Do Weighted Blankets Work for Anxiety? The Science Explored!

November 13, 2018 18 Comments

weighted blankets for anxiety

Are you wondering if (and how) weighted blankets work for anxiety? 

If so, you are in the right place. :) 

In today's post we will answer the following:

  • Do weighted blankets work for anxiety?
  • If they do, how do they work?
  • If a weighted blanket for anxiety seems right for me, what do I need to know about getting one? 

**Note** This post was revised by Shea Brogren, MOT, OTR/L for accuracy

  1. What is a Weighted Blanket?
  2. Weighted Blankets & Anxiety: The Science
    1. Effects on Serotonin & Calmness 
    2. Effects on Cortisol & Stress
    3. Effects on the Nervous System
    4. Effects on Sleep
  3. How to Choose a Weighted Blanket
    1. How much should it weigh?
    2. What should it be made of?
    3. How big should it be?

Weighted blankets have exploded in popularity in the last couple of years. Heavy blankets have actually been used for a while, but are finally getting a larger notice because of the impact they can have on people, specifically children and adults withhigh anxiety levels and anxiety disorders.

Weighted blankets have typically been used for those with special needs, like autism, ADHD, and sensory processing disorder. However, anxiety and sleeping problems are issues that weighted blankets can make a big impact on as well.

Before we dive into the researchregarding weighted blankets and anxiety, let’s take a quick look at what a weighted blanket is, in case you are new to them.

Shop Harkla's Weighted Blankets for Adults

What is a Weighted Blanket?

A weighted blanket is a specific blanket that grey anxiety blanketis designed to be heavier than a regular blanket. They can come in a variety of weights and sizes. They are also made differently by different companies.

Depending on your needs, you’ll want to get a weighted blanket that suits you. We cover more on how to find the right weighted blanket at the end of the article.

While you may not have ever used a weighted blanket, there’s a chance you have already noticed the benefits of what a weighted blanket can do. By this, I mean that often times people will put a lot of blankets on themselves to get a designed “heavy” feeling. Also, even a big hug has similar effects to what weighted blankets can do.

Weighted Blankets for Anxiety: The Science of Why They Work

There is an underlying science behind weighted blankets. It’s called Deep Touch Pressure or DTP.

DTP is simply gentle, distributed pressure on the body. It can be accomplished throughweighted blankets, weighted compression vests,weighted lap pads or stuffed animals, massages, or even hugs!

Here are a couple science-backed benefits of DTP.

Increased Serotonin For Improved Calmness

sleeping child weighted blanket

One of the reasons why DTP works is because it has been shown to increase serotonin in the body.Serotonin is a chemical in the body that works in conjunction with other hormones to decrease blood pressure, heart rate, anxiety, and regulate mood. This ultimately hasa calming effect on the body.

Decreased Cortisol for Improved Stress Levels

In addition to increasing serotonin levels, DTP has also been found to reduce cortisol levels in the body. Cortisol is a hormone which regulates stress responses in the body. High levels of cortisol are associated with high levels of stress and the use of a weighted blanket can actually decrease these stress hormones in the body. This can lead to an improved mood, more efficient sleep, and feeling better physically.

Weighted Blankets Reduce Activity in the Nervous System

On top of that, weighted blankets have specifically been shown to decrease the activity in the nervous system.This is due to the effects on the vagus nerve, which is involved in regulating heart rate and blood pressure. One study found this when studying people who have anxiety in the dentist office.

Anotherstudy found that physiologically, 33% of people using a weighted blanket had decreases in their nervous system activity,such as pulse rate and blood pressure, while 63% reported having lower anxiety. Overall, 78% of people in the study preferred the weighted blanket as a tool to relieve anxiety.

Astudy that looked at DTP through the use of a weighted vest found that using the weighted vest “for even short periods of time reduced sympathetic arousal and non–stimulus-driven electrical occurrences.” This basically means that their body had physiological changes as it calmed down because of the weighted blanket.

Weighted vests for anxiety are also gaining in popularity, as it's a version of a weighted blanket that you can use on the go.

Weighted Blankets Promote Restful Sleep

Often times, sleeping will be a major problem for those that suffer from anxiety. This can come from not being able to calm down as well as not being able to slow down the running thoughts in one’s head.One study foundthat people who used weighted blankets have calmer nights of sleep, with a reduction of movement.

The participants noted that they felt that they experienced more comfortable and deeper sleep.

Again, this is due to increased serotonin levels. Serotonin is linked to melatonin, which is the chemical in the body that regulates our sleep/wake signals. When serotonin levels are optimal, this signals melatonin to do its job, which is managing sleep patterns.

It doesn’t really matter where you’re anxiety arises from, it appears that a weighted blanket could help you reduce it and get better sleep. Whether it’s autism,restless leg syndrome, PTSD, OCD, or bipolar, using DTP to increase serotonin can have a very positive effect on those health conditions.

How to Choose the Right Weighted Blanket for You?

Often times, weighted blankets are a bit of an investment. This means that you’ll want to make sure you choose one that fits your needs. Let's take a look at what you need to consider:

What Weight Should You Get for Your Weighted Blanket?

The first question is how to choose the right size of weighted blanket. The rule of thumb for this is 10% of your body weight plus a pound or two.

If you weigh 150 pounds, you’ll most likely want a blanket that weighs 16 to 17 pounds. If you are buying a weighted blanket for a young child that weighs 30 pounds, then a 4 to 5-pound blanket is what you’ll want.

weighted blanket chart

How Should Your Weighted Blanket Be Made?

You’ll want to look at the filling of the blanket as well. Some companies use food, like rice or barley to fill blankets. If the person you are buying the blanket for has allergies or sensitivities, then you’ll want to find a blanket that has a more neutral filling.

For example, we use part cotton and part glass beads to fill our blankets. This way, there are no food sensitivities to worry about.

The design of the blanket is important to look at as well. Is the blanket easy to wash? Some blankets will come with a detachable duvet cover that helps with quick and easy washing. Is the weight evenly divided into sections, or are you going to have to worry about the weight sliding all to one side?

How Big Should Your Weighted Blanket Be?

The last thing you’ll want to look at is the dimensions. It’s important to keep in mind that a weighted blanket should be smaller than the size of your bed. It’s designed to sit on top of the bed, so it doesn’t slide off to one side.

If you need more information about weighted blankets, feel free to ask us in the comments. We love to help families find the right blanket.

Conclusion

There you have it! The science backing up the use of weighted blankets for anxiety. If you have any questions, please ask us in the comments!

 

Shop Harkla's Weighted Blankets for Adults

About the Author

Casey Ames

Casey Ames is the founder of Harkla




18 Responses

Nicole
Nicole

March 20, 2019

Hi Kalani,

The only way to know if a weighted blanket works is to try one out! Sometimes a person may not like to lay under a big pile of blankets but ends up really loving a weighted blanket. Let us know if you have any other questions!

Cheers,
Nicole
Harkla Happiness Ninja

colleen
colleen

November 29, 2018

I have a 6’4" 16 year old son who weighs 164lbs what size would you recommend

kalani Goins
kalani Goins

November 01, 2018

I am 5’6" and weigh 120. I honestly dislike the weight of covers on me past a certain point, which may be an issue here. I stayed with a girl friend at her home, and the guest room blankets were heavy and I felt squashed. Does a weighted blanket just somehow work differently than a pile of blankets? I have heard some interesting thing about them, and the research looks interesting. Kindest regards, Kalani

Debbie Ponder
Debbie Ponder

April 25, 2018

I have a 9 year old granddaughter that really needs a comfort calming blanket. She is so emotional all the time. No matter what is the issue she breaks out into a emotional breakdown before we deal with the true issue. I’m just not sure I can spend too much on this. I am will to order one if it’s warranted, and maybe some sort of coupon or discount to help. She will need a 15 lb blanket, she also has a sister that is 6 that is starting to have some anxiety issues and Migraine issues too, so more than likely will need a 10 lb one for her also. If it’s solid colors, the 15 lb one can be teal/lime green, the other one pink. They have dr orders on anxiety/migraine diagnosis. So not sure where to go from here. Just doing some research and saw this site. Thank you

Nicole
Nicole

April 23, 2018

Hi Amy,

We have a lifetime guarantee on all of our products!

Let us know if you have any questions.

Thanks,
Nicole
Harkla Happiness Ninja

Amy
Amy

April 20, 2018

What is your policy on returns or exchanges? I am looking into one of these for my husband. He is 5’5" and 165lbs. I was thinking the 25lb blanket, but he generally likes to sleep with very little covers because he gets warm at night and sometimes feels trapped. I am thinking of trying this to help since he has PTSD and Anxiety issues. Which blanket would you suggest we start with? The 20lb or the 25lb?

Casey
Casey

March 14, 2018

Hey Pamela,

You would want to go with the 25lb blanket. That would suite you well.

The rule of thumb doesn’t apply as closely for adults as it does for children, who need better projection from getting too heavy of a blanket.

If you have more questions, we’d be happy to answer them. Please email us support@harkla.co

Thanks!
Casey
Harkla Happiness Ninja

Pamela Nichols
Pamela Nichols

March 08, 2018

Concern on weight of blanket. I am 59 and weight 325. if I followed thecrule of thumb the blanket would be very heavy. Too expensive to just guess, but that seems too heavy. How do I choose?

Randi
Randi

January 24, 2018

Could you please give me a name/s of a good weighted blanket that is not stuffed with food? Thank you!
Randi

Casey Ames
Casey Ames

November 28, 2017

Hey Phillip,

While we haven’t research the effects of Deep Pressure on animals, I would assume you’re on to something by comparing the two!

Would be something interesting to look into.

Thanks for your comment,
Casey
Founder of Harkla

Phillip Davis
Phillip Davis

November 27, 2017

Does this follow the same train of thought behind the use of “thunder coats” for nervous dogs? It seems like there’s a parallel here with how dogs are being treated for anxiety.

Nicole
Nicole

October 23, 2017

Hi Deborah,

We do not conduct any research ourselves, but only reference scientific studies that have already been conducted. Apart from these studies, the feedback we receive supports the research that Deep Touch Pressure does indeed have many benefits!

Let us know if you have any other questions or concerns.
Thank you,
Nicole
Harkla Happiness Ninja

Nicole
Nicole

October 23, 2017

Hi Carol,
The weighted blanket cover might make some individuals feel warmer than a typical blanket. However, if you remove the blanket cover in the warmer months, and only use the inner blanket, that should help. We haven’t had many customers tell us they get too warm, either, so you may not have an issue!
P.S. If you order a blanket and feel it isn’t working well for you- just let us know!
Thank you,
Nicole
Harkla Happiness NInja

Deborah Dyer
Deborah Dyer

October 22, 2017

I don’t see any actual science in the “science”. Is this published and peer reviewed by someone with a PhD or Masters degree, in an real science journal? Without that, it’s just selling snake oil to the gullible.

Carol
Carol

October 20, 2017

Does the increased weight make a sleeper too hot?

Susan Murphy
Susan Murphy

October 14, 2017

My friend bought me it as a birthday present. I’m diagnosed bipoar, adhd , manic depression and anxiety have to take a lot of meds. Nothing is working my friends are worried or given up

Casey
Casey

October 02, 2017

Hey M,

Sorry about the link with the study. We fixed it to the correct study that shows DTP shows a decrease in cortisol, with a rise in serotonin and dopamine.

Thank you for pointing that out.

Casey
Harkla Happiness Ninja

M
M

September 20, 2017

Gotta love how the article linked showing how DTP increases serotonin doesn’t actually have the word serotonin in it…

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