If you suffer from anxiety, you know just how difficult it can be to deal with constant worry - but you're not alone. Anxiety disorders impact 40 million adults in the United States, making it the most common mental health issue in the country. And even if you don't have an anxiety disorder, we all feel stressed from time to time. There are plenty of natural remedies for anxiety, but recently one med-free treatment has been getting a ton of buzz: weighted blankets, also known as gravity blankets.
The name speaks for itself: they're blankets - usually stuffed with polyfil or a similar material - with extra heft. People who swear by them say the added 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?
Do weighted blankets work for anxiety and insomnia?
Some experts have, in fact, witnessed weighted blanket benefits firsthand. After Tennessee-based therapist Donna Durham, MMFT, started using them with her clients, she was blown away by their reactions. (Full disclosure, she ended up designing and selling her own weighted blankets.)
"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."
That said, 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.
Preliminary study results, though, 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.
How heavy should a weighted blanket be?
There isn't much research around weighted blanket heft, and ultimately, how heavy you go is up to personal preference. They typically range between 15 and 30 pounds, and the makers of the Gravity Blanket recommend sticking to one that's equal to 10 percent of your body weight (so if you weigh 150 pounds, you'd use a 15-pound blanket). One small study published in the journal Occupational Therapy in Mental Health might point toward benefits of heavier models: it concluded that 30-pounders can make you feel at ease, as 63 percent of the 32 participants reported feeling less anxious after sleeping with one.
Where to buy a weighted blanket
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.
Gravity Blanket went viral after raising close to $5 million on Kickstarter in 2017, and has since generated a reported $15 million in sales. Choose between 15, 20, and 25-pound options, all of which are constructed with a velvety exterior. Reviewers applaud how well the blanket helps them sleep; one says "it's like Advil PM for your entire body."
Amy Garden Weighted Blanket
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
This fleece blanket has earned five stars on Amazon, and for good reason. Each one is individually sewn and the weights range from five to 25 pounds for kids, teens, and adults. They recommend starting with 10% of your weight, so if you're 150 pounds go for a 15-pounder. Bonus: it comes in a variety of gorgeous colors, so you can easily find one that fits your decor.
YnM Cooling Weighted Blanket
A great option for the warmer weather, this soft weighted blanket utilizes moisture wicking, breathable fabric, so you stay cool as you snooze. The weighted blanket and duvet cover are also sold separately here for easier machine-washable cleaning. One reviewer wrote: "I got it for my husband's birthday, who suffers from occasional mild anxiety, and often slept with pillows on his body. I debated for a while as it's not cheap, but it is WORTH the price. Thanks for the quilting, the weights don’t shift around. It conforms perfectly to the body."
This weighted blanket was designed for convenience. Not only does it come in a variety of colors, but you can zip off the outer cover for quick cleaning. It is also textured with dots, which can be calming for those who have fidget-y hands. According to one reviewer who bought the blanket for her daughter, "the color is gorgeous and the weight of the blanket (12 lbs) is perfect. It is weighted enough to make you feel comfortable and cozy underneath it but not too heavy as to make you feel constricted or overheated."
Weighted Comfort COOLMAX
Weighted blankets can be a sweaty sleeper's nightmare. That's why Weighting Comforts (Durham's brand) created the COOLMAX weighted blanket, which is made with a special fabric that is engineered to wick away sweat. "For women who are going through menopause who end up with these hot flashes, it has really been a helpful product for them," she says.
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