Sleeping with a Weighted Blanket: Can It Improve Sleep and Anxiety?

Fact checked by Olga Sadouskaya, MD
Clinical Pharmacologist, Chief Medical Officer

Some people fall asleep as soon as their head touches the pillow, while others… well, they may need a little help.

Weighted blankets are becoming popular among people who struggle to sleep at night. Of course, wrapping yourself in a cozy blanket can be incredibly comforting, but does its weight make a difference to the feeling of comfort it provides? Why do weighted blankets help you sleep? Let’s find out!

What are weighted blankets?

Essentially, they are heavy blankets with quilted pockets, each filled with little weights — usually small glass beads or plastic pellets — and spaced to distribute the weight evenly over the body. They vary in size, weight, and thickness, so it’s easy to find a blanket that suits your needs.

Not the fluffy, cloud-like duvet you imagined? A blanket with beads may not sound particularly cozy, but it has several benefits, especially for anxious sleepers.

Benefits of sleeping with a weighted blanket

You know how a hug helps you feel better when you’re upset or calms you down after a stressful situation? Weighted blankets have a similar effect. The pressure they apply to your body — a technique called deep pressure stimulation — mimics the feeling of being held, which can be very comforting, calming your overactive nervous system and preparing your body for sleep. Sleeping with a weighted blanket can:

  • Ease stress and anxiety. Deep pressure stimulation can shift your attention from anxious thoughts to a physical sensation, having a soothing effect. It can also reduce the production of cortisol, the stress hormone.
  • Calm the mind and promote relaxation. If you struggle to find your inner peace at the end of a busy day, a weighted blanket is a great thing to have around. It acts like a hug, releasing the hormone oxytocin that helps you feel more relaxed and at ease.
  • Give the feeling of security. Weighted blankets apply gentle pressure to the body and make you feel cozy and safe.
  • Improve sleep quality. A 2015 study showed that participants with insomnia fell asleep faster when using a weighted blanket and didn’t move around at night as much. They reported having a calmer sleep and felt more refreshed in the morning.
  • Help with restless leg syndrome. Fatigue is a common symptom among people with restless leg syndrome — the involuntary leg movement doesn’t contribute to a restful sleep. By applying pressure to the legs, a weighted blanket can reduce the symptoms of RLS and help you sleep more soundly.
  • Improve focus and attention in people with ADHD. Those with ADHD can get easily distracted by their surroundings. In one study participants who wore weighted vests – similar to a weighted blanket — showed an improvement in their focus on the task at hand. Another study also found that sleeping with weighted blankets improved focus and overall activity levels in children with ADHD.
An unmade bed with a weighted blanket

Weighted blankets for depression: Do they help?

Depression and sleeping disorders often go hand-in-hand. Around 75 percent of people with depression find themselves unable to have a restful sleep. That’s hardly surprising: anxious thoughts can keep you awake well into the night. But the lack of sleep, in turn, can worsen depression and anxiety — you feel tired and unproductive, then beat yourself up for not achieving enough during the day.

Can weighted blankets improve sleep for people with depression by breaking this vicious cycle?

A 2020 study says they can! This 4-week study showed that sleeping with a weighted blanket can improve sleep and reduce fatigue for people with anxiety and depression. Participants also felt an improvement in their symptoms of depression during the day.

How do weighted blankets help you sleep?

Having enough sleep is essential for your well-being. Lack of sleep or poor sleep quality can have a negative effect on your mood, productivity, and mental health. But sometimes, despite your better efforts, you just can’t seem to fall asleep.

If you have trouble sleeping, you’re not alone. Approximately 10 percent of adults in the United States are affected by insomnia — and it’s more common in women, by nearly 40 percent. So if you often find yourself staring at the ceiling at night, you may want help getting some sleep. But do weighted blankets actually help you sleep?

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Generally, studies have shown that weighted blankets can be effective in reducing anxiety, but the results on their direct effect on insomnia and sleeping disorders are less conclusive — however, there are encouraging signs.

In a 2020 study, 28 participants who had trouble falling and staying asleep were sleeping with a weighted blanket over the course of 6 weeks. They found that weighted blankets made them feel more relaxed, helped them fall asleep faster, and improved their overall sleep quality.

By reducing the feelings of stress and anxiety, weighted blankets help to slow down your heart rate and breathing, making you fall asleep faster and get the sleep that you need. Plus, the weight of the blanket makes you less likely to move about once you’re in bed, which also results in better sleep.

A woman sleeping with a weighted blanket

How to choose a weighted blanket

Weighted blankets can be expensive, so you need to make sure you choose the right one for you. One of the most important things to consider is the weight of the blanket. The general rule of thumb is to opt for one that’s equivalent to 10 percent of your body weight. For children and older adults, this formula is slightly different though — it’s 10 percent of the body weight plus 1–2 extra pounds.

Note: Children under the age of two and under 20 pounds shouldn’t use a weighted blanket.

But you should take your personal preference into consideration too. After all, the purpose of a weighted blanket is to provide comfort, so if it’s too light or too heavy for you it may not have the desired effect. After all, feeling trapped under a blanket that is too heavy is unlikely to lull you to sleep, right?

Another thing to look into is the thickness of the blanket.

It’s usually determined by its filler — the blankets with glass beads are typically thinner than the ones filled with plastic pellets.

Sleeping with a weighted blanket can sometimes get too hot, especially if you tend to overheat at night. If you’re a sweaty sleeper, choose a blanket with a natural, cooling cover material like bamboo or cotton that allows proper air circulation to keep you cool at night. If, on the contrary, you’re looking for something warmer, there are options with extra filling for added warmth too. Or you can just use a weighted blanket on top of your favorite duvet.

Bottom line

Weighted blankets are an excellent choice for anxious people and those who struggle to fall and stay asleep. The pressure they apply to the body creates a feeling of security, eases stress, and helps you relax and dose off faster. Sleeping with a weighted blanket also means you don’t move as much during the night, so it can improve your sleep quality and make you feel more refreshed in the morning. Some research has also found that weighted blankets can improve focus in children with ADHD and symptoms of depression.

November 16, 2022