When struggling to get to sleep, it can sometimes feel as though nothing could possibly help. However, there’s a growing trend for weighted blankets – and a new study suggests one of many weighted blanket benefits may be helping to ease insomnia.

Weighted blanket benefits

Researchers from the Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm, Sweden, found insomnia patients with psychiatric disorders had their insomnia severity reduced when using a weighted blanket at night. It also improved their sleep and they experienced less daytime sleepiness, anxiety and depression.

Weighted chain blankets are heavy coverings with channels sewn up and down to help distribute the weight evenly across the body. Unlike a normal duvet, they’re weighed down usually with plastic or glass beads, so you feel cocooned beneath. Many people who use a weighted blanket say it can be a strange feeling at first, but one you quickly get used to.

The Swedish study tested participants using a weighted blanket of either six or eight kilograms for four weeks, compared to a control group. It found those in the former group were almost 26 times more likely to experience a 50% or more decrease in their insomnia severity. The study was followed up 12 months later, and the benefits were still being felt.

How do weighted blankets work?

So how does it work? Consultant psychiatrist at the Karolinska Institutet Dr Mats Alder said: “A suggested explanation for the calming and sleep-promoting effect is the pressure that the chain blanket applies on different points on the body, stimulating the sensation of touch and the sense of muscles and joints, similar to acupressure and massage. There is evidence suggesting that deep pressure stimulation increases parasympathetic arousal of the autonomic nervous system and at the same time reduces sympathetic arousal, which is considered to be the cause of the calming effect.”

Ultimately, Alder said: “I was surprised by the large effect size on insomnia by the weighted blanket and pleased by the reduction of levels of both anxiety and depression.”

The participants of the study all had clinical insomnia and a psychiatric disorder such as depression or anxiety, so more research will be required to see if the weighted blanket can help those who struggle with sleep and anxiety on a milder scale.

Weighted blankets are seemingly growing in popularity judging by their celebrity fans. Jennifer Lawrence put one on her Amazon wedding registry, and Kourtney Kardashian spoke about them on Instagram.

The new findings link to another study published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine by William V McCall. His paper suggests the success of weighted blankets is down to the ‘holding environment’ theory, describing how “touch, especially human touch, is a basic need, symbolically represented in the psychotherapeutic relationship, and provides calming and comfort”.

As the weather starts to get cooler and you need something to really snuggle up under at night, a weighted blanket could be the way to go – and it might just help with your sleep.

Tips for picking a weighted blanket

The first step in buying a weighted blanket is deciding the right weight for you. The general rule of thumb is to pick one that’s 10 percent of your bodyweight. For example if you weigh 60kg, opt for a 6kg blanket or if you weigh 80kg pick one that around 8kg. Most blankets cover a range of body weights but if in doubt many people recommend sizing up. 

The next thing to consider is the weights themselves. Typically these will fall into two camps: plastic and glass – although other fillers such as sand, steel balls, pebbles and even rice may be used. Plastic poly pellets are a cost-effective filling though their rougher texture can make them a noisy and somewhat uncomfortable. Micro glass beads are smooth and thinner than plastic beads, resulting in a less bulky blanket. They are also cool to the touch and so are often used in the best cooling weighted blankets.

Washing and drying your blanket is another consideration. Because they are so heavy, weighted blankets typically cannot be washed in domestic washing machines, making them difficult to clean. It’s best to consider a blanket with a removable cover or buy an additional cover separately.

Top 5 weighted blankets:

We’ve put together a list of our top five weighted blankets available online. We’ve compared aspects including weight, size and washing ability to help you make your choice.

Silentnight Weighted Blanket – available on Amazon

This hypoallergenic blanket contains undetectable weighted glass beads stitched into equally spaced pockets to ease you into a calming and restful sleep.

Key features:

  • Size 150x200cm
  • Weight 6.8kg
  • Recommended weight 60-70kg
  • Filling Glass beads
  • Machine washable yes

John Lewis & Partners Specialist Synthetic Weighted Blanket – available online

John Lewis & Partners Specialist Synthetic Weighted Blanket

The John Lewis & Partners weighted blanket comes in the widest variety of weights to help you get the right weight for you.

Key features:

  • Size 150x200cm
  • Weight 2.5-11.5kg
  • Recommended weight 20-100+kg
  • Filling 93% glass beads, 7% polyester
  • Machine washable no – spot clean only

Umi. Weighted Blanket – available on Amazon

The Umi. weighted blanket comes with a reversible cover so you can use it in summer and winter. One side is cool cotton, and the other is minky fleece for warmth.

Key features:

  • Size 152x203cm
  • Weight 9kg
  • Recommended weight 77-105kg
  • Filling Glass beads
  • Machine washable yes

BUZIO Sherpa Fleece Weighted Blanket – available on Amazon

The BUZIO sherpa fleece weighted blanket comes in a wide variety of colours, including multi-colour blankets that are great for styling.

Key features:

  • Size 120x180cm
  • Weight 7kg
  • Recommended weight 80-90kg
  • Filling Plastic micro beads
  • Machine washable yes

Soporis Adult Weighted Blanket with Coveravailable on Amazon

This blanket comes with a soft, removable cover for easy washing. The weights inside are tied in place so they are less likely to shift place inside the blanket, even after washing.

Key features:

  • Size 120x180cm
  • Weight 6.8kg
  • Recommended weight 45-70kg
  • Filling Glass beads
  • Machine washable yes

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