Weighted blankets, which are sometimes also called gravity blankets, are a popular and effective way to relieve anxiety and stress and promote a restful night’s sleep. They range from between 5 and 30 pounds, but the amount of pressure one prefers is a personal choice. Fabrics are most often a breathable fabric like soft cotton to help minimize sweating or overheating. Gravity blankets get their weight by being filled with glass beads or polly pellets.
What makes weighted blankets so effective is that they mimic the sensation of a warm hug. This sensation, called deep pressure touch, stimulates the release of serotonin and dopamine, which are two neurotransmitters that can promote a sense of calm and relaxation. They also decrease cortisol levels and deepen REM sleep cycles. This feeling of calm is an optimal state to be in before and during bedtime, or anytime relaxation is needed. Like essential oils, the comforting feeling of a weighted blankets is also thought to stimulate the limbic system, which is the brain’s center for processing fear and emotion.
Historically, weighted blankets have been used in the medical community to calm patients with autism or those suffering from depression or generalized anxiety disorder. An article by the Cleveland Clinic references one study that tested weighted blankets in 30 people who had been hospitalized for a mental health crisis and found that 60% reported lowered anxiety after using the blanket.