Can A Weighted Blanket Decrease Your Muscle Soreness?
Ray Bass is the associate movement and wellness editor at mindbodygreen and a NASM-Certified Personal Trainer. She holds a degree in creative writing from the University of Pennsylvania, with honors in nonfiction.
There's no denying that weighted blankets are having a moment. Maybe it's because the holidays are approaching, or maybe it's because they're almost too comfortable, but people are going bananas for weighted blankets. But can these magic cotton covers do anything for muscle recovery and soreness? Here's what a naturopathic doctor and doctor of physical therapy had to say.
The lowdown on weighted blankets.
Even if you've never seen or heard of a weighted blanket, you can probably guess what it is. (Spoiler: It's a very heavy blanket.) They range from 5 to 30 pounds in weight and come in a variety of materials, like cotton and velvet. Companies like Gravity Blanket and Bearaby have flooded the market with beautiful, cozy, hefty blankets that people are flocking to like hungry pigeons. Why? The answer is twofold.
The first reason people purchase weighted blankets is for comfort. They're soft, snuggly, and the added weight can help your body relax—it's that sinking-into-the-bed feeling. The second (and perhaps most common) reason people buy these blankets is to address an issue they're dealing with—usually anxiety, stress, or sleeplessness.
Yes, it sounds too good to be true, but there is research behind the claims that weighted blankets can ease anxiety and combat insomnia. That's sort of how they came to be in the first place. Studies have shown that weighted blankets are both a safe and effective method for mitigating anxiety, and weight in general has been used as a calming technique in therapy for many years. Research has also shown that grounding the body during sleep can lower cortisol levels (aka stress levels) and improve sleep patterns.
It's easy to see why people love weighted blankets—but is there any application for people with sore muscles?
How compression can aid recovery.
The theory that weighted blankets could assist muscle recovery stems from the fact that compression is a tool often used for injuries. (Ever heard a doctor say RICE? Rest, ice, compression, elevation?) A weighted blanket adds mass on top of your body—a sensation that, depending on the weight, can mimic the feeling of compression.
According to Jamie Schehr, N.D., R.D., the reason compression is a popular modality is because it increases blood circulation, which plays a role in recovery.
"Compression for recovery works by squeezing or narrowing your veins, which forces blood to flow more effectively up to your heart, where it will receive oxygen. The result is an increase in the return of oxygen-rich blood back to the muscle for healing, which reduces soreness."
Sarah Kostyukovsky, DPT, agrees, citing that some experts recommend wearing compression tights for 24 hours immediately following intense exercise (taking breaks overnight and during the day) to reduce delayed onset muscle soreness.
But in terms of recovery, weighted blankets can help, just not in the way you'd think. The benefit of a weighted blanket is that it can improve your sleep—and sleep is crucial for recovery.
"I don't believe that a weighted blanket would provide enough specific compression to the limbs in order to help with muscle recovery and reducing muscle soreness," Kostyukovsky says. "However, restful sleep is important for all of our systems, including the musculoskeletal system. If a weighted blanket could help you get a better night's sleep, that would help with muscle recovery."
Schehr agrees, noting that there isn't enough evidence to show a direct correlation between weighted blankets and recovery—but there's plenty of research behind sleep and recovery.
"Weighted blankets have been extensively studied for their ability to improve sleep and reduce anxiety and sleep disruptions," she says. "Therefore, they could help with muscle recovery by improving one's rest. As we all know, sleep is crucial to recovery—if weighted blankets have been proven to improve sleep, then they would also in theory improve recovery."
And the end of the day, weighted blankets are a comfortable novelty that could relieve your anxiety or stress and result in better sleep—pretty incredible feats for a blanket, one might say. As for easing your muscle soreness, weighted blankets wouldn't hinder your recovery, but they wouldn't be the first treatment or tool we'd turn to. If buying one is in your budget, by all means give it a try—just know recovery isn't its purpose, and there are plenty of more effective options.
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