Do Weighted Blankets Really Do Anything?

[♪ INTRO ] There’s nothing better than a warm, snuggly
bed to help you relax. You’ve got your pillows, you’ve got your
sheets, and that big old blanket to keep you warm no matter how cold it is outside. Winter is coming. But some say if you really want to let go
of all your stress, you should try a heavier blanket — like, 13 and a half kilograms
heavier. That’s because a lot of people swear by
weighted blankets as a way to reduce anxiety, self-soothe, or just sleep better. And the research to date does kind of support
their use — but it’s not clear if these blankets do something specific, or just act
as a placebo. As the name implies, a ‘weighted blanket’
refers to a blanket that’s been specifically made heavier, usually with beads or chains
sewn evenly through the fabric. Adding a dozen kilograms or so to your covers
might sound smothering, but according to safety studies, it doesn’t pose a significant health
risk to adults. That said, it’s worth noting that this sort
of extra weight isn’t suitable for everyone, especially unsupervised children. And there’s no real consensus on what weight
to use, either. Many say around 10% of your body weight is
the sweet spot. But how heavy you go is up to you. Some people like their blanket a little heavier,
some a little lighter. Different people are different. These weighted blankets are often suggested
in mental health communities, particularly for people with anxiety. They’re also commonly used by people with
autism, to soothe people with dementia, or by people who have trouble sleeping. And with so many uses across diverse conditions,
they kind of sound too good to be true. But research suggests there may actually be
something to them. There are several studies that show, subjectively
at least, that sleeping with a weighted blanket helps people feel less anxious. For example, in a 2008 study involving 32
adults, 63% of them reported reduced anxiety on a standardized questionnaire after sleeping
with a 13.6 kilogram blanket, and 78% of them said they felt more relaxed with it. Other anxiety studies have had similar results,
and even in studies that don’t look at anxiety specifically, a pretty large portion of participants
seem to just like the experience for what it is. For example, 31 participants with chronic
insomnia in a 2016 study reported feeling safer and more comfortable when they slept
with a weighted blanket. They also believed they slept better — and
they were right. Sleep quality data revealed that they tossed
and turned a whole lot less under the heavy blanket. They also stayed asleep for longer intervals. Similarly, both the children and their parents
in a 2014 study involving 67 kids with autism reported liking the weighted blanket better. The only thing is… in that study, it didn’t
actually help them sleep longer. In fact, when it comes to improving sleep,
the research is a pretty mixed bag. Same with their use by people with autism
— sometimes they seem to help with things like anxiety or behavioral symptoms, sometimes
they don’t. There is some evidence that a weighted blanket
can help you relax during a stressful situation. A 2016 study monitored 60 patients’ heart
rates while they were getting their wisdom teeth removed, with 30 of them receiving a
weighted blanket halfway through. The data suggested that while everyone found
the procedure stressful, those that didn’t receive a heavy blanket spent more time in
“fight or flight” mode — basically, they were freaking out, while the others were
able to somewhat calm down. But… not all scientists think the heart
rate measures used are reliable indicators of nervous system activity. And no one really knows how weighted blankets
could trigger a more relaxed state. Some scientists think they provide deep pressure
stimulation — a type of pressure that is thought to trigger your nervous system’s
chill mode. But even if that’s true, there’s a bit
of a gap with regards to how that works. It could be a cognitive thing — that pressure
makes you feel like you’re being held or hugged, and that feeling is just super reassuring
— something we’ve evolved to find relaxing. Or, something about the weight itself could
trigger changes to the cells that nudge the nervous system towards relaxation. Or any benefits could be a placebo effect:
people feel relaxed or sleep better when wrapped in these heavy blankets simply because they
believe that’s what should happen. In order to really figure out how weighted
blankets work when they do, we’d need a study with a placebo control. But… you can’t really make a not-heavy
blanket that people think is heavy. That means a true placebo-controlled trial,
where people aren’t sure if they’re getting a weighted blanket or not, it’s not possible. And that makes it a lot harder to tease out
whether the positive effects people report are because of their expectations that it’ll
work or the actual blanket. In the end, some would say it doesn’t matter
why they work — just that they do. For many, weighted blankets are a source of
relief for some pretty unpleasant symptoms. And that’s great. I like blanket hugs. But they definitely don’t work for others,
and scientists can’t really say why. In the end, it all comes down to individual
preferences. Like I said it earlier, different people are
different. So ultimately, it’s really up to you if
you want to give this snuggly coping technique a try, also to your bank account. I don’t think they are cheap. Thanks for watching this episode of SciShow
Psych! And a special thanks to our patrons on Patreon. Without their continued support, we couldn’t
make episodes like this. If you’d like to help us make free educational
videos about psychology, or just learn more about our Patreon community, you can head
on over to [ ♪ OUTRO ]

100 thoughts on “Do Weighted Blankets Really Do Anything?

  1. Experiment to test weighted blanket effectivness:
    1. Get 2 groups of people and tell them they are taking part in a blind study for sleeping pills, give both groups the placebo.
    2. Have both groups to sleep under controlled conditions one with weighted blanket one with normal blanket.

  2. I didn't even know that weighted blankets were a thing till I saw the title of this video. But I love feeling the weight of my cat on my legs when I'm about to fall asleep. And I add as many blankets as I can in winter to make them feel heavier because it feels… safer? Snugglier? Its a nice, weighty wall between my warm bed and the air. When I was in high school I would sometimes leave my unfolded clothes over my blankets for extra weight. Not great when I bothered to fold them since they were all wrinkly by then, but after being too tired to put them away after a really busy day I found that I enjoyed the extra weight.
    So its not that I thought that they would do something, but its just that I did it more often after noticing how much nicer it felt to have more weight.

  3. I sometimes wonder if people who liked being tightly swaddled as infants prefer weighted blankets more than others. Just an extremely loose idea since my sample size is one.

  4. It is because it presses us like we've been pressed throughout our entire gestation in our mother's wombs, when we were not exactly self-aware or socialized, and when everything was given to us (as in we didn't have to do anything and behavior didn't matter, the outcome was going to be the same). Everthing was mostly calm and leeching 4 lyfe and the pressing ACTUALLY REMINDS OUR SUB-CONSCIOUSNESS ABOUT DAT LYFE.

    Can we test it? Probably not… but still it isn't worth dismissing this theory since, you know, it's true.

  5. Sometimes I get nerves misfiring in my spine due to a medical condition. When one is trying to sleep, that is difficult to deal with. I got a 6lb weighted blanket to try out. I got a lighter one because the misfires showed up in small areas along my spine. It worked wonders for it. When I bought the blanket, I wasn't sure it would work, but it calmed down the nerve pain and irritation within 3 to 5 minutes. I also have a son with autism and it calms him when he's having an episode.

  6. I get sore muscles if I use my boyfriend's (20lbs) blanket for the whole night. Maybe I'm just weak. Does feel so comfy. I think I'm supposed to have a 12-15lbs blanket

  7. The closest control for a study would be telling people who haven't already heard of this that a weighted blanket makes you more stressed or angry or restless and that's what you're trying to test. It still wouldn't be perfect but it could give a broad idea of how much is placebo and how much is physiological.

  8. actually i think we can make plasebo on this case. İf we say we have two king of balnkets one is super-nano-bio bla bla tech blanket (but just a normal blanket) that we use for measuring the plasebo.

  9. As a person with moderate to severe anxiety I will say I want a weighted blanket. But my husband hugging me or me laying on his chest I believe is more helpful personally. Especially laying on his chest and him deep breathing it's becomes an unconscious monkey see – monkey do situation. As I am laying on him listening to not only his significantly slower heartbeat to begin with normally mine is elevated and his slow breathing also gives me clues to slow down without stressing out more by focusing consciously on calming down. I was about to have an anxiety attack and he covered my ears and held me and just like that I was better not perfect but better.

  10. As someone who has a number of mental issues and anxiety problems my weighted blanket does help me sleep slightly better. As mented by holdmybeer in his comment, I noticed I felt slightly less stressed during an x-ray of my teeth the moment a heavy lead bib was on my chest. All of us seem to enjoy being "snug as a bug in a rug" and unsurprisingly a slightly heavier blanket or heavy quilt has helped me with my sleeping problems. LLAP and DFTBA! <3

  11. Could you control for placebo by telling people weighted blankets are shown to make you sleep worse?

    It's a bit of a stretch, and I'm looking for someone to tell me why it's a dumb idea….

  12. I've never heard of anyone having wisdom teeth pulled without being under anesthesia. No stress. Next thing you know-it's all over and you tell your oral surgeon you love him. ( ok maybe that was just me)😯

  13. as someone with autism and anxiety (and way too many others), I've tried them and while it's fine on just my feet, having it on my full body just made me feel crushed and trapped. which, disappointing, since i have terrible time sleeping a lot, but i also really hate people hugging me/etc so it makes sense i guess?

  14. You could do a placebo test by giving a lighter variation, that seems heavier than a normal blanket but really isn’t, like 5 pounds. Or just saying it’s a an anxiety blanket but not that weight was what made it special.

  15. Actually, couldn't you cover people after they fall asleep, and remove before they wake, to allow for a control group? Double-blind would be tougher, but farming out just the blanket placement and removal to a large enough group of volunteers might work.

  16. I definitely fall asleep faster with my 30lb blanket. Perhaps it is training. It is less comfortable to roll on my side though.

  17. I don't get anything but sweat with my weighted blanket. I guess it's because my dog lays his big butt on me!! Seriously I'm going to try this because I have insomnia and I cannot stay asleep..

  18. The sense of light pressure probably causes a release of oxytocin. You could do a placebo study by having a creepy stranger lay on top of you 😂

  19. I used to pile multiple blankets on top of myself as a child and the minute I heard that weighted blankets helped with panic attacks I knew I wanted one. Finding out about them reminded me how much I've always enjoyed being under heavy blankets. I've tried using an electric blanket before but still prefer to use multiple blankets instead. The weight helps me sleep better. I'm not sure if it's due to Autism, Insomnia, PTSD or Placebo but i'll take it. I currently have 2 weighted blankets 1 that's 15 pounds and a 10 pound blanket I travel with. The 15 pound one is amazing and as long as it's cold enough I will still have an additional 5 or 6 blankets on my bed so the actual weight is higher. The best sleep I ever got was when I used both blankets at once for a total of 25 pounds plus my other blankets.

  20. So it’s really soothing to have pressure on both sides of your midline. That’s why kids chew on their clothes. Or why you mess with your hands when you’re anxious. So that’s what the blanket does. It puts pressure on both sides of your midline.

  21. I use weighted blankets to build hypotrophy in my sleep. I wake up and drink a protein shake after a hard nights sleep and now I’m jacked.

  22. well, i feel like someone who will not keep me tied up or talk foul to me etc….. is hugging me to sleep.
    basically a veeeery safe hug.
    it sure helps that my mother used to make heavy quilts for us to sleep, i still have some of them.

  23. Perhaps because muscles relax when you apply pressure on them. As during massage/physiotherapy… or lying on a hard surface as opposed to a "comfy" bed. Or perhaps because the extra weight makes some unused muscles activate a bit, which in turn makes the antagonist muscles relax (reciprocal inhibition). It's also why pulling apart an elastic band with your arms feels relaxing – you get some activation in the back muscles from that, but not so much activation as to make it feel like a great effort.

  24. Weighted blankets are a godsend for people with chronic anxiety. I remember describing how I needed something heavy on me to be able to sleep, but fours layers gets too hot. It’s not that mysterious, it’s just feelings safe and secure and held down in your most vulnerable time.

  25. My son was born with Sensory issues, (part of the autism spectrum, but not full on autism). He also does not have ADHD either. He is overly sensitive to the material he wears in his clothes, to the feel of foods that go in his mouth (which means he is a very picky eater) and he is sensitive to the materials on his body. When he was younger I used to "brush" or rub his back in order to help sooth him to sleep. He discovered his fathers big heavy winter blanket when he was around 6 years old, and he now sleeps under that blanket all year round – even in the summer. He LOVES the feeling of a weighted blanket. I would have to go with the deep pressure sensation that Hank describes for why this works for those with certain sensory issues. I also have a big heavy blanket, but mine only comes out at winter time. In the summer I sleep under a sheet. The weighted blanket is mostly to help sooth those with sensory issues – which can include those with autism and ADHD. You can read books such as – The Out of Sync Child by Carol Stock Kranowitz. This book was a LIFESAVER for me. Without it, I would never have been able to figure out what was wrong with my son. He has never been officially diagnosed with any disorder, so I could never get any official Occupational Therapy for him, (which is how sensory issues are managed but not cured) but this book helped me to be able to deal with (and manage) his issues and now he is doing very well as a teenager. One last thing – most kids with sensory issues cannot handle large crowds, so dumping them into a large school is a huge no-no. My son did very well in a small elementary school. (less than 200 kids from K-8), but eventually had to be removed from a large high school (over 800 kids G9-12) because he hated the crowds. He is now being homeschooled.

  26. I wouldn't say it's a placebo in general. While having a anxiety attack I was given one to use as I was going to lay down on the sofa and try to relax a bit. There was no mention of it being used for that. I first sat with it wrapped around me and began to calm down, then laid down with it and began calming down quicker than normal. The next time it happened I actively sought out this blanket. That was the day I was told that they were made for that, when I had mentioned how the "heavy blanket calmed me down". They responded with "well yeah, that's what they're used for".

  27. A night when I sleep more than 4 hours is a really good night. If I tried this blanket, I would not sleep better – feeling trapped would send me right off the edge into a panic attack. The softest and lightest weight blanket I can find is a must.

  28. The thing most don't get about these kind of stuff is that it is therapeutic. The effect of it comes from knowing what it is for (for example combat anxiety) and having a habtic feedback (weight) and using it every day. This means that someone is actively trying to combat their illness, sort of going on a walk daily in the morning to combat depression.

  29. Anxiety kicked in for me a few years ago and I do sleep better when w/e I'm using to cover myself is heavier but usually it doesn't need to be a lot.
    I've seen an overall improvement in my sleep even after adding just 1-2kg.

  30. I'm not sure if mine actually helps me relax, but when I use it I wake up in the same position that I fell asleep in. So it at least helps me not flail around as much while sleeping

  31. I discovered this accidentally. I decided that I'd learn to crochet, and for my first project, I decided to make an Afghan for my king-sized bed. (dream big, right?) To make it even more of a test, I decided to do it double skeined, using two skeins of yarn at the same time, with a triple crochet stitch.

    The resulting blanket was ridiculously heavy, but, since I'd made it, I had to put it on the bed. Sleeping under it was so much nicer and more comfortable than any other blankets I'd ever used.

  32. i got put under a feather tick as a child and can't stand any more than basic bedding. i couldn't even sleep when holding sleeping nieces or nephews.

  33. I want one of these weighted blankets, currently I have a fleece for warmth then two heavy wool blankets that are approximately a million years old to weigh it down. Otherwise I roll up in it like a cacoon or a blanket burrito.

  34. For a placebo control group couldn't resurchers vet people to find out if they have heard of the effects of weighted blankets.

  35. It would be really difficult, but wouldnt a placebo control be to find people who are unaware of what the effects of weighted blankets should be and have them report the differences in sleeping w/ and w/o the weight?

  36. I used to have a heavy blanket and it was hot and uncomfortable. Upgraded to a light goose feather one and now I sleep like a baby… so yeah, doesn't work for everyone.

  37. They help with pain, too. Deep pressure is comfortable.

    And you can do a a placebo trial you just need to bring in more than one stimuli.

    you give them a weighted blankets but you don't tell them how heavy it is but you also say that it's more important they pay attention to say a routine of washing your face and putting on a specific cream.

    They have no idea that what the variable is is the blanket, just that it is weighted…without realizing that there's might not be waited at all. because of the deep tissue stimulation of their face they will be more likely to ignore that the blanket seems a bit light.

    And you can do it with various weights based on that 10% of body weight… Some people will receive a 5% blanket some would receive a 15… And of course some will receive a blanket without weights.

    It's fairly easy to do it just needs a broader range of trial.

    You would however, have to find people who do not use weighted blankets at all.

  38. Sounds like placebo. Also, those are VERY small studies. And done with people who are neck-deep in earning Special Person Points, so of they WANT the weighted blanket to work.

  39. It's like trying to study whether eating chocolate actually makes some people happy, or whether it just makes them feel happy.

  40. A possibility cheaper alternative to weighted blankets: get/make a denim quilt. My mom had a couple of denim quilts that I LOVED using as a kid because the extra weight was soothing to me. This was before weight blankets were a thing by the way, so no placebo effect here!

  41. I think weighted blankets work by suppressing nighttime movement- less movement might lead to a feeling of better sleep.
    Whatever the reason, i love mine and my weighted eye mask!

  42. I love weighted blankets. Don't know if they help or do anything but it's just comfortable. And perhaps it's as simple as, just being more comfortable while sleeping leads to better and more relaxed sleep?

  43. I would bet that it's hardwired into us. Earliest man/woman slept under animal skins for warmth. That would feel very heavy.

  44. It sounds super close to the science behind why therapy dogs and service dogs are able to help their handlers with anxiety or another disability by laying on the persons stomach or chest

  45. I find that I sleep better under two blankets over me. One is too light and makes me feel like I have no blanket over me at all which tells me brain that it's not bed time yet.

  46. I work in a residential facility for adults with developmental disabilities and conditions on the severe side of the spectrum, some of our clients are on the severe side of the autism spectrum, and ever since we’ve purchased them a weighted blanket they’re fiercely specific about using it, even though I am 100% sure they do not know what it’s supposed to do, so for them at least, it seems it can’t be a placebo.

  47. The only thing I can think of why this can soothe most of us is because it simulates being in the womb. In the womb we are compressed tightly inside, and what usually puts a baby to sleep? Wrapping them tightly.

  48. I got one for Xmas last year. my experience:

    -Uncomfortable to sleep under
    -Couldn't tuck it between my knees/ curl up in it comfortably
    -Stank like outgassing plastic
    -Cats hated it and wouldn't come up on the bed (Booo-urns!)
    -Kind of "distracting" to turn over or move around under it
    -Felt no improvement in my insomnia issues

  49. I got one once. I felt trapped in one position, it was hard to turn over which I naturally do throughout the night. I returned it.

  50. What if you exchanged the Light Normal Blanket with a fresh Light Normal Blanket (placebo) and a Heavy Snuggly Blanket after the first REM cycle or so?

  51. It’s simple to understand. The weighted blanket simulates sex. Just imagine a girl with a guy over them humping the night away. The weight of the body soothes the girl while also trying to achieve orgasm. The blanket does the weight portion of sex without the orgasmic stimulation.

  52. Ive never had a weighted blanket at the dentist, but when I get X rays taken and they put that protective cover on top of me, I do feel more relaxed. It's not nearly as heavy as these weighted blankets , but it definitely reduces my anxiety. The problem is that when they finish the Xrays, they take away the cover. and I feel stressed out again. I wish they'd leave it on for the entire dental procedure. I'd love to have one of those at home. I don't need a 20 or 30 lb blanket to feel relaxed. I'd say they weigh a couple of pounds at most, but they definitely seem to have a similar effect as the really heavy blankets.

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