What does science say about weighted blankets? Do studies support the idea that weighted blankets help with sleep?
We’ll cover the science behind how and why weighted blankets may help in another article, but for now, we wanted to focus on what the science currently says about whether weighted blankets objectively improve sleep.
And…well, not too many studies have looked at this issue, surprisingly, and they’re generally pretty small studies. But many studies that have been completed to date do show objective improvement in sleep, and most show subjective improvement.
Here are all the studies that HAVE been done that we could dig up.
— 1992 Journal of Child and Adolescent Psychopharmacology. Temple Grandin’s study on her Hug Box supports the idea that deep pressure (such as you get from a hug, or from a weighted blanket, or from, as Dr. Grandin used to do, crawling under the couch cushions and having someone sit on you) objectively calms people with ASD and ADHD.
— 2008 Occupational Therapy in Mental Health. This study looked at a small group of adults, and measured things like respiration rate, blood pressure, etc., during short periods of using a 30 lb weighted blanket (regardless of participant’s weight). They also looked at effectiveness by measuring electrodermal activity (EDA), using a standardized anxiety measurement, and an exit survey. “The results reveal that the use of the 30 lb weighted blanket, in the lying down position, is safe as evidenced by the vital sign metrics. Data obtained on effectiveness reveal 33% demonstrated lowering in EDA when using the weighted blanket, 63% reported lower anxiety after use, and 78% preferred the weighted blanket as a calming modality.”
— 2011 Nordic Journal of Psychiatry. This study looked at 21 children with ADHD, who slept with a weighted blanket for 14 days, and without for 14 days. Their sleep was monitored by sleep journals and actigraphy. Conclusion: “The results of this study show that the use of Ball Blankets is a relevant and effective treatment method with regard to minimizing sleep onset latency. We find that the use of Ball Blankets for 14-days improves the time it takes to fall asleep, individual day-to-day variation and the number of awakenings to a level that compares with those found in the healthy control group. Furthermore, we find that the use of Ball Blankets significantly reduces the number of nights that the ADHD child spends more than 30 min falling asleep from 19% to 0%.”
— 2012 Australasian Psychiatry. This study looked at about 30 adults inpatient in a psychiatric unit. “Those individuals who used the weighted blanket reported significantly greater reductions in distress and clinician-rated anxiety than those who did not. No changes were noted in rates of seclusion or aggression.”
— 2014 Pediatrics. This study looked at children with an ASD diagnosis and “severe sleep problems.” They gave kids a weighted blanket (no notes on the weight and whether it was appropriate for the weight of the child) and an otherwise identical regular blanket. One blanket was used for 2 weeks at bedtime, then the other blanket was used for 2 weeks at bedtime. 67 children completed the study. The results? “Using objective measures, the weighted blanket, compared with the control blanket, did not increase TST [total sleep time] as measured by actigraphy and adjusted for baseline TST. There were no group differences in any other objective or subjective measure of sleep, including behavioral outcomes. On subjective preference measures, parents and children favored the weighted blanket.” It’s hard to say what this result means. Perhaps the children and parents were experiencing a benefit not captured by the study. Perhaps it was a placebo effect (they expected to see a difference, so they did). It’s also possible that “severe sleep problems” involve larger issues than can be reasonably improved by a weighted blanket.
— 2015 Journal of Sleep Medicine and Disorders. This study looked at 31 adults with chronic insomnia. They slept one week with usual bedding, 2 weeks with weighted blanket, then 1 week with usual bedding. 80% of study participants slept longer and spent less time awake during the night while using the weighted blanket. Participants also reported that it was easier to settle into sleep with the weighted blanket, feeling as though they’d slept better, and feeling more refreshed in the morning.
— 2016 Journal of Formosan Medical Association. They used weighted blankets on people getting a wisdom tooth extraction and compared them with people without the weighted blanket. (This makes me wonder if they just used the lead aprons, lol. My favorite part of the dentist is using that lead apron. It’s sooooo heavy and feels sooooo nice.) They discovered that those WITH the weighted blanket showed more activity in the part of the nervous system that manages low-stress situations, suggesting the people with the blankets were less stressed by their wisdom tooth extraction.
And then there’s the reported experiences of parents, kids, and adults, many of whom report better sleep with a weighted blanket than without. Get yours here!
I don’t know how relevant weighted vest studies are, since they’re used in different ways than blankets, but I wanted to include these weighted vest studies that I found:
http://www.terapeutas-ocupacionales.es/assets/files/COPTOA/Bibliotecavirtual/AJOT/Mayo-Junio-15/6903350010p1.pdf Decrease stress, increase calm
A 2011 study in the South African Journal of Occupational Therapy found ADHD kids were more on-task while wearing weighted vests.
http://fileserver.daemen.edu/~rholmstr/weighted_vest_and_adhd.pdf ADHD kids increase focus, but very small.