Do Weighted Blankets Really Work?

If you wrestle with insomnia, you may be tempted to try gizmos that promise better sleep. One that might sound a little weird but is an increasingly popular option is a weighted blanket.

“They’ve become the sleep tool to have,” says Alanna McGinn, founder and lead sleep expert at Good Night Sleep Site, which operates out of Toronto. “I’m a huge proponent of them because they can work so well.” (McGinn and her “sleep consultants” are certified by the U.S.-based Family Sleep Institute.)

About 32 percent of Americans don’t get enough sleep, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; it recommends at least seven hours a night for adults. Insomnia impacts as many as 35 percent of adults from time to time, while 10 percent have chronic trouble falling and staying asleep.

Weighted blankets range between two and 14 kilograms; choose one that’s around 10 percent of your body weight. Inside is a layer of plastic, glass or metal pellets surrounded by filling.

McGinn says the blanket’s heaviness mimics a touch therapy called deep pressure stimulation. Just as swaddling babies can send them to sleep, these blankets help your heart and breathing rates slow and your body release feel-good hormones, including serotonin.

Are they effective? A 2020 review study in the U.S. looked at eight previous studies and concluded that weighted blankets helped reduce anxiety—but not necessarily insomnia.

But other 2020 research tells a slightly different story. A randomized controlled study in Sweden looked at 120 people with insomnia and also depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety or attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Those who used a weighted blanket had better sleep and were less tired, anxious and depressed in the day.

People with circulatory conditions such as diabetes, or breathing issues such as asthma or sleep apnea, should check with their doctor before using one. “And if you’re someone who gets a little claustrophobic, it’s probably not the best thing for you,” adds McGinn.

Now that you know the science behind these weighted blanket benefits, find out 12 secrets to a good night’s sleep.

Reader's Digest
Originally Published in Reader's Digest