Weighted blankets are primarily billed as tools to help folks with mental illnesses get some relief from symptoms like anxiety and insomnia, and it's true — weighted blankets can help in these ways. But even if you don't suffer from insomnia or anxiety, there are plenty of weird ways weighted blankets can help you hack your life, and plenty of benefits you can get from sleeping with a properly weighted blanket.
I say "properly weighted" because the first thing you need to know about weighted blankets is that, while they have not been shown to put a dangerous strain on your body, you should still make sure the blanket is about 10 percent of your body weight to prevent any issues with getting out from under it. Many shops sell a variety of weights, and you can also DIY your own weighted blanket so it'll be customized for you.
If you're still wondering why the heck you should consider using a weighted blanket, there are a few reasons. Weighted blankets have proven physiological effects on our bodies, and can benefit a broad range of people for the very same reasons they can be a useful coping and de-stressing tool for neuroatypical people who live with anxiety, or depression, or PTSD.
Weighted blankets work by "earthing" or "grounding" your body, giving you the same pressing-down sensation as deep pressure touch. For folks with mental illnesses, this can help us feel like we're more connected to our bodies and ward off disassociation, one of the nastiest effects of disorders like PTSD. For those who don't have a mental illness, the physiological effects of being earthed are still pretty sweet: "Studies show that grounding may help reduce nighttime levels of cortisol," according to HealthLine.
Cortisol is a stress hormone our bodies produce when we go into fight-or-flight mode, and having too much of it present in our bodies, especially when it's not needed, can be a huge stressor. Too much cortisol swimming around in your body can put you constantly on edge, and for those with stressful jobs where they consistently experience life-or-death situations, it can even cause serious cardiovascular problems. So, using a weighted blanket to reduce those levels can have a serious positive effect on your health.
Weighted blankets also have a calming effect on us when we're trying to sleep. Anyone can get caught in a bad spell, where sleep seems impossible, and the more we worry about the possibility of not being able to sleep, the more we're unable to sleep. So if you're, say, sick, or working a different shift than usual, and your sleep schedule gets messed up, using a weighted blanket to break the insomnia cycle by reducing cortisol and promoting relaxation is a totally viable option.
It's not just you who can benefit from the presence of a weighted blanket in your life. They can also help you by helping your loved ones — kiddos in particular. If you've got a child that has trouble getting to sleep or staying asleep, you can recreate that swaddling feeling they remember from ye olde days by getting them a (again, properly weighted!) blanket. Blogger Wellness Mama points out that if you have a kid with a sensory disorder who wants the feeling of being hugged but doesn't like being touched, a weighted blanket can be a particularly excellent solution.
Even if you don't have problems getting or staying asleep, weighted blankets can have an effect on your ZZZ's. They've been shown to improve quality of sleep as well, reducing mid-sleep movements and, according to a study published in the Journal of Sleep Medicine and Disorders, can help people "[find] it easier to settle down to sleep and [have] an improved sleep, where they [feel] more refreshed in the morning."
Again, this is particularly useful for folks who may not have a lot of hours to sleep thanks to life and its many demands on our time. Making use of the time we do have to sleep can mean the difference between staying focused during the day and feeling like we didn't sleep at all.
It may be tempting to think of weighted blankets, with their surging popularity, as gimmicky or as a passing fad, but make no mistake: They're tools that can have very real, and very positive, impacts on our bodies.