Weighted blankets could be the next at-home cure for sleep-related disorders


artwork by Amy Dong

Weighted blankets show potential of lowering stress levels, according to recent studies.

Weighted blankets have been used in therapy for a while, but are now becoming more of a popular commodity. They are mainly used as a non-prescription solution for sleep related disorders, such as insomnia. While sleep disorders are not often talked about as being a huge issue, they certainly are one. According to the American Sleep Association, 50-70 million U.S. adults have a sleep disorder, which is about 15-21% of the U.S. population, and that only takes into account adults.  With sleep disorders being very prevalent in today’s society, it is important to know the reasoning behind why weighted blankets work, the numerous pros of using one, and the cons.

According to Psychology Today, weighted blankets “provide firm, deep pressure stimulation,” which “may stimulate the release of neurotransmitters” and affect the nervous system “in ways that decrease over-arousal and anxiety.” Neurotransmitters are chemicals important for triggering the release of important hormones in the human body. The weight then creates a pressure that affects the nervous system, which helps people sleep better.  

There are no other products similar to a weighted blanket that provide constant pressure, which is what makes them unique against prescribed medications.  Harvard Health describes how a weighted blanket feels by stating that they “are supposed to work much the same way” as a “tight swaddling helps newborns feel snug and secure” so people can fall asleep easier.  The weighted blankets basically simulate a comforting hug, which helps calm and settle the nervous system in much the same way as a tight swaddle helps calm newborns.  

Apart from the reasoning behind why weighted blankets work, there are also numerous benefits of using weighted blankets.  For example, in a 2008 study in the journal Occupational Therapy in Mental Health, “researchers asked 33 adults” to use a weighted blanket, and “nineteen participants said they felt more relaxed with the blanket.”  This study demonstrates the relaxing effects weighted blankets can have on a majority of adults, since in the study about 58% felt more relaxed.  

Additionally, according to a study done by Ackerley R, Badre G, and Olausson H, the participants using weighted blankets experienced “a decrease in movement” and “found it easier to settle down.”  This study brings about the conclusion that using a blanket causes a calmer night’s sleep since it is easier to fall asleep and less movement occurs while sleeping.  In a 2016 study in the Journal of the Formosan Medical Association, their main focus was not sleep, but rather wisdom tooth extraction.  As a part of this study, researchers discovered that the “participants who wore a weighted blanket” had increased “activity in the branch of the nervous system that takes over in times of low stress.”  This study suggests that weighted blankets help reduce stress and allow people to feel calmer by somehow affecting the nervous system.  Overall, the main benefits of weighted blankets are their majority success rate, their ability to induce sleep easier, and their calming effect.

Despite the numerous pros, weighted blankets are not for everyone.  For example, Harvard Health says that people “with sleep apnea, certain sleep disorders, respiratory problems, or other chronic medical conditions” should either not use weighted blankets, or check with their doctor first.  Also, it is recommended by Teresa May-Benson, an occupational therapist, that “kids younger than about 7 or 8” should not use a weighted blanket unless recommended by a therapist.  This advice limits the use of weighted blankets to a smaller audience, mostly teens and adults without underlying medical conditions.  

With such strict requirements to use a weighted blanket, it also brings into question whether they are worth it, especially because of their high price.  According to Harvard Health, “most weighted blankets cost at least $100 and often more than $200.”  The high price of weighted blankets is often enough to turn people away and doubt whether they are worth the price.  

It is vital to know the reasoning behind why weighted blankets work, the pros of using one, and the cons before one can decide whether a weighted blanket is right for them.  As stated, they are not beneficial for everyone, and of course it would be optimal to contact a health official before using one.  With this in mind, weighted blankets seem to be the future of non-drug cures for sleep-related disorders, and they are different than most other treatments currently on the market.  The uniqueness of weighted blankets has made them intriguing to many as they have become more popular in recent times.  Their design seems fool-proof, so if someone struggles with a sleep-related disorder, a weighted blanket would likely be worth a try.