Rebecca Girlinghouse, MA
WKPIC Doctoral Intern
One of my favorite things about winter is that it gives me a reason to bust out all of my warm, fuzzy blankets. This year, I decided to add a weighted blanket to my collection. I had heard a lot of good things about them, so I decided to check them, and the research behind them, out. These blankets are heavier than your normal blanket because their linings are filled with material (such as sand) that is evenly distributed. They can range from around 5 ponds to 30 pounds. One study found that the optimal weight was 12 pounds (Breus, 2019), while others recommend a blanket that is around 10 percent of your body weight (Schneeberg, 2020). The general idea behind the weighted blanket is that it can alleviate anxiety and improve sleep in individuals with insomnia (Schneedberg, 2020). The question, though, is whether or not relief from weighted blankets is the real deal or just a placebo effect.
One theory behind weighted blankets is that they cause deep pressure stimulation, which is similar to getting a message. It is believed this type of pressure causes the hormone oxytocin (which helps us sleep) to be released. It is also thought to reduce the amount of cortisol (a hormone released during times of stress) in the bloodstream (Breus, 2019). One study referenced quite often in articles about these blankets found that signs of physical arousal were reduced by 33 percent when individuals used a weighted blanket (Ackerley, Badre, & Olausson, 2015). However, one limitation of this study is that it was funded by a major manufacturer of weighted blanks. Further, this and other studies like it tend to lack control groups, do not adequately control for extraneous variables, or have a limited number of participants (Lockett, 2019). So, for now, it appears the verdict is out until more studies or a larger study is conducted. However, I will say I have enjoyed mine so far, and if nothing else, it’s unique and good at keeping in the warmth!
Ackerley, R., Badre, G., & Olausson, H. (2015). Positive effects of a weighted blanket on insomnia. Journal of Sleep Medicine & Disorders, 2(3), 1022.
Breas, M. (2019, July 12). What you need to know about using a weighted blanket. Psychology Today. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/sleep-newzzz/201907/what-you-need-know-about-using-weighted-blanket
Lockett, E. (2019, August 29). Weighted blankets: Do they work? Healthline. https://www.healthline.com/health/anxiety/do-weighted-blankets-work#bottom-line
Schneedberg, L. (2020, January 08). Why everyone is talking about weighted blankets. Psychology Today. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/become-your-childs-sleep-coach/202001/why-everyone-is-talking-about-weighted-blankets