Body

Could a weighted blanket help you stress less and sleep better?

Here’s everything you need to know.

By Anya Truong-George
Weighted blankets – if you haven't heard of them, they're exactly as the name suggests – blankets with extra weight to them, and they've been gaining popularity thanks to their potential to improve sleep and relieve stress.
Anxiety and stress is our body's natural response to potential danger, and it can be a useful tool to tell us when we need to take action to protect ourselves, to make changes or improve our situation.
However, if you're unable to stop worrying or feel like you're constantly on edge, that's when anxiety can begin to take a toll on not just your mental health but your physical health too.
When you're stressed, your sleeping pattern can be one of the first things to be affected, and with sleep being one of the most important factors for a better overall wellbeing, you can imagine what can happen when that gets out of whack.
It's no wonder then, that people are eager to find ways to help improve their sleep and relieve their stress.
That's where weighted blankets, or gravity blankets, come in.
Anxiety can be a useful tool to tell you when you need to take action or protect yourself, but if you're stressed or anxious all the time it can take a serious toll on your mental and physical health. (Image: Getty)
Of late, many people have been touting the benefits of weighted blankets to help them find a sense of calm and relieve their insomnia - and science seems to agree.
Weighted blankets have a long history of being used as a form of occupational therapy called sensory integration therapy and used to help children with autism, but recent studies have suggested they can also have benefits for those who struggle with mental disorders and have since seen a rise in mainstream use.
In a small pilot study conducted in 2006 researchers found that 63 per cent of participants reported lower anxiety after use and 78 per cent preferred the weighted blanket as a method for calming down.
A subsequent study in 2015 found that the weighted blanket lengthened the average sleep time and decreased the amount of tossing and turning in people who suffer from insomnia.
So how does it work?
Weighted blankets are heavy blankets typically filled with plastic pellets, made to be approximately 10 per cent of your body weight.
The theory behind the blankets is inspired by the idea of 'deep-pressure touch'.
The deep pressure of the blanket can make you feel like you're being hugged and cocooned which in turn can help stimulate the release of cortisol, serotonin and dopamine, chemicals that can help you feel more relaxed.
A weighted blanket by Gravity. (Image: Instagram.com/@gravityblankets)
Speaking to NBC News, CEO of ClockCoach Irina Zhdanova says, "being hugged is a very powerful stimulus.
"When you're hugged, you feel more secure."
Plus, Zhdanova says, the weight of the blanket makes movement come against a little more resistance, making it harder for you to disturb yourself while sleeping, if you're prone to tossing and turning.
People who've used it have said it has helped to "melt away" their anxiety, fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer.
Christina Heiser at NBC News, who tried the blanket out for herself, says she was usually restless in bed and that the moving in turn made her mind wander, but found because of the weight of the blanket and feeling more snug, movement became more deliberate, encouraging her body to stay still.
"I didn't wake up once in the middle of the night, which is very rare for me and after seven hours of solid sleep, I felt so refreshed that I didn't even need to stop for my iced coffee on the way to the office."
She had also been nervous that it might become too hot, but found it didn't cause her to overheat at all.
WATCH: 3 achievable ways to cope with stress and anxiety in everyday life. Story continues below...
There are, however, a few downsides to the blankets – notably that their weight makes it difficult to transport or travel with and if you have young children or pets, the weight could potentially be too heavy for them to move at all, ie a potential safety hazard.
Another potential con, if you can really call it that, is it can make getting out of bed that much harder, says Wellness & Beauty Editor at Mind Body Green, Lindsay Kellner, especially during winter, because it makes you feel so relaxed and comfortable.
They also do not come cheap. Australian company Therapy Blanket sell their original blanket for NZD $299 and popular company Gravity will see you shelling out upwards of $300.
While research is still needed for a comprehensive understanding of the potential benefits weighted blankets can have for curbing stress, there's no denying the comfy addition already has a long list of fans who swear by them, and as someone who can never sleep without the weight of a duvet (even in the height of summer), I can definitely understand why.