Can Weighted Blankets Help You Sleep Better? Here's What Science Says
These heavy throws can help you feel comfortable and secure.
By Brigitt Earley•
Spend your nights tossing and turning? Exhaust your evenings stressed about the day ahead? Want some extra comfort after an especially tough workout? A weighted blanket might be worth the investment. These unique throws have exploded in popularity over the past few years, with many loyal devotees touting their purported ability to transform your sleep and even alleviate symptoms of anxiety and depression.
But what does the science say? Are weighted blankets really beneficial, and can they actually help us get better beauty rest? We spoke with sleep experts to get to the bottom of things.
What Is a Weighted Blanket?
As its name suggests, a weighted blanket is a heavy blanket filled with evenly distributed materials like glass beads or plastic pellets that create heft. That extra weight isn’t just for added warmth, though—these materials, which usually range from five to 30 pounds, are designed to provide wearers with extra comfort and calmness. You can add one to your bed for extra comfort at night, or throw one on simply whenever you’d like some soothing, gentle pressure.
How Do Weighted Blankets Work?
“The idea behind a weighted blanket is that it provides gentle and evenly distributed pressure (deep pressure therapy) over the body,” says Audrey Wells, MD, a board-certified sleep medicine physician and the founder of Super Sleep MD. “This mild compression simulates a hugging effect, which can be calming and especially useful if you are trying to sleep.”
Deep pressure therapy, also sometimes referred to as deep pressure touch or DPT, describes a firm pressure to the body to elicit calm, Dr. Wells explains. “Besides weighted blankets, this can be achieved with hugging, asking your partner to put their legs over yours, adult swaddling (or using a sleep sack), a pet sleeping on you, or layering heavy blankets,” she explains. “It can potentially increase serotonin and melatonin, reduce cortisol and heart rate, and stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system for some people.”
Weighted Blanket Benefits
Weighted blankets—and the deep touch pressure they provide—offer many possible advantages, both in the short and long term. Experts say these are some of the most common potential benefits of weighted blankets:
1. Reduced Anxiety
If anxiety impacts your sleep, the pressure from a weighted blanket could help alleviate your symptoms and promote comfort, says Peter Polos, MD, PhD, a board-certified sleep medicine specialist and a sleep expert for Sleep Number. “The comfort and secure feeling imparted by the blanket can greatly help reduce stress,” he explains. That’s because weighted blankets help soothe your autonomic nervous system by lowering your heart rate and breathing, which promotes general calmness, according to experts at Penn Medicine.
That said, anxiety relief isn’t an absolute guarantee: “Some research has shown that [weighted blankets] can improve insomnia and anxiety symptoms, but other data is conflicting,” Dr. Polos notes.
2. Relieved Soreness or Pain
Even people who don’t experience anxiety or insomnia can benefit from using a weighted blanket—particularly those with muscle soreness, Dr. Polos says. For example, casual athletes—those who exercise occasionally but aren’t committed to any specific training program—often have more muscle soreness, because they may not exercise as frequently enough to have their muscles become accustomed to the exercise routines, Dr. Polos says. “In some instances, the additional weight from a blanket can provide some pressure which can help to soothe muscle soreness, though this is entirely individualized and does not apply to everyone,” he notes.
3. Improved Mood
We already know that weighted blankets create a sense of being held or swaddled. This comforting sensation may stimulate the release of serotonin and dopamine, which are hormones associated with happiness and relaxation. This can affect the mood in positive ways, Dr. Wells notes.
4. Improved Concentration While Meditating
“Weighted blankets can also be used during meditation or for relaxing,” Dr. Wells says. The deep pressure therapy works to reduce anxiety and stress by promoting security and serenity, she explains.
5. Reduced Nighttime Movement
A weighted blanket can not only help you fall asleep, but also stay asleep, Dr. Wells says. “Use of a weighted blanket may allow you to have less tossing and turning at night, and this reduced restlessness may translate to better sleep quality,” she explains.
6. Improved Daytime Productivity
When you don’t get enough sleep, you don’t just suffer at night while you’re tossing and turning—you may also struggle during wake hours. Research suggest that people with even mild insomnia experienced 58 percent more productivity loss during the day. Additionally, people who reported just five to six hours of sleep per night experienced 19 percent more productivity loss compared to those who regularly got seven to eight hours of sleep. Better sleep and daytime productivity are directly correlated, no matter what the intervention—a weighted blanket or an eye mask, for example, Dr. Wells says.
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So, Can Weighted Blankets Help You Sleep Better?
Weighted blankets may very well help you sleep better (so long as they're a safe choice for you—more on that below), but it's personal for every snoozer, and more research is needed to say for certain. While some people rave about their weighted blankets and the benefits they provide, others don’t like the feeling of these heavy throws—or don’t notice any differences after using one.
“The benefits of a weighted blanket vary based on the individual,” Dr. Polos says. However, if anxiety impacts your sleep, experts say a weighted blanket is worth considering. “The pressure from a weighted blanket could help alleviate your symptoms and promote comfort, so it could be worth trying out,” Dr. Polos notes.
Who Can Benefit from Using a Weighted Blanket?
Babies and very young children should not use weighted blankets, nor should those with conditions like sleep apnea or respiratory problems, Dr. Wells says. “The added weight can pose safety risks,” she explains. Experts at UCLA Health note that weighted blankets may also be unsuitable for frail adults and folks with Type 2 diabetes, asthma, low blood pressure, or circulatory issues. But beyond those groups, experts say pretty much anyone can benefit from the comfort of a weighted blanket, especially the following individuals:
People with Anxiety or Excess Stress
Studies and experts alike note that individuals who suffer from anxiety or debilitating stress may especially benefit from weighted blankets. “The pressure sensation can reduce anxiety and stress by increasing a feeling of security and calm,” Dr. Wells says.
People Who Suffer from Insomnia
Those who struggle with falling or staying asleep may find relief with a weighted blanket. This is because a weighted blanket not only aids in stress relief, but the deep pressure therapy—and the feeling of a warm hug it lends—also promotes relaxation, which may help you nod off easier and snooze for longer.
Dr. Polos says weighted blankets can help athletes by reducing muscle soreness, enhancing recovery, and improving sleep quality. “Athletes are unique in the demands upon themselves and the demands for muscle recovery, so a weighted blanket can be an additional benefit to them,” he explains.
People with Fibromyalgia
Fibromyalgia, which affects about 4 million adults in the US, causes muscle pain that can impact sleep and mood, among other symptoms. According to a 2022 study in The Journal of Pain, a 15-pound weighted blanket may be a widely available and low-cost method for reducing chronic pain, including pain associated with fibromyalgia.
People Going Through Menopause
Menopause causes a massive shift in the body’s hormones, and because of this, people undergoing menopause often report side effects including hot flashes and night sweats. This often translates to sleep disturbances, according to the The North American Menopause Society. A weighted blanket, particularly a cooling option, can help. Look for a weighted blanket with an open, braided look, Dr. Wells suggests. “You will be able to work your fingers through the weave, and this allows for air circulation,” she says.
People with Autism or ADHD
“People with autism or ADHD may benefit from a weighted blanket to reduce anxiety or sensory sensitivities,” Dr. Wells says. There’s some science to back this up: A small study in 2017 found that deep pressure therapy from brushing, massaging, and squeezing can benefit people with autism and severe intellectual disabilities, but the study notes more research is needed. It’s also important to note that weighted blankets are not recommended for infants or very young children with these conditions.
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How to Select the Best Weighted Blanket for You
People who struggle to fall asleep can benefit from using a weighted blanket since they allow you to feel the effects of deep pressure stimulation from home. But if you’re really struggling with persistent insomnia or can’t get a good night’s sleep no matter what you do, consult your physician before jumping to solve all of your sleep woes with a weighted blanket, Dr. Polos says. They can help you rule out any other contributing factors that may require medical attention, like sleep apnea or restless leg syndrome, he explains.
That said, if you’re ready to give these special throws a go, experts say you should consider the following attributes when shopping for the best weighted blankets:
First, look for a comfortable material, Dr. Polos suggests. “Comfort is subjective to the individual, but it plays a key role in helping you sleep throughout the night.” Many weighted blankets come in soft synthetic options, like polyester fleece. These options are plush (think: the material of your favorite throw) and tend to be more affordable. Some weighted blankets also come with outer covers constructed of more natural materials, like cotton or bamboo. These picks can be great for people who run hot and need a more breathable and cooling option. “A weighted blanket that has breathable materials and cooling components can help promote sleep even more,” Dr. Polos says.
Weighted blankets get their comforting heft from their filling, which is typically made with small glass or plastic beads. Glass beads tend to be more common since they’re weightier than plastic alternatives.
Dr. Polos also recommends buying a blanket with proper and even weight distribution. You can best achieve this by selecting a weighted blanket with a grid-like stitching. This helps keep weight distribution more even, since beads are more fixed and can’t roll around the inside. And if you’re sensitive to the texture of the beads, look for a blanket that has down alternative polyester filling in addition to the glass or plastic beads, which can help lend a softer, cozier feel.
The actual weight of your blanket is key. Weighted blankets typically come in various levels of heaviness, usually ranging from about five to 30 pounds. “Most people prefer a weighted blanket that weighs 10 percent of their body weight, but anywhere from 5–12 percent works,” Dr. Polos says.
When considering weight, it’s important to note that blanket weights vary by size (twin, queen, and king, for example), so it’s helpful to experiment with different weights to find out what works for you, Dr. Wells says.
Some weighted blankets have removable outer covers; others are constructed in a single piece. Either is a suitable option, but it’s important to remember that blankets with removable covers are generally easier to care for, since the outer cover can be washed without affecting the fill.
Weighted blankets can be a helpful tool for people looking for relief from anxiety, insomnia, or pain—or for those of us simply trying to get better Zzzs. Think about how much comfort you feel from a warm hug, or even from holding a baby or a small dog. A weighted blanket offers that same gentle pressure and warmth, which can be incredibly soothing. Even athletes with sore muscles or folks who want to get more out of their daily meditation practices may benefit from using a weighted blanket.
Still, it’s important to note that weighted blankets are not a cure for any condition and should not be used as a substitute for medical treatment. If you have any concerns, talk to your doctor first. They can help you rule out any underlying conditions, plus help you determine if a weighted blanket is right for you.
This content is for informational and educational purposes only and does not constitute individualized advice. It is not intended to replace professional medical evaluation, diagnosis, or treatment. Seek the advice of your physician for questions you may have regarding your health or a medical condition. If you are having a medical emergency, call your physician or 911 immediately.