Worth the Weight? Why Weighted Blankets Improve Sleep

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Do weighted blankets actually improve sleep?  There is plenty of research about this relatively new sleep aid, and it’s worth hearing.

 

We all want more of it but can never seem to get enough … that’s right, I’m talking about sleep. Whether you’re a new or seasoned parent, sleep is a valuable currency (at least in our household it is!), and you’ll likely do almost anything to get a better night’s rest.

Relatively new to the sleep market, weighted blankets boasting improved sleep and reduced stress have quickly gained traction in the last two years, but are they worth the weight?

As a newborn sleep coach, I help new parents teach their children how to sleep through the night, but assisting parents to actually get the sleep they need isn’t exactly in my repertoire. You see, once we get baby sleeping through the night (the hard part-babies are new to the sleep thing), it doesn’t always mean that mom and dad get the restful sleep they need (the natural part- parents have decades of sleep experience). I’ve started to recommend these heavier blankets to parents because, personally, I’m a firm believer that weighted blankets improve sleep.A sleeping woman's feet peek out under a weighted blanket at the end of a bed

Since practically the beginning of time, humankind continues to search for new ways and products to extend slumber. From special pillows to blue light blocking glasses, pills, aromatherapy, and sleep aids have all tried to solve the problem of sleepless nights. Now there’s a new kid on the block: weighted blankets.

They’re certainly not cheap, so are weighted blankets even worth their weight (in gold)? I think so.

What is a weighted blanket?

A weighted blanket is exactly like it sounds: a blanket with an inner filling of glass beads or similar material to add weight. Most are “duvet” style in that most come with the weighted insert and a cover that is securely buttoned and tied equal increments around the sides. The cover is machine washable, and the insert is generally not. 

How Weighted Blankets Improve Sleep: What the Science Says

Although there are not many peer-reviewed weighted blanket studies, weighted vests are anecdotally and widely accepted by the medical community as an effective treatment for autism. The leading theory suggests that weighted vests provide Deep Touch Pressure Stimulation (similar to a hug or firm massage), which has a calming effect on the brain.  

If kids with anxiety or autism benefit from deep touch pressure stimulation, why wouldn’t an adult also feel the same relief? After all, who doesn’t love the feeling of being hugged? Here are the two main ways many believe weighted blankets work:

  1. Weighted blankets reduce disruptive movements. If you’re an ‘active sleeper’ like me, this was a game-changer. You know the feeling, just before you fall asleep, it jolts you awake because you feel like you’re falling? I have yet to have that happen to me since using a weighted blanket.  Some may not like the feeling of restriction. Still, I found the additional weight comforting and, after only two nights, officially ditched my traditional comforter in favor of a weighted blanket. While you would never use a weighted blanket for a baby or a newborn, swaddles essentially achieve the same result: they keep the arms and legs close to the body, so they don’t wake the baby up, and they’re pulled snug to mimic baby’s tight womb quarters. 
  2. Weighted blankets help to calm the nervous system, helping the production of serotonin and melatonin, two hormones controlling the 24 sleep-wake cycle or circadian rhythm. The calming, sleeping, and feel-good hormones.  These hormones reduce the effect of cortisol (the stress hormone) on your body, allowing you to drift off to sleep. Just like a weighted “thunder-vest” for a dog helps an anxious K9 during a storm, a weighted blanket offers a similar calming effect.  

I warmed up to the idea of weighted blankets after my son’s occupational therapist recommended we start using a weighted vest and weighted blanket at home to help manage his anxiety and temper tantrums. I started doing my own research and combined with my son’s improved behavior, I became a believer. My toddler’s positive results prompted me to a self-experiment.  Could a weighted blanket help MY own anxiety and fragmented sleep? 

a woman waking up, stretching, under a weighted blanket to improve sleep

How to Choose a Weighted Blanket

Most manufacturers recommend using a weighted blanket that is approximately 10% of your body weight. For example, if you weigh 150 lbs, a 15 lb blanket would be an excellent place to start. Most weighted blankets can be found in 10, 12, 15, 20, or 25-pound increments. Some companies do offer larger weighted blankets, like king and queen sizes for couples, but I’d recommend a twin or smaller individual size, so it’s more manageable. (A weighted queen blanket would be tough to move around).

I prefer a heavier blanket, but it’s truly a personal preference.

Keep in mind the material of the “duvet.” A fleece or fleece-like material is fantastic during the winter months, but during the summer heat, it’ll get pretty hot ‘n heavy. Pun absolutely intended. It’s a good idea to check to see if the brand/company you choose offers an alternate cooling material or something other than fleece.

There’s a lot of hype about weighted blankets, but I think you’ll find they’re worth the weight. 

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Lauren Anderson
Lauren, a Saint Louis native, is a Newborn Sleep Consultant and mother of two, constantly learning how to embrace the chaos and change motherhood brings. She changed jobs, moved twice, married her high school sweetheart and had twin boys in the same calendar year! Originally trained to design, build and fit prosthetic limbs, Lauren now channels her energy to educate, empower, and equip mamas to overcome the overwhelm during the newborn season of parenting. Lauren taught her newborn twins to sleep twelve hours a night by the time they were twelve weeks old and created a business and sleep consulting service, the TinyTracker, to help parents do the same. She’s just the right mix of “got-her-ship-together” and “totally winging it” with equal parts advice, encouragement, and raw transparency. She’s always on the hunt for the best gluten free pizza in town and lives for dark chocolate, exercise, her family and lazy days at the beach.

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