I Tried A Weighted Blanket To Help With Anxiety: Here's What Happened
I never thought of myself as an anxious person. But in the last two years, I've suffered my first panic attacks and even had to wear a heart monitor for 21 consecutive days due to heart palpitations related to anxiety. I know I'm not alone. Given the goings-on in the world today, anxiety levels are climbing higher than ever before. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, anxiety disorders affect 40 million American adults, which is about 18.1% of the population. Interestingly, anxiety is one of the more treatable mental health conditions, but less than 40% of people suffering actually receive treatment. Thankfully, there's a blanket for that. You heard that right.
Weighted blankets calm anxiety, according to science.
Blankets have historically been used in treatment for children with autism, but research shows their benefits extend to other disorders too. A small pilot study done in 2006 showed that more than three-quarters of them preferred the blanket as a method to calm down, and more than half—63%—reported having lower levels of anxiety after using the blanket. Another study published in 2015 found that a weighted blanket lengthened average sleep time and decreased disruptive movement of people suffering from insomnia. Study subjects also reported that they "liked sleeping with the blanket, found it easier to settle down to sleep, and had an improved sleep, where they felt more refreshed in the morning." How does it do this? A few ways:
1. It makes you think twice about moving and fidgeting.
This blanket is enormous and will cover an adult's entire body. Compared to models meant for autistic children, the weight was less concentrated and more spread out. It felt like five duvets compressed into one, sans the heat. There's a subtlety to it—it doesn't pin you down entirely but does make every movement feel more conscious and deliberate.
2. It melted my anxiety away.
Whenever I feel anxiety coming on, I find a way to ground myself. If I'm on the subway, it's deep breaths. At work, it's a quick meditation. At home, from now on, I'll reach for the blanket. Its pressure facilitates a feeling of groundedness. I can't help but think it simulates a womb-like or hug-like feel, a comfort so universal to humankind.
3. I fell asleep more quickly—and stayed asleep.
I'm the kind of person who insists on using a heavy comforter in the summer because I enjoy the weight of a hefty blanket. I was shocked by how quickly I fell asleep using the gravity blanket. I'm a pretty fantastic sleeper as it is (shout out to this nightly yoga routine), but I've been asleep in less than five minutes every night when using the blanket.
I typically wake up with the sun but had no problem sleeping in over the weekend when my alarm was set an hour later than it normally is. I also almost always have to get up to pee at an ungodly hour, and with the blanket, I can stave it off till morning.
What else you should know about weighted blankets:
It's safe to say I'm into using the blanket and so is the rest of my tiny family. I've been using it at home whenever I have the chance, but there are a few things about it that are less than ideal. To start, if you have small pets or children in your home, it's important to monitor their use of the blanket. It comes with a warning, and I can see why—if my cat got caught under there, he probably wouldn't be able to escape the weight. The same is true for babies, toddlers, and anyone under 50 pounds.
It is also difficult to transport. Hauling it up the stairs was a challenge, and it is cumbersome to move around the house. The size can be unwieldy—I live in a pretty small apartment with only one couch, and when folded, the blanket is more than a foot deep. It's not necessarily a drawback but something to keep in mind.
Finally, the price. These typically run pretty expensive—especially those made with high-quality materials. But if sleep and anxiety are problematic for you, it's worth exploring.