There are so many quick and easy ways to get through a bout of stress or anxiety. You can go for a walk, take a warm shower, call a friend — or slip under a comfy weighted blanket. While the last option might sound far-fetched, weighted blankets purportedly make you feel grounded, secure, and safe. But do they really work?
As someone who feels both anxious and stressed on a regular basis, I was pretty excited to try one — specifically, California Design Den’s knit weighted blanket. Weighing in at 15 pounds, this cotton blanket promises to help you feel “happy and relaxed” and maybe even “get deeper sleep,” all by simply draping it across your body.
While I had high hopes, I couldn’t help but think about my past experience with weighted blankets. I used to have one filled with steel beads that was so heavy it kind of felt like that apron they pull over you at the dentist’s office before an X-ray. I never ended up using it because it was too uncomfortable, too hot, and because it actually made my stress worse as I laid under it, squished and sweating.
Of course, self-care tools improve and upgrade all the time, especially as companies look for new ways to make their products more user-friendly. For instance, I was intrigued by the fact that the California Design Den blanket doesn’t have any metal in it at all. Instead, the weight comes from its thickly knitted material. It’s all woven together to create a cute, breathable blanket that looks like any other you’d toss over the back of a couch. (And it’s even machine washable!)
Despite being softer and more visually appealing, though, could it calm my stress? Keep reading for my honest review.
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- Product Name: California Design Den Chunky Hand-Knitted Weighted Blanket
- Price: $179.99
- Best for: De-stressing, deeper sleep, feeling cozy
- Material: 100% sustainably sourced natural cotton
- Weight: 15 pounds
- Rating: 4/5
What Is A Weighted Blanket?
As you’d guess, a weighted blanket is a lot like your typical throw — only heavier. And that serves a special purpose. “Weighted blankets are therapeutic blankets of various weights that utilize the principles of pressure therapy to assist with insomnia and anxiety,” says Kelley Bonner, LCSW, a licensed clinical social worker and expert company culture strategist and founder of Burn Bright Consulting.
Weighted blankets mimic deep touch pressure massage, she tells Bustle, which is when a firm touch is applied to the body. It’s similar to the way a tight hug can feel amazing when you’re stressed or the way a swaddled baby stops crying the moment they’re tucked in.
The Benefits Of Weighted Blankets
Weighted blankets are a nice tool to keep around, especially if you have anxiety. “When experiencing anxiety, our body becomes ‘dysregulated’ meaning the nervous system isn't working the way it needs to,” Bonner tells Bustle. “People experiencing anxiety often have physical symptoms like a racing heartbeat, difficulty breathing, and digestive issues.” But the weight of the blanket can help it all settle down.
How, exactly? The deep pressure stimulation from the blanket actually promotes the release of neurotransmitters, and also reduces the stress hormone cortisol, says Dr. Meghan Marcum, the chief psychologist at AMFM Healthcare. Essentially, the weight sends a message to your body and mind that all is well, and that it’s OK to calm down.
For that reason, lying under one of these special blankets can also make it easier to fall asleep, Bonner adds. “While research on weighted blankets is relatively new, promising studies show how weighted blankets can improve anxiety symptoms and insomnia,” she says.
Of course, weighted blankets aren’t just for the anxious or the tired. According to Marcum, they’re also helpful for folks with sensory issues. They may feel relaxing if you have ADHD. And they also feel nice if you don’t have any of the above, but simply enjoy the weight of a heavy blanket. (They are cozy, after all!)
When I first opened the California Design Den knit blanket — which came in an adorably rugged duffle bag, I might add — I knew it was different from the metal blanket I had in the past. At 15 pounds, it was heavy, but not so dense that using it felt like a workout. It was also a lot softer since it’s made of 100% cotton.
I immediately jumped on my couch to give it a try, even though it was a blazing 95 degrees outside. (It’s never too hot to get cozy, right?) While definitely weighted, the blanket didn’t make me feel steamy or suffocating. That’s because the fabric is woven tightly, but it’s not so tight that air can’t pass through. You can actually see through the fibers, which allowed my body temp to stay just right, even being fully cocooned in the middle of the summer.
I spent a few days lugging the blanket around my apartment. I draped it across my legs while I worked, cocooned myself while watching movies, and pulled it over me in bed. While it was nice to use on the couch, I found that I did end up tossing it off in the night, since I’m a gal who likes to toss and turn. But otherwise, the blanket helped me feel cozily ensconced.
However cozy this blanket may be, it didn’t completely undo my stress or anxiety or immediately send me off to dreamland. That is, after all, a lot to ask of a piece of fabric, and it’s certainly not something that any blanket company guarantees.
That said, using a weighted blanket for a couple of days did help me feel a little more grounded and secure. Whether it’s because of the deep pressure therapy releasing serotonin in my brain, or because it’s nice to be cozy, well, it didn’t really matter. If I can add one more tool to my proverbial mental well-being tool chest, I’m happy to do it.
Another great option is the Tree Napper weighted blanket by Bearaby. This blanket is made from natural eucalyptus fibers, so it actually feels cool to the touch. Like the California Design Den blanket, Tree Napper is designed to help you sleep deeper and reduce stress. It’s a bit pricier but might be worth a try, especially since it comes in an array of pretty colorways.
While I might not want or need to chill under a heavy blanket all the time, I have decided that I like having one around as an option. If I’m feeling stressed or anxious, I can throw it across my lap to feel a little more grounded. And it doesn’t hurt that the woven design looks cute, too.
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