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Weighted blankets: how do they work and can they help with anxiety?

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Lauren Geall
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A woman underneath a weighted blanket

Welcome back to Sleepless Nights, Stylist’s weekly series designed to help you put your Sunday night anxiety and worries to bed. This week, we’re exploring whether a weighted blanket could help to reduce nighttime anxiety.

From avoiding caffeine in the four-six hours before bedtime to having a hot bath and spraying lavender on your pillow, if you struggle with nighttime anxiety, chances are you’ve tried many techniques to try and get a good night’s sleep. However, if you’re yet to try a weighted blanket, then it might be time to give one a go.

Over the last couple of years, weighted blankets have risen in popularity as a tool to help people dealing with a whole range of issues including insomnia, anxiety and ADHD. Despite their simplicity – they’re simply blankets filled with small, weighted objects (usually glass beads) – the blankets have become revered for their calming effect.

However, while it’s clear that weighted blankets have been a massive help for some people, it’s important to work out whether a weighted blanket is right for you before you invest in one (especially since some of them can be on the more expensive side). 

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Of course, the best way to do this is to find out more about how weighted blankets work and what they feel like – and that’s where this guide comes in. Throughout this article, you’ll find answers to many of the most commonly asked questions about weighted blankets, as well as first-hand reviews from the Stylist team about their experiences using weighted blankets. 

What is a weighted blanket and how does it work?

Weighted blankets
How do weighted blankets work to calm anxiety?

A weighted blanket is pretty much what it sounds like – a heavy blanket for your bed. Filled with plastic pellets or glass beads, they tend to weigh around 15 pounds or more, though different brands offer various different weights and sizes.

Experts typically recommend that your blanket should weigh 10-15% of your body weight, but within this range, choosing how heavy your blanket is comes down to personal preference – some prefer a lighter blanket, while others want something a bit more substantial.

The main reason why weighted blankets are said to reduce anxiety is through mimicking a technique called deep pressure therapy (DPT), which works by applying hands-on pressure to the body (usually in the form of hugs or compression) to promote relaxation.  

In a similar way, the weight of a weighted blanket is believed to promote the same sense of relaxation and trigger the release of dopamine and serotonin, two ‘feel-good hormones’ which influence mood and help combat stress, anxiety and depression.

It’s also worth noting that serotonin is a “chemical precursor” to the sleep hormone melatonin (kind of like a building block), so that could also explain why some people find that weighted blankets help them to sleep better.  

What do weighted blankets feel like?

To find out more about what it’s like to use a weighted blanket, and the different kinds of weighted blanket on the market, the Stylist team tried out a few different versions to see what they’re like.  

Stylist contributor Megan Murray tried out Simba’s Orbit Weighted Blanket (£169) in 6.8kg and was really pleased with the effect it had on her. “I think of Simba as a really reputable brand and already have a lot of their products already, so for me, it made sense to look to them when it came to sleep technology. The Orbit uses nano-beads to create a soothing, comforting feeling and felt well distributed,” she explains. 

“At 135cm x 200cm it is designed for one person, but still feels large and covered me comfortably, and then some. Plus, the weighted sensation seemed to make it feel even bigger, almost as if I could just give myself over to it. In fact, the psychological effect of knowing that this blanket is designed to sit around me and help me sleep, comforted me straight away.”

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Stylist’s junior digital writer Lauren Geall tried out Calming Blanket’s Adult Weighted Blanket in quartz (£149). “Calming Blanket’s offering may be on the pricier side of the spectrum, but the luxury feel of the quartz covering makes using the blanket feel like a treat,” she says.

“Experts suggest you get a weighted blanket that is 10-15% of your body weight, and Calming Blanket’s websites provided a guide to match your weight to the type of blanket you need. I opted for the 6.8kg blanket option.

“As someone who deals with anxiety, I was excited to try a weighted blanket after having read a lot about how they are supposed to relieve feelings of panic and unrest and help you feel more calm and secure, so I was excited to try mine out. 

Calming Blankets Adult Weighted Blanket in Quartz, £149.
Calming Blankets Adult Weighted Blanket in Quartz, £149.

“Although I was sceptical about the blanket when I first tried it out (mainly because it wasn’t as heavy as I expected to be) after a couple of minutes you really start to notice the light pressure of the blanket all over your body, especially on your legs. As I’m not someone who needs to use the blanket to aid my sleep, I’ve actually really enjoyed using it on the sofa during the evening – a time when I tend to feel most anxious – because the cosy pressure of the blanket on my legs helps me to feel more secure and relaxed.

“Now, after using it for just over week, I’ve come to associate the blanket with feelings of relaxation and security, so it’s great to have it around for whenever I’m feeling on edge.”

Stylist’s digital fitness writer Chloe Gray also gave John Lewis’ weighted blanket range a try for Stylist Loves.

“The blanket’s weight spreads around the mattress beneath you, so rather than feeling weighed down, I felt weightless,” she says. “On the first night, I slept so contently I woke up 45 minutes late, and I’ve now used it every night for the last fortnight.” 

How much do weighted blankets cost?

As you might expect, prices for weighted blankets vary across brand and depending on their weight and composition – you might also pay more for a luxury covering or softer material.

Choosing the right blanket for you is really up to personal preference – but the options below are a good place to start.

Calming Blankets Adult Weighted Blanket in Quartz, £149.

Calming Blanket / £149

6.8kg Adult Weighted Blanket

6kg Gravity Weighted Blanket in Space Grey

Gravity Blanket / £139

6kg Weighted Blanket

Senso Rex

Senso Rex / £149

6kg Weighted Blanket

John Lewis & Partners Weighted Blanket, £90

John Lewis & Partners / £90

7kg Specialist Synthetic Weighted Blanket

Simba Blanket

Simba / £169

6.8kg Orbit Weighted Blanket

Mela Weighted Blanket and Cover, £199.99

Mela / £129.99

7kg Weighted Blanket and Cover

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Lauren Geall

As Stylist’s digital writer, Lauren Geall writes on topics including mental health, wellbeing and work. She’s also a big fan of houseplants and likes to dabble in film and TV from time-to-time.

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