put the weighted blanket over a sheet or on top of you without a sheet. There is no right or wrong way to use a weighted blanket when it comes to adult use- whatever makes you feel most comfortable.

Let us know if you have any other questions!
Nicole
Harkla Happiness Ninja

Gloria Truitt
Gloria Truitt

March 29, 2019

Pls answer the questions on how to cover the body—-by itself, under another type of cover , with or without clothes etc

Pam nelson
Pam nelson

March 25, 2019

Do you put directly over you or have a sheet between weighted blanket and body

Nicole
Nicole

January 02, 2019

Wow! Thanks for all the questions and so sorry we haven’t answered before now.

First, you could always put a comforter over a weighted blanket but it might make you too warm. You could also put the weighted blanket over a sheet or on top of you without one. It’s up to you. There is no right or wrong way to use a weighted blanket when it comes to adult use- whatever makes you feel most comfortable. In regards to summer and winter use, our weighted blankets have a cozy minky cover that is great for winter and can be removed for summer. It all depends on the individual user and how hot he/she tends to get during sleep.

We’ve never heard about weighted blankets being dangerous after surgery. This is something to talk to your doctor about as we don’t want to give any incorrect medical advice.

If you’re interested in purchasing a Harkla weighted blanket, please click on “Catalog” at the very top of this page! If you have any other questions, email us at support@harkla.co. We’re always happy to help!

Roberta
Roberta

December 16, 2018

Can you put a comforter over a weighted blanket

 Anita Myers
Anita Myers

December 11, 2018

Do you use the blanket right on your body or with a sheet in between?

Bev Jacobs
Bev Jacobs

November 19, 2018

Why does my weighted blanket instructions say to keep the blanket below the shoulders?

Karen Christopherson
Karen Christopherson

May 24, 2018

I just bought a 20# Quilify weighted blanket for insomnia. Then I read that this may not be safe for an older adult.who is recovering from surgery. What makes it unsafe? I had open heart surgery March 22 of this year. How long do I have to be in recovery for it to be safe? I have had insomnia for 30 years, since menopause at age 40, so it’s not related to the surgery. HELP!

Candice Krone
Candice Krone

April 02, 2018

How does a weighted blanket work when the weather is warm or hot?

Janet Adornetto
Janet Adornetto

November 08, 2017

I would like to order a 15 lb. blanket. Please help! Thanks, Janet

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