Even if you haven’t been officially diagnosed with anxiety, we all feel anxious from time to time, thanks to stressful jobs, relationship woes, financial troubles, or even other health conditions. There are lots of things you can do to calm down when you feel on edge: taking some time to breathe, going for walk in the park, or treating yourself to a massage can all help put your mind at ease.
But recently, a new med-free remedy has been getting lots of buzz: weighted blankets.
The name speaks for itself: they’re blankets—usually stuffed with polyfil or a similar material—with extra heft. Proponents say the weight helps them fall asleep and stay that way all night. That’s a big deal, since a majority of adults dealing with anxiety experience sleep problems, like insomnia.
But for at least $100 per blanket, will it really make a difference? Or is this just another self-help gimmick picking up short-lived momentum?
“They would be able to go from having trouble sitting still to ‘Hey, would you mind turning off the lights and letting me just sit here for a few minutes?’” she says. “I had some clients who just then started incorporating it into their self-care, to where they would have a weighted blanket in their car, or in a special bag, so if they had panic attacks, they would use them to interrupt those attacks.”
On the flip side, weighted blankets have their critics who say there’s not enough evidence to say one way or another whether they actually do anything to help ease anxiety. The science is limited, and only preliminary research suggests that sensory treatments like weighted blankets can help manage anxiety, explains Sandy Capaldi, PsyD, licensed clinical psychologist, and associate director for Center for the Treatment and Study of Anxiety at the University of Pennsylvania. More studies with large sample sizes need to be done to truly determine how effective they are, she adds.
“People feel calmer, or they feel safer and more comforted while they’re using the blanket.”
However, some of the findings are promising. A small study in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine found that “grounding” the human body, or pushing it downward with deep pressure touch (DPT)—similar to the experience of using a weighted blanket—reduces the production of cortisol, a stress hormone that brings about symptoms commonly associated with anxiety, such as increased heart rate, blood pressure, and muscle tension.
While the blankets come in a variety of weights, one small study published in the journal Occupational Therapy in Mental Health concluded that the 30-pounders can make you feel at ease, as 63 percent of the 32 participants reported feeling less anxious after sleeping with one.
Plus, the personal experiences of those who have tried one seem to be overwhelmingly positive. “People feel calmer, or they feel safer and more comforted while they’re using the blanket,” says Durham.
Want to see what all the hype is about yourself? Here are a few weighted blankets to consider if you’re tossing and turning all night.
This blanket is made with 100 percent breathable cotton and filled with hypoallergenic, evenly distributed glass beads. The weighted insert and duvet cover are sold separately, but opting for both will make it easier to clean (be sure to choose matching sizes!). Just slip the cover off and throw it in the wash. One reviewer wrote: “I was skeptical about buying this product, but I have to say that it really does help with my anxiety, and does help me fall asleep, and have a deeper sleep at that.”
Melissa’s Weighted Blankets