Sleep disruptions are one of the most prevalent conditions worldwide. Roughly 10-30% of adults struggle with chronic insomnia, and according to research it affects females more than males; a woman’s risk of insomnia is more than 40% higher than a man’s.
If that wasn’t bad enough, studies show that around 25% of young children experience sleep problems, which results in excessive sleepiness that can affect daytime function; and the numbers only increase with age.
While there are a lot of remedies to treat sleep problems, there’s one that’s become quite popular: weighted blankets. They’ve become all the rage lately whether it’s for reducing anxiety, ADHD, or improving sleep problems. They’re a great and highly effective way to ease stress, induce calmness, and switch the body into parasympathetic mode to induce sleep.
What are weighted blankets?
A weight blanket is pretty self-explanatory. Unlike traditional blankets that are generally lightweight, weighted blankets are exactly that—weighted. They are designed to improve sleep quality by reducing anxiety and stress, while promoting a sense of calmness and relaxation.
They work on the idea of “pressure therapy”—applying a gentle amount of pressure over the entire body, which elicits a similar feeling to that of being hugged or embraced. And for children, it’s similar to being swaddled, held, or stroked. For many people, this light compression helps to ease the mind and body, and promote a physiological state conducive to sleep.
Why a weighted blanket might be one of the best ideas
When it comes to why weighted blankets work, it boils down to their influence on the nervous system.
The two main branches that we are concerned with for deep pressure therapy are the sympathetic and parasympathetic branches of the autonomic nervous system. The sympathetic branch system is responsible for the “fight-or-flight” response that triggers release of stress hormones, which increase alertness and mobilize energy stores to help you fight off danger. The parasympathetic branch, on the other hand, is responsible for the “rest-or-digest” response that controls involuntary functions like heart rate, blood pressure, and digestion; it helps slow the body and induce relaxation.
Why deep pressure therapy is great is because it helps to reduce sympathetic activity and decrease the amount of circulating stress hormones; high levels of circulating cortisol can hugely interfere with sleep. Instead, the body is shifted into parasympathetic mode, which promotes rest, relaxation, and sleep.
Benefits of deep pressure therapy
Weighted blankets are wonderful for both adults and children alike; most find that the pressure elicited by a weighted blanket helps to self-regulate. For adults, it can help to combat insomnia, sleep disruptions, and excessive stress. For children, they experience the benefit of pressure therapy just as much, especially if they struggle with sleep; the gentle embrace provided by a weighted blanket can be just enough to do the trick and lull them to sleep. One of my favorites for kids is the Sleepy Sheepy here ( and use Happy25 for a 25% discount)!
Deep pressure elicited from using a weighted blanket can help to:
For younger children especially, who are used to close contact from their parents, a weighted blanket can provide a similar comfort of being embraced by mom or dad, and if you find your child relies on touch and pressure to sleep, it might be a sub-in while you’re trying to train them to sleep on their own. As well, if you find your child tends to get a bit uneasy or anxious when it comes time to sleep, the soothing pressure may help to calm them.
Some weighted blankets also offer a cooling mechanism, which can be helpful for hot sleepers. Core body temperature naturally falls at night to induce sleep and studies show that higher core body temperature during the night can actually lead to a more restless sleep. So, if you or your child tend to be on the warm side when you sleep, a cooling weighted blanket may be helpful.
How to choose a weighted blanket
There are many different types of weighted blankets available, and finding the right one for you can sometimes be stressful (the exact opposite of what you want!). Here are some things to keep in mind when looking for the perfect weighted blanket:
When choosing a blanket, you want to make sure that’s it not too heavy, as excess weight may be counterproductive to helping you sleep. As a rule of thumb, look for a blanket that’s no more than 10% of your bodyweight. For example, a 150lb person should look for a blanket around 15lbs. For a 50lb child, 5lbs should be good.
If price isn’t a factor, you don’t really need to concern yourself with this one. But in general, weighted blankets can be an investment, and while this is something to consider, it’s not always indicative of the quality of the product. More expensive doesn’t necessarily equate to a better blanket. But then again, cheaper isn’t always better either.
Like other blankets, weighted blankets can be made from a variety of materials, including cotton, fleece, microfiber, and more. If you have a preferred material or feel, you’ll want to note the cover material used for each blanket. They also come with different filler materials, including glass, steel, or plastic beads or poly pellets that contribute to their weight. Try to opt for eco-friendly, non-toxic beads if possible.
Depending on the material of your blanket, some blankets may offer more heat retention than others, which can actually interrupt sleep as opposed to promote it. If you live in a warmer climate or tend to get hot when you sleep, ensure they blanket you’re buying is made of a breathable material or offers cooling properties.
Some final thoughts
If you or your child struggle to get the quality rest you so desperately need, a weighted blanket may be something to consider. The pressure that a weighted blanket provides may help restless sleepers sleep better at night, especially those who are prone anxiety or tend to really feel the effects of stress when they hit the sheets. And for children, it helps to bring them a sense of comfort and aid self-regulation during the evening hours.
Really, you can’t go wrong. They’re highly effective and offer zero change to your routine with zero side effects—other than feeling refreshed when you wake!
I recommend and use weighted blankets from The Nap Lab. My favorite is the weighted large weave blanket. I use that on my bed and also on the couch year-round! During the winter months, I switch to their classic weighted blanket for sleeping. Visit thenaplab.com and use Happy25 for a 25% discount on anything from their page! And looking one for your kiddo, my favorite for kids is the Sleepy Sheepy here and use the same Happy25 for a discount!
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