Weighted Blankets

Weighted blankets have extended beyond therapeutic environments to mainstream consumer settings to help calm and comfort adults who experience a variety of health conditions.

Weighing from four to 30 pounds of evenly distributed weight, these therapeutic blankets are purported to help reduce symptoms associated with anxiety, fear, autism, sleep issues, post traumatic stress disorder, sensory disorders, and other conditions. They are used as a complement to therapy and/or medication. 

Used in treatment for years by occupational therapists, the weighted therapeutic blankets are designed to provide a sense of relaxation and perceived safety that come from the materials and blankets’ ability to apply soft pressure across the body. The pressure is designed to simulate the feeling of being held and comforted. The blankets are typically used for 30 minutes or less at a time. They should not be used overnight. 

Do these blankets live up to their claims? Independent research studies show mixed results. Yet, there are some positive indicators for the calming effects the blankets provide. Here are research findings:

  • A study published in the Journal Occupational Therapy in Mental Health, demonstrated that more than half of participants, which totaled 33 adults, felt more relaxed after resting under a 30-pound blanket for five minutes. A quarter of the participants said they felt equally relaxed, while ten percent said resting under the blanket made them feel more anxious. Yet, the research sponsors noted that results were indicative of the safety of the blankets – and the opportunity to just lay down may have been enough to promote relaxation.

  • Another research initiative, published in Australian Psychiatry, revealed that using weighted therapeutic blankets in an inpatient psychiatric setting helped reduce some anxiety reported by patients but did not impact aggressive behavior.  

  • An article in the Journal of the Formosan Medical Association reported another study that showed the blankets may help people in stressful circumstances. Participants underwent a tooth extraction. Half used a weighted blanket. Nervous system monitoring showed that those who used the blanket exhibited a lower level of stress than the control group.

More in-depth study is needed to quantify the blankets' positive impact on patients and their cnditions. 

The amount of weight in the blanket varies and should be selected based on user body weight and individual preference. Some guidelines suggest a therapeutic blanket should weigh no more than ten percent of a person’s body weight. The users should be able to easily remove the blanket without assistance.  

Along with different weights, the therapeutic blankets come in different sizes from small to large. When purchasing from a therapy provider, health retailer or online, buyers typically have the option of selecting the fabric, size, filler and weight. 

Always consult a healthcare provider before buying and using a weighted blanket. These blankets should not be used for children without the direct supervision of a physician or therapist.

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