Why Does a Weighted Blanket Work?

Why Does a Weighted Blanket Work?

Posted by Alex Gelfand on

It doesn’t take too long to get a feel for why a calming weighted blanket is so relaxing. Just wrap yourself up in a weighted blanket for a few minutes, and you’ll likely feel a sense of calm seep in. Weighted therapy blankets are a great way to help with concerns like anxiety, insomnia, sensory processing disorder, and more. For most who use a weighted therapy blanket regularly, they agree that it does work — but do you know why? If you’re interested in grabbing a calming weighted blanket for yourself, here’s what you need to know about why they work:

What’s In a Weighted Blanket?

Before we dig into how a weighted blanket works, we need to talk about something a bit more basic: what makes a weighted blanket different from a plain ol’ heavy blanket. The distinction lies in some seemingly subtle changes. For example, a weighted blanket is still the typical rectangular blanket shape, and can range in size from a child-sized throw to a king-sized weighted blanket. One small difference is that most weighted blankets are made of cotton, rather than wool or a polyester blend. Since the fabric is stronger and a thicker weave, using cotton helps ensure that your calming weighted blanket is still breathable enough to be comfortable for year-round use. Of course, if you want to make your blanket warmer and cozier, we recommend a minky weighted blanket cover to add extra warmth and plush softness. 

The biggest difference between a weighted blanket and a regular one is, as the name implies, the weight. A heavy wool blanket can offer similar benefits, to an extent, but it's more than just a heavy material. Weighted blankets are typically filled with some sort of material to provide additional heft. They can be filled with things like fabric scraps or sand/pebbles, but the more common fillings are small plastic or glass beads. Filling the blanket with additional materials means that the creators can control the weight more precisely. Using small beads also makes it easier to spread that weight evenly across the entire surface of the blanket, Weighted blankets are usually quilted into smaller sections, and each of those sections is given the same amount of filler material so the weight will be evenly distributed. 

Why Does a Weighted Blanket Work?

Since a weighted blanket is purposefully designed to have evenly distributed weight across the entire length and width, this provides firm, gentle pressure across the entire blanket. The idea for creating a weighted therapy blanket stems from the research of Dr. Temple Grandin, an autism researcher who found that gentle compression helps to calm cattle, making them more docile when they need to be held still for vaccinations and other care. A calming weighted blanket is designed to provide a similar sort of pressure as her "squeeze machine," which exerts gentle pressure similar to that of a long, cozy hug. That gentle-yet-consistent pressure is just the right amount of weight, spread out over the body, to impact a person's nervous system. This triggers something called Deep Touch Pressure Therapy. 

The autonomic nervous system (ANS), which is responsible for the function of internal organs and regulating bodily function, is in charge of things like breathing, heart rate, and your fight-or-flight response. It's not something we normally think about because these are all automatic functions, but the ANS is responsible for a lot of our ongoing bodily functions, and when the ANS is thrown off kilter, it can affect everything from digestion to mental health responses like anxiety. This is where a calming weighted blanket steps in to provide help. The gentle pressure provided by a weighted therapy blanket helps to calm the autonomic nervous system, which triggers the body to shift from the sympathetic nervous system to the parasympathetic nervous system. Basically this means that a weighted blanket triggers automatic processes in the body and provides such a deep feeling of calm and relaxation that the body shifts away from a fight-or-flight response and actually calms the body all the way to the core. This helps slow the heart rate, calm erratic breathing, and push the parasympathetic nervous system into control so the body can focus on functioning well instead of the fight-or-flight response. 

When calm, the body can then focus its attention on automatic responses like digestion and mental processing. Being in that state of calm also releases the hormone oxytocin, which is commonly called the “happiness hormone.” Over time, and with regular use of a calming weighted blanket, users may feel benefits like lower anxiety, better focus, improved sleep, and less struggle with sensory processing overload. 

Finding Your Best Weighted Blanket

A big part of why weighted blankets help is based on finding the right size and weight for your body. Generally, it’s recommended to choose a blanket that is 10–20% of an individual’s body weight. It should be heavy enough to feel like a comforting, firm hug, without being so heavy that you feel like you are being overwhelmed. Explore the Density Comfort shop online to find your best calming weighted blanket today!