A weighted blanket also medically referred to as a “gravity blanket,” is commonly used to ease pain and anxiety. It can also be used to treat a variety of health conditions, including stress, insomnia, restless leg syndrome, and even depression.
While the jury is still out as to if these weighted blankets actually ease or improve these ailments and concerns, a few studies have found that “extra weight” can aid in pain-relief by calming the mind and relaxing the body.
Still, it is important to consult with your physician before using a weighted blanket. Why? Because, 10-25lbs. of extra blanket weight can be dangerous for small children, the elderly, and those with respiratory and circulatory issues like sleep apnea or diabetes.
Thus, the best way to determine if you need a weighted blanket is to research the various weights, options, and benefits.
What is a Weighted Blanket?
Weighted blankets, sometimes referred to as “anxiety blankets,” are “heavy” blankets designed to ease your anxiety and pain, so you rest better. These weighted blankets work by applying “pressure” or “weight” to certain pressure points on your body. Weighted blankets typically contain multiple stitched-squares filled with micro pieces of metal, sand, plastic or poly pellets, or glass beads. And, most come in a variety of styles and designs.
Weighted blankets were originally created to aid in sensory integration therapy for those with autism spectrum disorder or sensory processing conditions. The purpose was to help these individuals become more in-tune with their “senses” or sensory experiences. The aim was to apply “deep pressure” to the body to trigger an increase in dopamine and serotonin, the “feel good” hormones.
Serotonin is especially important because it is linked to melatonin, the “sleepy hormone.” And, when serotonin, dopamine, and melatonin are combined, you experience a decline in your stress, anxiety, and pain. The result? Better sleep.
What Are The Benefits of a Weighted Blanket?
Many benefits have been associated with weighted blankets, either through personal testimonies or scientific evidence. These benefits range from person-to-person, however, the most common benefits are listed below.
The most common benefits of using a weighted blanket are:
· Better and longer-lasting sleep
· Calmness & relaxation
· Better focus and concentration
· Natural pain relief for chronic conditions and psychological distress
· A decline in stress and tension
· Lower levels of inflammation in the body
· Sensory processing stimulation
· The feeling of being hugged when you really need it.
Can a Weighted Blanket Be Too Heavy?
Yes! It can also be too light.
So exactly how heavy should a weighted blanket be? As a rule of thumb, the weight of your weighted blanket should account for 10 percent of your body weight. So, if you weigh 100 lbs. make sure you look for a 10 lb. weighted blanket, and if you weigh 150 lbs. look for a weighted blanket that weighs 15 lbs. If you weigh 200 lbs. look for a weighted blanket that weighs 20 lbs.
If you want less weight, opt for a weighted blanket that is 7% of your body weight. For instance, if you weigh 100 lbs. look for a blanket that weighs 7 lbs. If you weigh 150 lbs. look for a blanket that weighs 10 or 10.5 lbs. And, if you weigh 200 lbs. opt for a blanket that weighs 14 or 15 lbs. Note: It may be difficult to find weighted blankets that weigh 7% of your body weight, so just select a weighted blanket that is closest to your desired blanket weight.
Listed below are weighted blanket suggestions for various age groups:
How Heavy Should a Weighted Blanket be for Preschoolers (4 to 5 years old) & Young Children (6 to 10 years old)?
Studies are conflicting on the weight that preschoolers and young children should have in a weighted blanket. Some studies suggest that the blanket should account for 10% of a child’s body weight, while others suggest that it should account for 5 to 10% of their weight.
For instance, a child who weighs 50 lbs. would either need a 2.5 lb. weighted blanket (5%) or 5 lb. weighted blanket (10%). It depends on the child – i.e. age, body weight, muscle strength, health, and maturity.
How Heavy Should a Weighted Blanket be for for Children (11 to 13 years old)?
If your child weighs between 70 and 90 lbs., opt for a weighted blanket that is 3.5 or 4.5 lbs. (5%) or 7 or 9 lbs. (10%).
How Heavy Should a Weighted Blanket be for Adolescents (14 to 20 years old)?
Teens and young adults who weigh between 100 & 150 lbs. should opt for a weighted blanket that is 5 or 7.5 lbs. (5%) or 10 or 15 lbs. (10%).
For more information, see our list of the best weighted blankets for kids and toddlers.
How Heavy Should a Weighted Blanket be for Adults (21 years old & up)?
Adults who weigh between 160 & 200 lbs. should opt for a weighted blanket that is 10% of their body weight. This blanket should be between 16 lbs. & 20 lbs. (10%). And, adults who weigh 200+ should opt for weighted blankets that are between 20 & 25 lbs. or up.
For more information, see our list of the best weighted blankets for adults.
Consequences of a Weighted Blanket That is Too Heavy
Why is the blanket weight so important? Because, a weighted blanket that is too heavy can cause additional health problems, such as overheating and the feeling of being suffocated or crushed by the extra weight. As a result, people who have turned to weighted blankets to quell their anxiety and help them sleep more soundly at night may experience an increase in anxiety and a decrease in sleep quality – because the blanket is way too heavy for them.
Moreover, a weighted blanket that is too heavy could increase chronic pain, especially muscle and joint pain. If you struggle with arthritis or have a muscle or arthritis-type condition like rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, fibromyalgia, muscular dystrophy, etc. or if you suffer from muscle cramps, exhaustion, or pain, an overbearing weighted blanket will only place more pressure on these areas, triggering or worsening your pain.
Lastly, if you have circulation issues, for instance, peripheral neuropathy, a common complication of diabetes, or a nerve or respiratory condition, a blanket that is too heavy may be too restricting, leading to respiratory and circulatory issues. It can also cause a “burning” or “electric shock” sensation in your feet that can interrupt your sleep and keep you awake for most, if not all, of the night.
Consequences of a Weighted Blanket That is Too Light
Can a weighted blanket really be too light? Yes!
A weighted blanket that is too light will most likely be ineffective. In other words, if the blanket does not have enough weight or gravity, it will not help you. It will not ease your pain or take away your anxiety. It also will not help you sleep more soundly at night. Thus, it will ultimately be useless to you.
It will feel like a bag of potatoes on top of your body, offering no relief. The downside? That bag of potatoes (i.e. your blanket) may trigger more pain and anxiety. How? Simply from the extra pressure added to your body.
How to Choose the Perfect Blanket for You
So, what should I look for in a weighted blanket? It depends.
But, the general consensus is that you should look for a blanket that comforts you and makes you feel “hugged.”
Weighted blankets come in a variety of sizes and weights, ranging from 5lbs. (for children) to 30lbs. (for adults). Keep in mind that even though the blanket should account for 10% of your body weight, the weight of the blanket largely depends on your preference. If your body weight percentage falls between two blanket weights, you’ll want to select either the lower weight or the upper weight.
If you are small-framed, you’ll probably make sure you get a lower blanket weight vs. a higher one. Conversely, if you are on the larger side, muscular, or like a lot of pressure, you may want to go up to 15% of your body weight.
But, if you purchase a weighted blanket that is 10 percent of your body weight, but find it cumbersome and restricting or if it suffocates you or makes you feel trapped, you may want to go down a blanket weight or two.
However, studies suggest if the weighted blanket is too light or less than 10% of your body weight, you may not receive the full benefits of it. The purpose of the “excess weight” or “deep pressure” is to calm your mind, relax your body, ease your pain, and reduce your stress level, so you can fall and stay asleep.
Other Considerations in Choosing a Weighted Blanket
If you are looking for that perfect weighted blanket that takes away a lot (maybe not all) of your angst or pain or one that eases your stress and helps you sleep longer and better at night, you may want to make sure you consider the following factors:
· Blanket Weight
Most weighted blankets are available from 5 to 30 lbs. (in 5 lb. increments). Understand that you should not use a weighted blanket on babies, infants, or toddlers (under 2) because they do not have the physical strength to move the blanket should they become “trapped” beneath it.
· Machine Washable
Another thing you’ll probably want to consider is whether or not the blanket is machine washable. Because it matters. Your blanket will get “dingy,” especially if you use it on children or teens, so you’ll eventually need to wash it. And, it is a lot easier (and cheaper) to pop it in the washer machine than to take it to the cleaners.
If you don’t like a lot of heat, you may need to look for a weighted blanket that uses poly pellets as the weight source. Poly pellets and moisture-wicking properties can help you stay fresh and cool as you slumber.
- Blanket Size
Weighted blankets come in different sizes. Measure the size of your bed, and decide if you want a blanket that covers more than just your body. Then use this information to make sure you pick the right blanket size for you.
For more information see our list of the best weighted blankets.
If you suffer from anxiety, chronic pain, or insomnia, a weighted blanket may be just what you’ve been looking for. This type of blanket makes you feel like you are cuddled, hugged, and loved, so your stress just melts away. It is also a godsend for those who have sensory processing disorder or other sensory concerns because it provides the “deep pressure stimulation” they crave.
It is important that the blanket not be too heavy or too light because both can be detrimental for your health and peace of mind. Again, make sure you exercise caution when using a weighted blanket on a child. A child should be able to move the blanket. If he cannot, a weighted blanket is not right for him.
Most people love these weighted blankets because they make them feel protected and comforted. To these individuals, these blankets are the best thing ever invented. But, honestly, it really depends on you – what you want, what you need, and what your goal is. Only you know what’s best for you, but it doesn’t hurt to have a little knowledge on your side when you make that decision.
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2. Losinski, M., Cook, K., Hirsch, S., & Sanders, S. (2017). The effects of deep pressure therapies and antecedent exercise on stereotypical behaviors of students with autism spectrum disorders. Behavioral Disorders, 42(4), 196–208. https://doi.org/10.1177/0198742917715873
3. Losinski, M., Sanders, S. A., & Wiseman, N. M. (2016). Examining the use of deep touch pressure to improve the educational performance of students with disabilities. Research & Practice for Persons with Severe Disabilities, 41(1), 3–18. https://doi.org/10.1177/1540796915624889
4. Lounds, T. J., Dove, D., Veenstra-VanderWeele, J., et al. (2012). Novel therapeutic deep-pressure vest for reducing anxiety in children. Comparative Effectiveness Reviews, 65. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23035276/
5. Stephenson, J. & Carter, M. (2009). The use of weighted vests with children with autism spectrum disorders and other disabilities. In: Database of Abstracts of Reviews of Effects (DARE): Quality-assessed Reviews: Centre for Reviews and Dissemination (UK). Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK77549/