What Are Weighted Blankets? How They Can Improve Your Sleep or Make It Worse

Learn how weighted blankets reduce stress and help you sleep better. Explore tips for using a weighted blanket that help you get the most benefits.


Weighted blankets have become increasingly popular because of their ability to apply gentle pressure to the body, making you feel calmer so you can sleep better. For those with anxiety, ADHD, and autism, the benefits of weighted blankets are exceptionally high, although anyone can benefit from one.

However, while weighted blankets can improve your sleep quality and overall well-being, they can also hinder your sleep and may be unsafe for some individuals. Don’t fret, though; we have tips for using a weighted blanket so that you can see the best results from this weighted sleep tool.

How Do Weighted Blankets Work?

Much as their name suggests, weighted blankets are simply blankets of greater weight. They can vary in shape, size, material, and color, but they all share a commonality in that they weigh more than traditional blankets, although even their weights can vary.

As for how they can improve your sleep, there are a few methods:

Reduces Stress

Stress can negatively affect your sleep by consuming your mind with stressful thoughts and raising your heart rate, encouraging the body to remain awake instead of sleeping. Using a weighted blanket allows you to manage these symptoms of stress so your body can fall asleep.

How can it do this? The heaviness of a weighted blanket provides a gentle amount of pressure to the body, which activates the parasympathetic nervous system. When you’re stressed and your heart rate rises, the parasympathetic nervous system is what lowers it back down.

These same results can be seen in those with anxiety, as anxiety also causes the heart to beat faster in preparation for stress. This activates your body’s fight or flight response, which is part of the autonomic nervous system. A weighted blanket, though, uses pressure to put the autonomic nervous system into “rest” mode, promoting an overall sense of calm that helps those with anxiety sleep.

Minimizes Distractions

By activating the sense of touch, weighted blankets can provide something to focus on instead of other sensory stimuli that may otherwise keep you awake. This can be especially helpful for those with ADHD, as it allows them to fidget less and stay still long enough to fall asleep. Those with autism, as well, may find that weighted blankets help tone down the sensory stimulations around them.

Increases Melatonin Production

Melatonin, also known as the sleepiness hormone, is produced by the body in preparation for bed. As it builds in the body, your sense of sleepiness increases.

A study found that using a weighted blanket for one hour increases melatonin levels by 32%, meaning a weighted blanket can help promote sleepiness in your body and make it easier to fall asleep.

Promotes Security

Weighted blankets work similarly to the tight swaddle of a newborn, which helps the baby feel cozy and supported. The same results are reported with a weighted blanket, and falling asleep is easier when you feel safe.

Improves Sleep Quality

Through deep pressure stimulation, weighted blankets can stimulate the production of serotonin and reduce the levels of the stress hormone cortisol, which can help you have higher-quality sleep.

Can Weighted Blankets Make Your Sleep Worse?

While weighted blankets are generally considered safe, their use in some situations may worsen your sleep.

First and foremost, weighted blankets should always be the right weight for the person using them. While a weighted blanket that is too light won’t produce the desired results, one that is too heavy can trap the user if they cannot lift the blanket off themselves. Similarly, the user needs to possess the proper dexterity to lift the blanket themselves.

For those with obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), a sleep disorder characterized by reduced airflow, a weighted blanket can make this restriction even worse, contributing to more episodes of stopped breathing and poorer quality sleep.

Furthermore, those with other health conditions, such as asthma, chronic circulatory or respiratory issues, type 2 diabetes, low blood pressure, and claustrophobia, may also experience more discomfort than security from a weighted blanket, making it unsuitable for them and making their sleep worse.

Tips for Using a Weighted Blanket For Sleep

If you’re interested in using a weighted blanket to improve your sleep, follow these tips.

Get the Right Weight

Weighted blankets use pressure to invoke the parasympathetic nervous system, but this only works if the weight is enough for your body. Essentially, the more you weigh, the heavier the blanket you need.

Most people prefer a weighted blanket that is 10% of their body weight, so if you weigh 180 lbs, a weighted blanket of 18 lbs is a great starting point. Some people may prefer a heavier or lighter blanket, though, so be sure to also consider your preferences.

Make Sure It’s Big Enough

To see the greatest benefit of your weighted blanket, you want one that covers your entire body, from your shoulders to your toes. This doesn’t mean that you want one that just barely covers you, though, as you have to remember that during the night, you may shift positions, and you’ll want your weighted blanket to keep you securely underneath no matter how you move.

Weighted blankets generally come in standard bedding sizes—twin, queen, king, etc.—so you can buy one that covers your bed and better guarantees you’ll stay securely underneath.

Ease Into It

If you’re using a weighted blanket for the first time, it can be overwhelming to have that much weight on your entire body. Sometimes, the body needs to get used to the pressure, and you can do this by starting with just covering your legs with the blanket. It will still offer some of the benefits without weighing on your chest. After a few days, once you’re adjusted to the weighted blanket, you can then cover more of your body.

Use (Good) Pressure To Sleep Better

If you’re struggling to sleep at night because of stress, anxiety, or an inability to stop your mind from racing, a weighted blanket can be a valuable sleep aid. The key, though, is to make sure you use a heavy enough blanket (but not too heavy) and cover most of your body.

If a weighted blanket isn’t a good fit for you, there are other ways to improve your sleep, such as listening to ASMR before bed as part of your bedtime routine. Pillow has various other guides for improving your health and well-being through sleep that you can try.


Written by

Jessica G.

Medical writer freelancer who has written hundreds of articles on varying topics. Masters of Engineering degree in Biomedical Engineering.

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