The Weighted Sleep Blanket: The New Weight Training Recovery Tool

Well, sort of. The weighted blanket trend is on the rise. Here's why you should consider it.

You may have heard about the Gravity Blanket, a weighted blanket that scored nearly $5 million last year on crowdfunding site Kickstarter (they raised a whopping $150k on the first day).

Originally designed for children with autism, weighted blankets have hit the mainstream in a big way. They promise to improve your sleep and ease anxiety by mimicking the feeling of a cozy hug. Who wouldn’t want that? Find out if you too should give these adult security blankets a try.

Sleep Loss is a Nightmare

There's a reason sleep deprivation has been used as a torture strategy throughout history. Even a minor, but regular, lack of sleep can make it hard for you to think beyond just surviving the day. Your motivation to train and eat right is going to plummet when you're exhausted.

In addition, research suggests that your natural levels of testosterone will take a dive and you'll end up eating a few hundred extra calories a day when you rack up a sleep debt. So not only do you crave more crap, you're less inclined to burn it up in the gym.

But sleep is a tricky bastard, because the more you think about how valuable it is, the more anxious you get about being awake. And in turn, the more stressed and anxious you get, the more cortisol that you produce and the harder it is to sleep. So if you can't relax, then you'll only get frustrated and miss out on more.

Luckily science has some solutions. The latest one is the weighted blanket.

Weighted Blankets and Sleep Gains

Weighted blankets are what experts call, "deep pressure touch stimulation" or DPTS. They were first used to help kids with autism, anxiety, and other sensory disorders. Then the general idea caught on among dog owners who bought weighted vests to calm their pups during thunderstorms. And now the trend is spreading among adults who just want to shut down their noisy brains at night.

No, you won't get jacked right away by sleeping under a weighted blanket. But if it helps you sleep better, then it may eventually result in consistent workouts, improved performance, and dietary compliance.

The blankets aren't crazy-heavy either. Weighted-blanket manufacturers tell you to just choose one that's 10% of your body weight. So if you weigh 150 pounds, you'd use a 15-pound blanket. They don't cover the entire bed – just you – so if your spouse doesn't want the extra weight, he or she doesn't have to get under it.

Weighted Blankets Mold to Your Body

The pressure from a weighted blanket helps relax the nervous system. It’s a totally safe and effective non-drug therapy for sleep and relaxation naturally.

Psychiatric, trauma, geriatric and pediatric hospital units use weighted blankets to calm a patient’s anxiety and promote deep and restful sleep. In a similar way to swaddling comforting an infant, the weight and pressure on an adult provides comfort and relief.

The Pressure Encourages Mood-lifting Hormones

When pressure is gently applied to the body, it encourages serotonin production, which lifts your mood. When serotonin naturally converts to melatonin, your body takes the cue to rest.

Weighted blankets are typically “weighted” with plastic poly pellets that are sewn into compartments throughout the blanket to keep the weight properly distributed. The weight of the blanket acts as deep touch therapy and acts on deep pressure touch receptors located all over your body.

When these receptors are stimulated, the body relaxes and feels more grounded and safe, and clinical studies suggest that when deep pressure points are triggered they actually cause the brain to increase serotonin production.

Weighted Blanket for Anxiety and Insomnia

Turns out, the old saying is still applicable to grownups. The pressure of a weighted blanket provides the same type of comfort a baby gets when being swaddled. And it might even be an effective replacement for prescription anxiety and sleep meds. According to the Journal of Sleep Medicine & Disorders, the weighted blanket may be "a non-pharmacological tool to fight insomnia."

Swedish researchers studied 33 healthy participants who struggled with insomnia and found that "the participants liked sleeping with the blanket, found it easier to settle down, and had improved sleep where they felt more refreshed in the morning."

You can find quite a few articles about weighted blankets online, and some of the claims they make seem a little "out there," though they may be worth looking into as more research is done. Some authors have indicated that a weighted blanket will put pressure on certain points of the body, causing the brain to release serotonin, which may result in relief of the ailments related to low serotonin, like OCD, PTSD, anxiety, depression, and more.

What to Look For When Purchasing

Most manufacturers suggest buying a blanket that is 10 percent of your body weight, but it really boils down to personal preference. The Gravity Blanket comes in three different weights — 15, 20, or 25 pounds. Mosaic, a Texas-based company, offers a wide range of blankets, weighing anywhere from 2 to 30 pounds. There’s a weighted blanket for every taste and style. Gravity is only offered in metallic grey, while Mosaic sells a huge variety of patterns and colors, from simple plaid to an emoji pattern.

When choosing a size, typically you want the blanket to cover you from your shoulders down to your feet, says Zivalich, of Magic Weighted Blanket. And it’s best not to share your blanket with others, she added.

“The blanket is intended for one individual so that the blanket can mold to the body,” she says.

The weight ideally should be evenly distributed in the blanket, “to provide constant tactile stimulation distributed throughout the body,” wrote the researchers of the Swedish sleep study.

My Weighted Blanket Experience

The idea behind the weighted sleep blanket states that the increased weight of the blanket helps to relax the body’s nervous system by simulating the feeling of being held or hugged.

In my experience using a weighted blanket, the warmth and pressure caused by the ‘mighty hug’ significantly improved the quality and quantity of deeper REM sleep cycles and minimized body movement while asleep, resulting in decreased stress and anxiety, increased HRV patterns, and enhanced restorative patterns. Over time, I noticed that the blanket’s improved sensation increased my overall serotonin and melatonin levels and decreased cortisol levels, thus acting like a natural stress reliever and improving my day-to-day attitude and mood all while promoting relaxation and rejuvenation.

Since I have only used the Gravity Blanket, I can only recommend one specific brand, and as far as I can tell, they seem to be about the same. So choose whatever your pocketbook agrees with, and make sure to get an appropriate weight.

Stay Strong,

Brett Place