Do Weighted Blankets Actually Help With Sleep, Anxiety?

So, what is with all the hype about weighted blankets lately? You may have come across these new products on social media or even had them recommended to you by a friend. 

They are, essentially, heavier than regular blankets as they are filled with polypropylene pellets, microbeads, or other materials. Simply put, it is believed that the extra weight can induce calmness, almost giving the user a feeling of a warm, comforting hug.  

"It’s this notion that having between 7 to 12 percent of your body weight resting on top of you increases serotonin and decreases cortisol," Mike Grillo, managing director of the popular brand Gravity Blanket, told WIRED. "That’s the general premise that we took."

The prominent benefits marketed by Gravity and other brands include better sleep quality and reduction in stress and anxiety. What is, perhaps, so appealing about weighted blankets is the simplicity of the solution compared to sleeping pills or more high-tech products.

Many have reported a positive experience with the product, noting that their sleep problems and anxiety levels have reduced. Others say their health problems have not disappeared but did appreciate how the blanket eased the urge to keep tossing and turning in bed.

But can weighted blankets be promoted to the status of sleep aids or anti-anxiety tools? It is difficult to say whether this is the case for everyone. Experts note a scarcity of high-quality research looking into how weighted blankets can help people who suffer from insomnia, anxiety, OCD, etc.

"Weighted blankets purportedly alleviate insomnia and anxiety, but so far, there are no large studies that support these claims," family practitioner Dr. Honore Lansen of One Medical told Hello Giggles.

As of now, findings appear to be mixed. One study from 2016 examined patients undergoing tooth extraction, noting that weighted blankets could help reduce how much stress they felt. Yet, another study from 2014 found that weighted blankets could not reduce sleep problems in children with autism.

As for questions about potential risks, sleep specialist Dr. Neomi Shah of Mount Sinai Hospital does not see any major safety concerns with appropriate use. Speaking to CBS News, she explained that parents should be very careful with the size and weight of the blanket they buy for their child.

Many experts advise against the use of these blankets by anyone under the age of 8 unless they have been recommended by a therapist. Dr. Shah added that adults should be cautious about using the blanket themselves if they have any lung diseases or neuromuscular chest wall disorders.

If you can afford the blanket — which may carry a weighted price tag up to $300 — the glowing reviews mean it is certainly worth testing out for yourself. It may not be a magical aid but it could make a significant difference depending on your individual factors.