What Are Weighted Blankets And Can They Help With Insomnia And Anxiety?

Proceed with caution.

Weighted blankets are having a moment – promising to aid our sleep, reduce anxiety and even make the owner feel embraced in a hug.

If you’ve not yet heard of them, the blankets contain tiny glass micro-beads that are sewn within the lining to make them heavy. Abeer Iqbal, founder of Sumo Sleep, one of the biggest weighted blanket brands in the UK, said visits to its site have increased by 50-70% each month since its launch in 2018. The company has run out of stock three times: “Interest has grown at a pace we didn’t expect,” he tells HuffPost UK.

There are now more than 34.2k photos on Instagram tagged #weightedblanket –with posts from people who’ve become complete converts.

The blankets differ from regular heavy throws because the weight is distributed equally throughout – and also because they start from around £150, rather than 20 quid.

They come in varying sizes and weights, and brands make slightly different recommendations on how to find your ideal match.

The brand Gravity, for example, advises customers to order a blanket that’s 10% of their body weight. Meanwhile, Sumo Sleep says 8-14% of your body weight is best. “For example, if you weigh 45-70kg, our 7kg blanket will work well – and if you weigh more than 70kg, our 9kg blanket is better,” its website explains.

But do the blankets actually work? Independent studies on the topic are limited, but so far, promising. A study published in the Journal of Sleep Medicine Disorders investigated the effects of weighted blankets on insomnia. The researchers, from the University of Gothenburg and University of Linköping, Sweden, found participants were able to sleep longer when they used a weighted blanket. They also monitored a decrease in movement, such as restless fidgeting, when blankets were in use.

Participants said they liked sleeping with the blanket, found it easier to settle down to sleep, and felt more refreshed in the morning. “Overall, we found that when the participants used the weighted blanket, they had a calmer night’s sleep,” the study concluded.

Sumo Sleep

So should we all be splashing out £150 to get a good night’s kip? Sleep expert Maryanne Taylor, founder of The Sleep Works, acknowledges weighted blankets may help some people have a more restful night’s sleep, but says they’re unlikely to be an effective “quick-fix” to address insomnia.

“People who suffer from on-going sleep issues can become reliant on various items or processes to help improve their sleep,” says Taylor. “It is sometimes this reliance that can actually exacerbate the issues, as they assume they need all these things in place to achieve better sleep.”

Taylor says addressing the root of the sleep problem and ensuring you have a good sleep hygiene – such as a cool, device-free room – should be the priority.

For those who hope the blanket may reduce their anxiety, Chris O’Sullivan, from the Mental Health Foundation, says he’s heard anecdotally people report that weighted blankets help their anxiety – but advises we should interpret early study results with caution. “The evidence for weighted blankets in anxiety isn’t clear – so claims of effectiveness should be carefully considered,” he tells HuffPost UK.

There’s a huge wellbeing industry and products can be very expensive to purchase, O’Sullivan warns, so people should make sure products work for them before spending a lot of money – “especially when it can be tempting to try anything when we are desperate to find something to help.”