BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Once considered a novelty or fad, weighted blankets have now made their way into the mainstream. Doctors, therapists, and psychiatrists are using them more than ever before to treat a variety of conditions.
While the medical benefits are still being studied, many consumers are reaching their own conclusions — that weighted blankets are a valued part of their lifestyle and they’d likely lose sleep without them.
Jenn Powell has wrestled for years with sleepless nights.
“When I come home after a long busy day at work and I’m kind of cranking and a little stressed out,” Powell said.
Racing thoughts would not allow Jenn to calm down at the end of a busy day.
But a few years ago she was given a weighted blanket, and it has changed her life.
“I definitely notice that it helps me come down after a long day of when my mind racing. But definitely, when I sleep with it I do feel like I do get a better night’s sleep,” she said.
Sometimes referred to as gravity blankets, weighted blankets are based on the principle of deep pressure.
WJZ’s Tim Williams spoke to LifeBridge Health’s Sleep Specialist Dr. Naveed Shah about the benefits of weighted blankets.
Tim Williams: Tell me what you know about — it seems almost like a phenomenon — weighted blankets. And what their use is.
Dr. Naveed Shah: There is a mechanism in our body called the fight or flight or what we call the sympathetic nervous system. They basically calm that down and there is a parasympathetic nervous system. It’s sort of the chill-out part of the nervous system and they kind of enhance that.
Weighted blankets are used to address a number of disorders: from insomnia and anxiety to stress and ADHD. Also, Fibromyalgia and autism just to name a few.
“Looking at the medical part of it, if it’s improving or increasing your serotonin. Most of the anti-depressants are based on serotonin. So that’s how it’s going to boost mood,” said Dr. Shah. “Also the quality of your sleep is better, the quantity of your sleep may be better. So all three. It may be kind of a trifecta.”
Weighted blankets have been used clinically for decades, but around three years ago, suddenly everybody could buy one.
The weight comes from glass or plastic pellets inserted into the blanket. It weighs between five and about 25 pounds and prices range from $30 to $300.
The benefits also extend to pets.
Addie wears a thunder shirt. Her owner noticed anxiety during storms and times of separation, putting on the shirt has been life-changing.
“Pets are like humans in that sense that they get scared as well. They can have anxiety as well,” Dr. Shah said. “A female animal will also cuddle with their babies. So it’s just the same concept.”
On the flip side, with sparse research, comes some concern.
Too much weight can be considered dangerous for very young and smaller-sized children. But the blankets do come in a variety of sizes. For safety sake, make sure the size is not too large or heavy.
Jenn is glad she discovered her weighted blanket. For her, it’s made a lot of problems go away.
TW: Kind of teetering on whether I get one or whether I don’t. What would you say?
JP: I have never heard someone that has a blanket that doesn’t like it for some aspect. You know, it might not help you sleep better but it could help you unwind. So, I feel like there are so many things that it benefits in my life. More likely than not you’ll find at least one thing.
A blanket statement Jenn lives by.