How a Weighted Blanket Can Alleviate Anxiety

10 June 2019

Ever thought of sleeping with a weighted blanket (also known as a gravity blanket) for anxiety? Much like some newborns sleep better when tightly swaddled, having your movement restricted while you sleep can be among the weighted blanket benefits for adults and children alike.

In this Swedish study on how a weighted blanket affects insomnia, participants reported improved and lengthier sleep, tossing and turning less during the night and settling down to sleep more quickly than usual. They generally liked sleeping with the gravity blanket and woke up feeling refreshed in the morning.

What Are the Benefits?

There aren't a lot of studies published in medical journals on whether a gravity blanket for anxiety works, but those who use them anecdotally report falling asleep faster, waking fewer times during the night (or at least not remembering waking) and falling back to sleep more quickly between sleep cycles. Some say if you're prone to nightmares, weighted blanket benefits may include fewer of them. A man with Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS) using a gravity blanket for anxiety said a side benefit of using the blanket was that it substantially eased the discomfort from his RLS, bringing him a deep sense of peace shortly after covering himself and settling into bed.

How Does It Work?

Like a good, calming hug from someone you love, a weighted blanket applies even pressure along the body, possibly distracting you from racing thoughts and other disturbances that can come with anxiety. Psychologist John Cline, PhD says in his Psychology Today blog that weighted blankets have been used to help calm some people with autism and make them more comfortable. "Occupational Therapists," he says, "have utilized weighted blankets for years for grounding patients, increasing reality orientation, helping them to relax, and helping them to self-sooth, among other uses. These blankets provide tactile sensations including warmth, pressure, and a feeling of being held. Because anything that allows you to be comfortable and relax is likely to help you fall asleep, at least in theory, a weighted blanket could be helpful to those with insomnia."

Will It Work for You?

Are you the type of person whose senses are so finely tuned that you find yourself distracted and sometimes even annoyed by random sounds, smells, bright lights and even being touched? Does a feeling of peace and comfort come over you when you sit down in the dentist's chair for x-rays and the hygienist lays the leaded blanket on you to protect your body from radiation? If so, a gravity blanket may help promote restful, anxiety-free sleep for you. (And if these sensitivities are extreme, ask your doctor about a condition called Sensory Over-Responsivity which is one of several Sensory Processing Disorders for which there may be treatment).

If you want to try a gravity blanket for anxiety, it's recommended you choose a blanket that is 10% of your body weight plus one pound, but some prefer a blanket with even more heft than that. If you're handy with a sewing machine, there are many online tutorials for making a weighted blanket inexpensively with just fabric, thread and plastic or glass pellets that you can buy in a craft store or online. Purchasing a weighted blanket is easier but can be expensive, so make sure that if you do buy one that the return policy is generous enough for you to have enough time to try it out and see for yourself if it lessens your anxiety, and helps you to have a better night's sleep.