A: TL; DR: Yes, weighted blankets can be a helpful part of improving your sleep and psychological health. THIS POST IS UPDATED with results from a recent experimental study showing that weighted blankets increase the sleep-promoting hormone melatonin. And don’t forget to pay attention to other factors that may be interfering with your sleep: schedule, screens, light, and caffeine.
This seemingly endless pandemic is weighing on many of us, and it’s affecting our sleep, which is critical for daytime functioning, psychological well-being, and overall physical health. The Nerdy Girls are here to propose that you consider a non-invasive, affordable, and warm approach to improving your sleep.
Weighted blankets (5-30 lbs) may provide therapeutic benefits including:
• Reduced anxiety and depression
• Improved sleep
• More daytime activity
• Pain relief
• Increased salivary melatonin
While there is not a ton of research on weighted blankets, here are two that were published in 2020:
A systematic review looking at weighted blanket use summarized 8 original research articles (all of which were published prior to 2018). The conclusion is that there is support for the use of weighted blankets in reducing anxiety, and more research is needed regarding the effects of weighted blankets on sleep.
And here’s a study with more promising results for sleep: In a randomized controlled study of 120 adults with insomnia and a co-occurring psychiatric disorder, patients who were given a 17.6 lb weighted blanket (compared to those who received 3.3 lb control blankets) had better sleep, reduced severity of insomnia, less daytime sleepiness after 4 weeks of using the blankets. Importantly, this is only one study (in a relatively small sample of insomnia patients) but the study design is strong and effect size was large. More research is needed to replicate the findings, in both similar and diverse populations.
Recent evidence from July 2022 from an experimental study of 26 young healthy adults shows that sleeping with a weighted blanket (12% of body weight) increased salivary melatonin (which is a sleep-promoting hormone that aids in sleep onset) by about 32% compared to a light blanket (~2% of body weight). Interestingly, this study did not show a difference in subjective sleepiness nor sleep duration by blanket condition. While more research should be conducted on this topic, this study provides evidence for the mechanism through which weighted blankets may work.
As noted above in the TL;DR, it’s important to pay attention to other sleep-related behaviors as well. For starters, quit your doomscrolling and dim the lights an hour or more before bed.
Let us know in the comments about your tips for better sleep. Do you use a weighted blanket? What else have you found works for you?
** Please speak to your physician about what is the appropriate weight for your blanket for your body weight.
Stay safe. Stay well.
Those Nerdy Girls
Prior posts about routines for healthy sleep and psychological well-being: