What Is the Science Behind Weighted Blankets?

We’re facing an unprecedented amount of stress these days. An ongoing pandemic, political unrest, a climate crisis and widening inequalities are all taking a heavy toll on our mental health, leading to a surge in anxiety and depression, as well as difficulty falling asleep.

gravity weighted blanket cotton cover

Given our turbulent timeline, perhaps it’s no surprise that a growing number of people are turning to weighted blankets in the hopes of finding comfort and getting a better night’s rest. In today’s uncertain and rapidly-changing world, we’re all looking for ways to ground ourselves to the present moment and let go of unhelpful worry and stress. Weighted blankets promise to do just that with their soothing pressure. But have you ever wondered what it is about weighted blankets that make them so relaxing? Read on as we dive into the science behind weighted blankets and their stress-busting abilities.

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What Is a Weighted Blanket?

Let’s start with the basics — what is a weighted blanket, exactly? Put simply, it’s a therapeutic blanket that uses weight to create soothing pressure to help relax the body. Most weighted blankets you’ll find will weigh somewhere between five and 30 pounds.

Weighted blankets come in an array of designs, the most popular being the quilt-style design. A good example of this design is our best-selling Gravity weighted blanket, which contains micro-glass beads sewn in a gridded pattern for even distribution of weight.

Weighted blankets can also be made without fillers. These one design options tend to rely on several layers of heavy fabric to provide their heft and usually come in smaller weights (15 pounds or less).

sleeping with gravity blanket in cover

Deep Touch Pressure – The Science Behind Weighted Blankets

So, what is it about weighted blankets that make them so darn relaxing? It has everything to do with the gentle pressure they apply to the body.

Weighted blankets work by creating firm, consistent pressure that mimics a technique called deep pressure stimulation. Deep touch pressure, as experienced in hugs and massage, activates your body’s parasympathetic nervous system (PSNS), or the system that promotes the “rest and digest” response. When this system is activated, your heart rate goes down, your breathing becomes slow and deep and your body enters a state of relaxation. Shortly after, your mind follows suit.

Another way in which weighted blankets make us feel relaxed is by stimulating the production of mood-boosting hormones — like serotonin, dopamine and oxytocin — and decreasing cortisol, the stress hormone. Weighted blankets are also thought to stimulate melatonin, the hormone that primes our bodies for sleep.

What the Research Says 

Although research on the effects of weighted blankets is still relatively new, interest in this area of study is growing steadily. Here’s a look at what the latest research has to say.

Weighted Blankets for Anxiety

In a small 2020 study, researchers looked at the effect of weighted blankets on anxious patients who had recently been admitted to a psychiatric hospital. The results showed that participants who used a weighted blanket experienced a significant decrease in anxiety symptoms compared to those who didn’t use a weighted blanket.

Weighted Blankets for Insomnia

A 2015 study done by researchers at the University of Gothenburg, Sweden found that weighted blankets were effective at improving sleep quality in participants with chronic insomnia. Specifically, those who used a weighted blanket said they had an easier time settling down for sleep and felt more refreshed upon waking up in the morning. 

Weighted Blankets for Chronic Pain

In a recent study published in the Journal of Pain, 94 participants with chronic pain were asked to wear a 15-pound blanket (heavy) or a 5-pound blanket (light). The results of the double-blind, randomized controlled study showed that weighted blankets “significantly reduced” the broad perception of chronic pain in participants.

Weighted Blankets for ADHD and ASD

Although two distinct conditions, autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) can both negatively affect an individual’s ability to function in work, school and social events. Weighted blankets are a popular sensory-based treatment for both conditions because using one can help the individual calm down and feel more relaxed. 

In a 2020 follow-up study including 85 individuals with ADHD or ASD, researchers concluded that weighted blankets showed a positive impact on falling asleep and staying asleep, as well as relaxing during the day.

gravity flex travel blanket

Sink Into Comfort with Gravity Blankets

Weighted blankets aren’t just a bunch of hype. There’s real science behind them — and research in this area is only continuing to grow. 

Offerings of weighted products are expanding as well. You can now find cooling weighted blankets for hot sleepers, weighted robes for post-bath relaxation, weighted eye masks for traveling — the list goes on and on. 

So, what are you waiting for? Shop the entire collection of weighted products at Gravity Blankets today and treat yourself to some rest and relaxation!

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