Do Weighted Blankets Really Work?

Weighted blankets are believed to one of the best solutions for those who have trouble sleeping. According to Dr. Cristina Cusin, an assistant professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, they have been used for decades, and are popular with adults and children who have autism, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHA), insomnia, or anxiety. Speaking to Harvard Health Publishing, Cusin explained, "It is one of the sensory tools commonly used in psychiatric units. Patients who are in distress may choose different types of sensory activities — holding a cold object, smelling particular aromas, manipulating dough, building objects, doing arts and crafts — to try to calm down." But do weighted blankets really work?

As of March 2019, there is no solid evidence to support claims associated with weighted blankets. According to Cusin, this is due to the fact that there are too many variables to complete a study accurately. "A randomized clinical trial to test the blankets would be very difficult," she said, adding, "And it's unlikely that somebody would sponsor such a study." An example of why a randomized trial would be difficult is that people will immediately be able to feel the difference between a regular blanket and a weighted blanket.

Weighted blanket are a form of pressure therapy

Though there are no clinical trials that prove the effectiveness of weighted blankets, Penn Medicine explains that weighted blankets are simply an extension of pressure therapy, describing them as the equivalent to a hug. Pressure therapy works to calm you, affecting your nervous system and lowering your heart rate. Using ADHA as an example, Dr. Martin L. Levinson, MD, FACP, FCCP, a physician at Penn Sleep Center Cherry Hill, told Penn Medicine, "Children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder have a harder time with self-control, especially when it comes to paying attention and sitting still," which can lead to various social issues. As the pressure of a weighted blanket aids in relaxing those with ADHA, it can help them fall asleep. The effect is similar for those with autism.

According to WebMD, one industry-funded study did show that 31 men and women reported calmer night's sleep after using the blanket for two weeks.

Ultimately, the effectiveness of weighted blankets differs person to person, so if you're having trouble sleeping, the best thing to do is talk to your doctor and determine whether or not it's something that might work for you.