What Is a Weighted Blanket? How They Work & 17 Benefits

December 17, 2020 | Casper Editorial Team
weighted blankets weighted blankets weighted blankets

Weighted blankets are heavy blankets used for therapeutic purposes, such as relieving anxiety and stress. Usually between five and 30 pounds, weighted blankets are filled with plastic pellets or glass beads. The added weight is designed to produce a calming effect when placed on the body.

Our comprehensive guide covers everything you need to know about weighted blankets including:

Jump to a section above or dive in below to learn everything you need to know about weighted blankets and how they work.

How Weighted Blankets Work

weighted blankets apply weight to your body, acting like a hug

Weighted blankets act like a hug, using a technique called deep pressure stimulation (DPS) to make the user feel more secure. This is a deep touch pressure applied to the body — by hands, tools, or blankets — that can relax the nervous system. 

Temple Grandin first discovered deep pressure therapy when searching for something to ease the anxiety of children on the autistic spectrum. She wanted to provide something for these patients that didn’t feel confining or restricting, so she came up with a “hug machine” that applied gentle pressure to the body. When she did this, she noticed a release of oxytocin in her patients.

Using this research, weighted blankets were developed. They give a similar experience to the “hug machine” by lightly pressing on the body and stimulating a similar release of oxytocin.

Weighted blankets act as a form of deep pressure therapy that can increase the amount of dopamine and serotonin in the brain. These are “feel good” chemicals that can cause the user to feel a sense of calm, happiness, and well-being. Weighted blankets have been used to treat symptoms of autism, sensory processing disorder, and depression for this reason. 

17 Weighted Blanket Benefits (According to Science)

Because weighted blankets are a form of deep pressure therapy, they provide many of the same benefits, including an increase in serotonin, a reduction in heart rate, and much more.

1. Creates a Calming Effect

People who use weighted blankets often report a calming modality, and for this reason, it’s often used for people who are stressed or have a disorder that makes them hyperactive. Weighted blankets have been helpful for calming everyone from college students to animals.

2. Improves Daytime Social Interactions

Weighted blankets have been found to improve social interactions during the day for users, mainly because they are able to get restful sleep the night before.

When a person isn’t able to get a good night’s sleep, it impacts every aspect of their life — including social interaction and performance in other areas like school or work. When a person gets their sleep back, they often get their life back too.

3. Increases Serotonin

a weighted blanket can increase the flow of serotonin to your brain

Serotonin impacts the sleep-wake cycle by regulating sleep stages and impacting the depth of sleep. Deep pressure touch has been shown to stimulate the release of serotonin, helping the user sleep more peacefully and soundly.

4. Decreases Nervous System Activity

When the autonomic nervous system is overactive, it can lead to anxiety, hyperactivity, and a slew of other issues. Weighted blankets can put your nervous system into “rest mode” — mitigating the effects of anxiety, such as shortness of breath or quickened heart rate.

5. Reduces Nighttime Movement

If you find yourself tossing and turning at night, having a weighted blanket on top of the body while sleeping can help reduce movement. Studies back up this claim — the ‘cocooning’ provided by a weighted blanket can reduce movements during the night, leading to a more restful sleep.

6. Eases Symptoms of Restless Leg Syndrome

weighted blankets can ease symptoms of restless leg syndrome

Restless leg syndrome (RLS) is a condition that causes involuntary and rapid movement of the legs. This tends to happen when the person affected is trying to fall asleep. It’s been noted that applying pressure to the extremity of the legs for a significant amount of time can decrease symptoms of RLS.

7. Helps With Fibromyalgia

People with chronic pain, such as fibromyalgia, have found comfort from the use of a weighted blanket. The blanket can help ease symptoms while helping to break the cycle of anxiety and depression that often accompanies the illness.

8. Lowers the Incidence of Seizures

Not all individuals who use a weighted blanket will report the same benefits, but potential positive effects include reduced incidence of seizures. Deep pressure stimulation has positive impacts on the parasympathetic nervous system, allowing the body to experience an overall sense of well-being.

9. Reduces Heart Rate

weighted blankets can reduce heart rate

Touch therapy has been found to decrease heart rate. A weighted blanket simulates touch therapy, providing similar benefits. The calming, grounding effect can be helpful for stopping symptoms of anxiety or other illnesses that induce a quickened heart rate.

10. Soothes Panic Disorder

Heavy blankets and vests have been shown to decrease panic attacks and prevent crisis states in people of all ages. This allows them to lead more normal lives, get better sleep, and improve in many other areas.

11. Increases Feelings of Security

Weighted blankets — especially when wrapped around the body to create a swaddling effect — have demonstrated increased feelings of security. This feeling can help in other areas of your life including improving sleep and even helping with sleep anxiety.

12. Improves Communicativeness

two people talking

Another observed benefit of deep pressure stimulation includes increased communicativeness — particularly in children on the autistic spectrum. The feeling of safety and grounding may have something to do with this benefit.

13. Helps Manage OCD

Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) has been linked to low serotonin levels, and as we cited earlier, a weighted blanket can help increase the release of serotonin in the body. The use of a weighted vest during the day can help, but during the night, a weighted blanket is best.

14. Alleviates Symptoms of Menopause

Many women who go through menopause find that they experience sleep disruptions; they also report anxiety and depression. A weighted blanket can help with all of these symptoms — making it easier to get a good night’s sleep.

15. Calms People With Sensory Disorders

a weighted blanket can calm children with sensory disorders

Many parents of children with sensory disorders find that a weighted blanket is a good tool to have on hand. This is due to the feeling of comfort and security they provide. The therapeutic relief of a weighted blanket can also extend to those with other developmental disorders.

16. Improves the Mood

Using a weighted blanket can lead to overall improvements in mood. This is because the pressure of a weighted blanket increases the production of the feel-good hormone oxytocin. Combined with a decrease in cortisol (the stress hormone), this can have a significant impact on a person’s state of mind.

17. Induces and Improves Sleep

Findings show that people who use a weighted blanket often notice they stay asleep longer, have fewer disruptions during their sleep, and experience overall improved sleep. There have also been reports that a weighted blanket can help people fall asleep faster.

Who May Benefit From a Weighted Blanket?

Studies suggest that those with anxiety or those who have trouble sleeping often find success when they replace their comforter with a weighted blanket. Studies also show that weighted blankets provide symptom-relieving benefits to people with conditions such as insomnia, autism, ADHD, and more.

Those That Have ADHD

Students with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) have found DPS to be very helpful. Participants in one study found that when they wore a weighted vest, task completion improved, as did their attention to the task and overall behavior. Further research expands on the theory that weighted blankets can help people with ADHD sleep better.

Those That Suffer From Alzheimers

One common symptom of Alzheimer’s disease is depression, affecting between 5 and 20 percent of patients. Fear and fatigue can manifest when people with Alzheimer’s try to make sense of the world and aren’t able to. A weighted blanket has been shown to decrease these feelings of depression and anxiety in some cases.

Those That Struggle with Sleep Disorders

person with a weighted blanket wrapped around them

As we’ve mentioned, weighted blankets are helpful when it comes to inducing sleep and improving sleep quality. For this reason, many people with insomnia find weighted blankets helpful. Studies show the use of a weighted blanket improves sleep in some children, and there is even a little evidence that it may improve sleep in adults. 

Those With Autism

Another common use of weighted blankets is to lessen negative symptoms for those with autistic spectrum disorder (ASD). One common symptom of autism is trouble sleeping. 

As we mentioned above, a weighted blanket can greatly help those who have trouble sleeping. Studies also show that touch therapy can relieve ailments like muscle spasms and social anxiety. A weighted blanket may provide similar effects.

Those That Suffer From PTSD

Weighted blankets have been successful in treating some of the negative symptoms of PTSD by relaxing the nervous system. This can help patients with trauma relax, feel more grounded, and feel safe.

Weighted Blanket Pros and Cons

woman with red hair hugging a weighted blanket

There are several pros and cons to weighted blankets that we explore below.

Pros

  • They provide several benefits to your physical and mental health, including soothing anxiety and reducing heart rate. 
  • The deep pressure stimulation provided increases the release of dopamine and serotonin, creating a calming effect. 
  • They can help you sleep better. 
  • They’re cheaper than having to refill a prescription for a sleep condition. 
  • They might help you feel less groggy in the morning.

Cons

  • They’re heavy, so they can be difficult to travel with. 
  • They require extra care when cleaning
  • They’re more expensive than a regular comforter. 
  • They can sometimes get too hot if you’re a hot sleeper
  • They take some time to get used to and may feel uncomfortable or awkward at first.

While weighted blankets can provide several benefits to your mental well-being, they come with a few drawbacks including extra care and temperature. When shopping for a weighted blanket, look for one with superior airflow. The Casper weighted blanket is made with breathable cotton that circulates air away from your body, keeping you cool all night long.

Are Weighted Blankets Worth It?

Weighted blankets — also known as gravity blankets — have grown in popularity in recent years because of the many benefits they possess. If you’re someone who struggles with sleep, anxiety, autism, ADHD, Alzheimer’s, or PTSD, a weighted blanket is definitely worth a shot. 

Weighted blankets have many uses and can provide numerous benefits for those suffering from conditions like anxiety and pain. They can also be helpful for those who experience sensory issues or who are on the autistic spectrum.

When buying a weighted blanket, it’s recommended to buy one that is 10 percent of your body weight for the best results.

weighted blanket weight chart

For example, if you weigh 130 lbs, you should buy a weighted blanket that is 13 lbs. If you weigh 200 lbs, you should look for a weighted blanket that is 20 lbs, and so on. 

The Casper weighted blanket is tailored to you with three different weight options so you can choose a size that works best for your body. It is also made with quilted channels that keep weight evenly distributed so you can experience the best results. When using a weighted blanket, it can be helpful to include nice soft sheets and a fluffy pillow to round out the perfect, cozy sleeping situation.

Weighted Blanket

Weighted blankets can have a calming effect, reducing anxiety and helping you relax.
Weighted Blanket