How Weighted Blankets Actually Work for Anxiety and Insomnia — Plus the Best Options to Shop
Here, experts break down the science behind weighed blankets — and how to choose the best one for you.
With heightened levels of stress and anxiety this year, more Americans than ever are dealing with insomnia — and roughly 70 million Americans are dealing with sleep deprivation, defined as seven hours of sleep or less.
So it's no surprise that weighted blankets are trending again right now. Weighted blankets became popular a few years ago, so chances are you already know someone who claims they're the one thing that finally squashed their Sunday Scaries. And the science behind them is legit.
Wwondering how they actually help decrease anxiety and promote deeper sleep? Or which weight, size, and material is the best bet for you? Read on for our guide to choosing the best weighted blanket for you.
How Do Weighted Blankets Work for Anxiety and Insomnia?
"Touch and gently applied pressure have powerful psychological and physical effects — and eliciting those effects is what weighted blankets do," explains Michael Breus, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist known as "The Sleep Doctor."
The gentle, firm pressure from a weighted blanket — otherwise known as deep pressure stimulation (DPS) or deep touch pressure (DTP) — decreases the activity of your body's sympathetic nervous system, which controls your 'fight or flight' stress response, Breus explains. "At the same time, deep pressure stimulation activates the parasympathetic nervous system — sometimes called the ‘rest and digest’ system — lowering your heart rate and blood pressure and increasing feelings of calm and relaxation."
Even if you're all alone, the weight of a blanket, especially if wrapped, replicates the feeling of a massage or a hug from a loved one, explains Crystal I. Lee, Ph.D., a Los Angeles-based psychologist and owner of LA Concierge Psychologist. That's something we could probably all use more of this year.
The effects are similar to swaddling a baby for sleep, adds Sari Chait, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist and founder of Behavioral Health and Wellness Center. "There is something about being extra snug that can be very comforting to some people and help calm some of that anxiety."
"For others, the weight of the blanket may help them feel (literally) grounded in the present," says Lee. "In this case, the weighted blanket is another tool to promote mindfulness and grounding, which has been shown to help decrease anxiety."
So, Should You Try One?
While weighted blankets have long been used as a therapeutic tool for people with autism, their emergence onto the wellness scene is still relatively new. Despite a few studies and plenty of anecdotal evidence that they can reduce anxiety and sleep issues, Lee cautions that more research is needed to confirm these touted benefits — and that weighted blankets can't "cure" or "treat" true mental health conditions. Still, that's not to say they aren't worth trying.
“Ultimately, a weighted blanket alone is not enough to manage anxiety or treat true insomnia but if it helps someone even a little, I encourage people to try it," Chait agrees. "My feeling as a therapist is that if it helps, I'd rather people use that than other unhealthy coping skills."
Even if you don't suffer from true insomnia or anxiety, but could use a little help getting more restful sleep, there's evidence to suggest a weighted blanket might be a helpful tool. In a 2015 study published in the Journal of Sleep Medicine and Disorders, participants who used a weighted blanket slept more calmly, with less movement throughout the night. Participants also self-reported that the blanket gave them better quality sleep — and that they felt more rested in the morning.
How Do I Choose the Best Weighted Blanket for Me?
Convinced you need one? Well, finding the weighted blanket of your dreams is pretty much a Goldilocks situation — you have to choose the one that is just right for you.
The general rule of thumb is to opt for a blanket approximately 10 percent of your weight, give or take a few pounds, Lee says. "For example, if you weigh 120 pounds, then you'd want to try out blankets that weigh 12 to 14 pounds," she says.
It isn't always as easy as simple math, though. "If you find that you're hyposensitive to pressure (clues would be you love deep pressure massages or enjoy super tight hugs), you may want to try a slightly heavier blanket," Lee says. For this reason, experts recommend shopping in person if you can, to find the color, fabric, and weight that feels most comforting to you.
Can't get to a store? This shopping guide will help you find the best weighted blanket option for you.
Best Weighted Blanket for Hot Sleepers
If the idea of adding anything more to your bed makes you feel sweaty just thinking about it, then you may want to consider a cooling weighted blanket. Baloo Living’s Cooling Weighted Blanket is made with breathable cotton that keeps your body temp in check, while also giving you all the stress-relieving benefits of a weighted blanket. The Baloo weighted blanket comes in 12-, 15- and 20-pound options, as well as twin and queen sizes.
Shop now: $149-$169; balooliving.com
Best Weighted Blanket for Easy Washing
Whether you’re sharing with your little one or are prone to spills yourself, the Nest Bedding Luxury Weighted Blanket is the pick for you. Ranging in sizes from twin to king, the blanket — and its ultra-soft, fleece top layer — can go directly in the washing machine for a quick clean.
Shop it: from $129; nestbedding.com
Best Weighted Blanket for Light Sleepers
If the smallest sound tends to wake you from your sleep, then you might want to consider a rocabi Luxury Adult Weighted Blanket, which has raked in five-star reviews from light sleepers. "I am a very light sleeper with lots of chronic sleep issues," wrote one Amazon reviewer. "The weighted blanket was my last resort. I slept almost all the way through the night the first time I tried it!! I feel so much more ready and able to face the day!"
The weighted blanket also comes in 15-, 20-, and 25-pound options, and you can switch between the organic cotton and soft, "minky" covers depending on the season.
Shop it: from $149; amazon.com
Best Weighted Blanket for Sharing
If tugging the comforter back and forth with your partner each night is half the battle when it comes to you getting a good night's sleep, then you might want to consider a weighted blanket designed for sharing, like this one from HomeSmart Products. In addition to a wide range of weight options, it also comes in a size as large as California king. One Amazon reviewer noted the design works well for two: "The weight is in small squares across the comforter so it remains evenly distributed across."
Shop now: from $58; amazon.com
Best Weighted Blanket for a Budget
Love the idea of a weighted blanket, but don’t want to shell out a ton of cash? Check out the Tranquility Temperature Balancing Weighted Blanket which clocks in between $50 and $65, depending on the weight you choose. The blanket also comes with a washable cover, making it a solid pick if you're a fan of eating breakfast or dinner in bed. (No judgment here!)
Shop now: from $38; walmart.com
Best Chic Weighted Blanket for a Good Cause
Want a weighted blanket that no one will know is a weighted blanket — and also helps benefit mental health? Check out Bearaby’s Napper weighted blanket, which is available in three different materials — organic cotton, plant-based tree fabric (Tencel) and velvet — that all look more like beautiful throws than your standard weighted blanket.
Bearaby has been a longtime partner of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) and donates one hour of staffing to the NAMI Helpline for each blanket purchased to provide free information, referrals, counsel, and support to people living with mental health conditions.
Shop now: from $269; bearaby.com
Best Weighted Blanket for a Ton of Options
If a huge selection is important to you, check out this YnM Weighted Blanket, which comes in 11 different weight/sizes, ranging from five to 30 pounds — and a whopping 22 colorways. Fans of the Amazon best-seller say it's completely transformed their sleep. "I was averaging about 4.5 hours of sleep per night due to pain. My first night with this blanket and I slept over 7 hours!!" one Amazon reviewer wrote. "This is so comfortable and comforting. I’m recommending this to everyone I know!"
Shop now: from $55; amazon.com
Best Weighted Blanket Created By a Doc
If you would rather opt for a blanket that comes with a professional’s seal of approval, check out Dr. Hart's Weighted Blanket Deluxe Set, which was created by a neurologist. Designed with contoured waves that fit snuggly against the body, Dr. Hart’s blanket is available in weights ranging from 15- to 25-pounds.
One Amazon reviewer said of the blanket: "I slept like a rock; no tossing, no turning, no waking up in a panic. I will be sleeping with this blanket every night!"
Shop now: from $75; amazon.com