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Are There Really Weighted Blanket Benefits for Sleep, Anxiety, and Performance?

They seem simple enough, but what do the experts and research have to say about this hot new trend?

Young woman sleeping peacefully
Luis AlvarezGetty Images

Could adding a little weight to a blanket be the secret to reduced anxiety, better sleep, and improved performance on the bike? Well, some people certainly say it helps, experts included.

“There’s real comfort in the warmth and security of a weighted blanket,” says W. Christopher Winter, M.D., president of Charlottesville Neurology and Sleep Medicine, and author of The Sleep Solution. “We hug people when they’re upset; we swaddle babies; we tuck kids in so they feel safe at night.” A weighted blanket offers a similar sensation, and lots of people use one to slash stress and improve sleep—successfully at that.

Wait, what even is a weighted blanket?

Weighted blankets are exactly what they sound like: Blankets with weight added inside—usually around 15 to 25 pounds via glass beads or pieces of plastic—for a soothing, calming effect. And as far as potential ways to improve sleep and decrease anxiety go, it doesn’t get much easier or no-fuss.

“A weighted blanket reminds you that your physical body is secure and not in danger,” says Esther Saggurthi, LCPC, a primary clinician at Maryland House Detox, Delphi Behavioral Health Group. “And it brings the brain back to thinking of the physical body, instead of emotional stressors.”

Saggurthi says that a weighted blanket makes a solid natural alternative to sleep aids or alcohol, which a lot of people turn to for relaxation when they have trouble sleeping. “A weighted blanket is a much better non-habit-forming option,” she says.

While research on the topic is limited, people with mental health issues reported a 60 percent reduction in anxiety after using a 30-pound weighted blanket, according to a small study in the journal Occupational Therapy in Mental Health. Insomniacs also noted improved sleep quality when they used weighted blankets for a small study published in the Journal of Sleep Medicine and Disorders. (Of course, if you have an anxiety disorder, you should still see a professional.) While more research is needed, the early findings are promising.

Are there weighted blanket benefits for athletes?

If you struggle with sleep, yes. “Athletes need more sleep than non-athletes because sleep is the foundation of recovery, when cells regenerate,” says Dan Roberts, C.S.C.S., founder of the Dan Roberts Group, a wellness collective based in London. “Too little sleep and too much stress are the two biggest obstacles an athlete faces when recovering from training, and they’re both proven to have a direct impact on performance.” (It’s true: You can read more about how sleep boosts your performance here.)

Roberts says that “any natural, safe methods to reduce anxiety will positively affect sleep,” but a weighted blanket won’t promote any performance miracles beyond that. “A weighted blanket can help some people sleep better, but for others, maybe reading or meditation does the trick,” he says. “Sleep, relaxation, and stress management techniques are all very personal.” Either way, Roberts tells his clients to get nine hours of sleep if they can.

[From training tips, to fueling strategies, to improving the mind-body connection, the Runner's World 2020 Calendar will help you run your best all year long.]

Any tips to keep in mind?

First off, “it’s important to consider the weight of the blanket in relation to your own weight,” Saggurthi says. “A smaller person will feel pinned down by something too heavy, which can then induce the opposite effect: panic from not being able to move.”

Look for a blanket that weighs approximately 10 percent of your weight, per the Harvard Medical School. On that note: Don’t use weighted blankets on children and babies. “They’re too heavy for them,” Saggurthi says.

Winter says to keep the temperature in mind, too. The National Sleep Foundation suggests keeping your room between 60 and 67 degrees for optimal shuteye. If a weighted blanket interferes with your body temp, look for one with cooling properties and breathable fabric.

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