The Wellness Benefits Of Weighted Blankets
What is a weighted blanket and why might you want one for your bedroom? Are the health benefits real? “There is some evidence that it helps some adults with stress and anxiety,” shares Dr. Adrian Pristas, Center for Sleep Medicine director with Meridian Health in Hackensack, New Jersey. Other claims, like benefits for arthritis pain or autism, aren’t supported by studies he’s seen, he says. Pristas doesn’t specifically recommend them, he says, but many patients use or ask about them. There are some advantages, he and other health professionals share.
Dr. Todd Arnedt, director of the Behavioral Sleep Medicine Program at University of Michigan Health, doesn’t recommend them either, but notes that “Some patients have tried them on their own as a treatment for insomnia.” Research is scarce on this point, he shares, but recalls that a published Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine article reported that weighted blankets improved insomnia and daytime functioning in a four-week study of 120 adults. “While promising, more studies need to be conducted showing similarly positive results before I would recommend weighted blankets to patients,” he notes.
“I have had some patients anecdotally report to me that they found weighted blankets to calm and relax them in bed, which could be how they might help people sleep,” Arnedt comments.
The effect, if true, would result from the parasympathetic nervous system, Pristas explains, tying into a feeling of being cocooned. (Doctors often call the parasympathetic nervous system the ‘rest and digest’ side while the sympathetic is the ‘fight or flight, consumer medical journal Healthline explains.)
“Speak to your doctor,” advises Pristas, adding, “Comfort is essential for a good night sleep. Be selfish when it comes to comfort and strive for it nightly.” For adults heavier than 125 pounds, he recommends a weighted blanket of 25 pounds or less. For adults weighing less than 125 pounds, he recommends a 15 pound or lighter blanket.
“Try it, you may like it,” he declares, adding that there are cooling versions too. Even though we’re moving into a season of chillier nights, health experts recommend low- to mid-60 degrees Fahrenheit as the ideal environmental sleep temperature setting.
Pristas has seen studies showing a calming effect in some kids with anxiety, but cautions against using weighted blankets for children younger than five, (especially not those two or younger), or any children with respiratory issues. Older children lighter than 50 pounds should be given a blanket weighing eight pounds or less, he advises.
“People with certain health conditions should also avoid weighted blankets. These include chronic respiratory conditions, such as asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and obstructive sleep apnea,” cautions medically-reviewed consumer publication Verywell Health, adding, “In addition, a weighted blanket may also be unsuitable for those people who are claustrophobic, as it may cause anxiety rather than ease it.”
Smart shopping expert Trae Bodge offers these suggestions for weighted blanket shopping, should you decide that their benefits may be helpful to you: “Look for fabrics that are breathable, soft, and comfortable, and make sure the blanket itself can be washed or has a removable, washable cover. In addition, if there is a removable cover, check to see that it’s easy to put back on as some can be time-consuming to reassemble.”
Bodge also notes that more expensive does not necessarily mean better quality. “Pricing for weighted blankets varies widely, so take the time to comparison shop. You can find a high-quality weighted blanket at a national sleep retailer, where blankets are $69 and up, rather than paying over $200 at luxury home retailers and direct to consumer mattress brands.”
One option for those who don’t want to change your existing bedding, but want to try using a weighted blanket, is to consider a throw instead of a comforter or duvet.
Palm Beach and New York metro area interior designer Tamara Magel started helping her homeowner clients furnish their bedrooms with weighted blankets about a year ago, she says. “We are very particular that items are non-toxic,” she declares. She also looks for styles that coordinate with the room’s design aesthetic.
If you’re selecting a weighted blanket on your own, she recommends “weighted blankets using organic cotton [grown] without pesticides or synthetic fertilizers. Look for GOTS certified,” she adds, referring to the Global Organic Textile Standard. Magel also suggests, “Look for natural, chemical-free materials chosen for softness, breathability, and durability.” She also prefers glass microbead fill, she notes. This is considered by many guides to be a premium quality option.
“As we are spending more time at home now, people are really interested in how the home can nurture us,” Magel observes. “Sleep is a huge factor.” Without sleep, health professionals note, we can’t be fully healthy or functional.