Do Weighted Blankets Really Work?
Weighted blankets are engineered to be 7-12% of your body weight to relax the nervous system by simulating the feeling of being held or hugged. This increases serotonin and melatonin levels and decreases cortisol levels—improving your mood and promoting restful sleep at the same time.
The blankets have a long history of use in a type of occupational therapy called sensory integration therapy. This treatment is sometimes used to help people with autism or other disorders to focus on sensory experiences, which experts say may boost these individuals' ability to regulate their emotions and behavior. Weighted blankets are one tool therapists use to provide deep-touch pressure.
The idea behind deep-pressure touch is that it stimulates the release of serotonin and dopamine, two neurotransmitters that tend to make people feel more relaxed. Some research suggests that slow and gentle touch can stimulate portions of the limbic system, the brain's network for processing emotion and fear.
There's still a lot of research needed around the efficacy of weighted blankets as a treatment protocol. Four studies have focused on weighted blankets. In the earliest of those studies, published in 2008 in the journal Occupational Therapy in Mental Health, researchers asked 33 adults to rest under 30-lb. (13.6 kg) blankets for 5 minutes. They found that 33 percent showed a greater drop in skin conductance — a measure of arousal that is based on miniscule differences in the amount of sweat on the skin — with a weighted blanket than without. Nineteen participants said they felt more relaxed with the blanket, while eight said they felt equally relaxed either way, and three said they felt more anxious under the blanket.