Weighted Blankets: Reduce Stress and Improve Sleep Quality

At first glance, they may seem like nothing more than an oversized square of fabric. But these soft snugglers are quickly finding themselves at the heart of therapy for a growing number of children with autism, ADHD, anxiety, and sensory processing disorder.

5 Best Weighted Blankets to Ease Stress and Anxiety

1. John Lewis Specialist Synthetic Weighted Blanket

Designed to mimic the feeling of being held or hugged, this quilted blanket from John Lewis is ideal for those who suffer from sensory issues and anxiety. While it’s not suitable for a child under 36 months due to potential choking hazards, parents can rest assured that their child will be snug as a bug in a rug while they snooze under this comfy blanket.

Pros:

  • Suitable for a child with sensory issues and autism
  • Quilted to trap heat and increase comfort
  • Large size ideal for sharing or covering several children in bed

Cons:

  • Heavier weight may be too much if the child is under 16,3 kg.

2. Simba Orbit Weighted Blanket

Designed with a child in mind, this weighted blanket from Simba is the perfect choice for kids who have trouble settling down to sleep. Crafted from 100% polyester and filled with hypoallergenic poly-pellets, it’s available in three fun colors and can be machine washed for easy cleaning.

A small pocket on the front of the blanket is ideal for keeping a child’s favorite stuffed animal close when they’re stretched out flat.

Pros:

  • Machine washable and dryer safe
  • Weighted bags sewn into fabric won’t shift or bunch up over time
  • Small pocket great for storing small items, like a favorite cuddly toy

Cons:

  • Larger weights are not available for older children over age 12

3. Mela weighted blanket

Designed with sensory issues and autism in mind, this weighted blanket is great for providing deep pressure, resulting in a calming effect. Crafted from 100% cotton fabric and filled with hypoallergenic poly-pellets, it has a total weight of 3 kg—ideal for most children under 24 months. It’s also machine washable and dryer safe, making it a great choice for parents with busy schedules.

Pros:

  • The heavier weight is ideal for a child with autism or sensory issues
  • 100% cotton is soft and breathable—ideal for those who get too hot at night
  • Machine washable and dryer safe

Cons:

  • Weighted bags are not sewn into the fabric, meaning they can shift around over time

4. Sommio Pocketless Weighted Blanket

Designed to help kids unwind and settle into the night, this quilted blanket from Sommio is a great choice for children who need help with sensory issues. Crafted from 100% polyester fabric, it’s available in three sizes that can be customized to your child’s exact weight and height. Its unique pocketless design means it’s machine washable and dryer safe, too.

Pros:

  • Quilted design to trap heat and add weight—ideal for young children with sensory issues
  • Weighted bags sewn into the fabric mean they will not shift around over time
  • Machine washable and dryer safe

Cons:

  • Heavier weights are not available for older children over the age of 12

5. Koala Therapeutic Weighted Blanket

Designed with children of all ages in mind, this weighted blanket is available in four weights: 2.3 kg, 3 kg, 4.5 kg, and 5.5 kg. Crafted from 100% cotton fabric, it’s machine washable for easy care and uses hypoallergenic poly-pellets to add weight without adding pressure or heat. With its unique design and soft colors, it’s a great choice for both boys and girls.

Pros:

  • Three available weights to accommodate children of all ages
  • Machine washable; uses hypoallergenic polypellets that won’t shift over time or bunch up

Cons:

  • Heavier weights not recommended for those under the age of 36 months

What is a weighted blanket?

Weighted blankets are essentially just, well, blankets. But unlike regular quilts or comforters, they come with pockets sewn into the inside lining and filled with special plastic poly pellets (the kind used in Beanie Babies) that add weight and give them a “hugging” feel.

They’re typically available in three weights: 3 kg, 5,5 kg, and 9 kg. The heavier the blanket, the more pressure it exerts on a person’s body.

They’re typically made of cotton or flannel, with soft fleece or Minky fabric options available for those with sensory processing disorder (more on this in a bit).

Do they really work?

A weighted blanket has been used as part of occupational therapy for decades. It’s believed that the additional pressure applied to a person’s body helps them feel more grounded and safe, which makes it easier for them to focus on other tasks.

These blankets are often used with children and teens on the autism spectrum or with special needs. But they also have a number of benefits for anyone looking to adopt a healthier sleep pattern or unwind after a long day.

Research has found that weighted blankets can help people suffering from:

  • Sleep disorders
  • Insomnia
  • Anxiety
  • Autism spectrum disorder (ASD)  

These gentle huggers also help people with:

  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Sensory processing disorder (SPD)

A weighted blanket uses deep touch pressure stimulation (DTPS), which is just a fancy way of saying “good old-fashioned hugging.” DTPS has been proven to stimulate the brain’s production of serotonin and melatonin, both of which help promote relaxation and night’s sleep.

Conducted Studies

In a study conducted by the National Institutes of Health, pressure touch stimulation was used to combat insomnia in nine adults who suffered from chronic sleep disorders.

  1. Half were given a 4-pound weighted blanket to use every night while sleeping for one week; the other half weren’t given anything. Both groups saw an improvement in their sleep quality, but the group who received the weighted blanket reported fewer symptoms of insomnia.
  2. These results held after a second study found that people who suffer from insomnia have an abnormal sensitivity to light touch, which in turn makes them more sensitive to pain.
  3. Participants slept on either a 4-pound weighted blanket or a normal one every night for eight weeks while their sensitivity to pain was tested.
  4. After the eight weeks were up, those who received a weighted blanket actually experienced an increase in sensitivity to light touch but did not feel more pain overall. In other words, they slept better because the added pressure helped reduce their anxiety and stress levels.

Autism

Studies have shown that using a weighted blanket for just one hour at bedtime can help reduce anxiety and help to fall asleep in those diagnosed with autism. In a clinical study, 20 children between the ages of 5 and 12 received either an 8-pound or 15-pound weighted blanket for 30 minutes.

Parents were asked to complete standard questionnaires before the study and after, which revealed that autistic children who received a weighted blanket had better sleep habits. They also showed higher levels of restfulness and lower levels of anxiety than autistic children in a control group.

ADHD

In a small 2010 study, when children diagnosed with ADHD were given sensory-friendly clothing and blankets to wear and play with for one hour a day, their abilities to focus improved within just three days. This is likely because the physical contact helped them feel more grounded. A weighted blanket can serve a similar function, especially in persons who suffer from sensory processing disorder (SPD).

A study at the College of Wooster found that children with and without ADHD who received a five-minute shoulder massage showed significant reductions in their heart rates, blood pressure, and cortisol levels. The stress hormone in particular is known to affect focus and attention.

Anxiety

In 2010, the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) conducted a study to determine whether a weighted blanket could help those with anxiety disorders. Participants were given either a 15-pound blanket or an empty one and asked to wear them for about 20 minutes before being placed in an MRI tube.

The test subjects experienced significant decreases in activity in the limbic system part of the brain, which is responsible for controlling our emotions.

Insomnia and sleep disorders

Self-reported questionnaires taken by 38 adults after seven consecutive nights showed that those who used a weighted blanket experienced more restful sleep compared to before the experiment. A study of three children with autism who used a 20-pound blanket overnight for five weeks demonstrated improved sleep times and intensity, as well as lower cortisol levels.

Another small study found that when three young adults with autism slept on a 25-pound blanket overnight for two weeks, they saw a decrease in their anxiety levels.

Weight problems

In addition to helping people who suffer from sleep disorders and psychological stress, a weighted blanket has also been proven to help those struggling with various eating disorders. In one study at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD), those who received a weighted blanket before meals experienced lower levels of anxiety and greater feelings of fullness after eating.

A weighted blanket can be particularly helpful for those recovering from eating disorders, according to Tessa Hendrick, a Registered Dietitian at the University of California, San Francisco Medical Center.

“The idea behind using a weighted blanket is simply that there is a connection between the physical feeling of being hugged and our emotional sense of security,” Hendrick told Medical Daily in an email.

Osteoarthritis

A study conducted at the University of Gothenburg, Sweden found that when arthritis patients slept with a 20-pound weighted blanket for six weeks, they reduced their pain levels and increased their mobility. In fact, by covering with a heavy blanket for just one night, participants were able to reduce their joint stiffness and increase their stride length after waking up.

Chronic pain

In a small double-blind study, researchers at the University of Alabama gave either a 15-pound or a five-pound blanket to patients who suffered from chronic pain. The following day, they found that those in the heavier group had lower levels of cortisol and reported feeling less anxious. Those on the lighter blanket did not see any improvement.

Medical procedures

A weighted blanket can also be used during medical procedures, such as MRIs. In fact, as Dr. Alan Hirsch of the Smell & Taste Treatment and Research Foundation in Chicago told ABC’s “Good Morning America,” a 40-pound blanket decreased anxiety among participants by 67 percent before their scans.

Researchers at Emory University Hospital found that a 15-pound blanket decreased the amount of anesthesia needed during procedures.

How do I choose a weighted blanket?

  1. First, you should consider what size weighted blanket you need. For a child choose a blanket that weighs between 5 and 10% of his body weight. If he weighs 100 pounds, look for a 10-pound blanket. Adults are recommended to use a 15-pound blanket. Remember: The heavier the blanket, the better it will work!
  2. A weighted blanket can be filled with plastic pellets, glass beads, beans, or rice. However, research suggests that plastic polypropylene pellets are the best option because they’re lightweight and inexpensive. Polypropylene is also easy to clean and hypoallergenic.
  3. Another thing to consider when purchasing a weighted blanket is your preferred material. Weights are usually contained in an organic cotton shell, but if you’re sensitive to fabrics or have trouble regulating your body temperature, then look for alternative shells such as silk or fleece.
  4. A weighted blanket come in various colors and patterns, so feel free to browse around and find the one that’s right for you! For more information on the benefits of a weighted blanket, search #WeightedBlanket on social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter.

Are weighted blankets good for side sleepers?

Research on weighted blankets has been limited, so there’s not enough evidence to support whether or not they are good for side sleepers. However, a study conducted by researchers at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center found that patients suffering from obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) experienced better results when sleeping under a 30-pound blanket.

A weighted blanket can help those with sleep apnea because they provide “deep touch pressure stimulation,” which reminds the brain of calming behaviors so that it can reduce tension levels.

If you want to try a weighted blanket but have problems sleeping on your side, then look for a lighter-weight option and lie on it diagonally. This will ensure that you only get the pressure that you need.

How much should a weighted blanket weigh?

Most weighted blankets range from 5 to 25 pounds. Choosing weighted blanket pay attention to the right size for your weight and height. For example, if you’re shorter or have limited mobility due to joint pain, then a heavier blanket is not recommended because it could cause you to sink further into your mattress and reduce blood flow throughout the body.

A weighted blanket functions best when it is 10 to 15% of your body weight. If you weigh 200 pounds, a 20-pound blanket will be right for you. For reference, the average adult weighs around 150 pounds, which means that a 15-pound blanket is ideal for most individuals.

What is the best filler?

The most common type of filler is plastic pellets. However, it’s important to note that some plastic pellets are actually made from polystyrene, which could be toxic for your health when heated up or melted. Make sure you research the fillers used in your weighted blanket before making a purchase!

How long will a weighted blanket last?

A weighted blanket will typically last between eight and ten years. However, over time the material holding the pellets together will gradually weaken. If your blanket is losing a considerable number of its pellets before its lifespan has ended, then it’s probably time to get a new one!

What kinds of weighted blankets are there?

There are many types of these blankets of three sizes, but the most common types are quilted, fleece-lined, and reversible. There is also a special type of blanket called a Hugger that clips to your bed frame for added stability during sleep. Keep in mind that quilts provide more padding than other types, so they work best for those with hip and joint problems!

Who should not use a weighted blanket?

Individuals who are extremely hot-natured, those with respiratory issues due to obesity or pregnancy, and those under five years old should not use a weighted blanket.

Also, as previously mentioned those who have trouble sleeping on their side might want to steer clear of a weighted blanket because it could make it even harder for you to sleep comfortably. If you do not fit into any of these categories, then you can safely use it as long as it’s comfortable for you.

Is there a better option?

Weighted Blankets are great for their deep pressure stimulation, but if you’re looking for something a little less bulky, try out the Weighted Compression Sack. The compression sack works by simulating the sensation of an actual hug! It’s designed to apply pressure evenly distributed throughout your body to improve circulation. So you get all the benefits and none of the hassle that comes with a bulky blanket!

FAQ

Q. How much do weighted blankets cost?

A. Weighted blankets typically range in price from £55 to £145. However, if you own a sewing machine, it’s possible to make a DIY blanket for less than £15! For instructions on how to sew your own blanket, look up “homemade weighted blanket” on Pinterest or YouTube.

Q. Are weighted blankets good for pets?

A. The truth is, there’s not enough scientific evidence to support whether or not weighted blankets are safe for pets. We at Weighted Blankets Plus recommend keeping your pet off the blanket whenever possible and being extra careful if you do purchase a weighted blanket that has removable weights.

Some products allow you to replace the pellets with steel shot, so look for products like this to ensure that you don’t use a blanket with pellets in places where your pet can reach them.

Q. Are weighted blankets safe?

A. Weighted blankets are completely safe if used as directed. However, it’s important to make sure that the blanket is not too heavy for you or your child and that there isn’t any loose fabric hanging off of it (the weights can fall out and pose a choking hazard).

Q. How do I wash my weighted blanket?

A. Most weighted blankets are machine washable and can be washed with regular detergent. To make sure that the weights don’t fall out, place your blanket on top of a large towel before washing. Then put it in the dryer for at least 30 minutes to fluff the pellets back to their original size.

Q. How do I store my weighted blanket?

A. Most weighted blankets can be folded up and kept in a storage bin or the original box that they came in. Avoid storing them in plastic bags, which can cause mildew to form if you aren’t careful about ventilation.

Conclusion

Although weighted blankets come in all different types, styles, and colors, their positive benefits are more or less the same no matter how they’re made. Start with a low weight to see if you feel any benefits (and check out the section above this one for help on figuring out what an ideal weight is).

If you love it and want a heavier blanket, go for it! Customers’ reviews say that weighted blankets are completely harmless and they just feel wonderful.

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