Try weighted blankets for better sleep


This is one of those “we don’t know if it works, but it’s not likely to hurt” ideas. Many people, therapists and even some doctors advocate the use of weighted blankets to reduce anxiety and improve sleep. But research has found that while people prefer weighted blankets, they don’t actually lead to improved sleep.

The weighted-blanket trend began as a coping tool in mental health settings and for children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Blankets usually contain metal or plastic beads that make them heavier. Kids with ASD have sensory issues than can be relieved by deep, gentle pressure. Kids use the blankets when agitated to help them self-calm.

Since kids with ASD often have significant sleep problems, it makes sense that parents and health providers would want to see if weighted blankets help that issue as well. Research on whether weighted blankets help sleep has been done only in children with ASD, not for people in general. A 2014 study of kids with ASD found that while kids and parents preferred the blankets, there was no significant improvement in sleep when the weighted blankets were used.

Weighted blankets have been proven to reduce stress and anxiety in many adult patients in mental health settings. And reducing stress has been linked to better sleep. But that’s all a long way from proving that weighted blankets have sleep benefits.

So we’re back to where we started, with a lot of people preferring weighted blankets but no clinical evidence to support they actually help people get to sleep faster, stay asleep longer or have a better quality of sleep. That said, for adults and older children, weighted blankets are considered safe and worth a try.

Weighted blankets should NEVER be used on infants or small children, however, because they may increase the risk of injury or sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).

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