Think back and picture a time in your life when anxiety bubbled up and overcame your whole being. We’ve all had such an experience, and some of us have them more often than others.
Your heart beats faster and faster, you breathe more quickly, your skin starts to feel prickly, and your thoughts run wild, usually imaging doom and gloom.
As the panic sets in, you crawl into bed. You nestle deep between the soft mattress beneath you and the thick, warm blanket above you. It’s like a cozy cocoon. Then, someone who has your best interests at heart snuggles down beside you and gives you the biggest, most comforting hug.
Your whole body instantly relaxes as you feel the reassuring weight of their strong, warm arms surrounding you and encompassing you.
This is the same feeling that an anxiety blanket provides.
What is an Anxiety Blanket?
Well, of course, and anxiety blanket is a blanket designed to help you combat the symptoms of anxiety. Over 40 million adults in the US suffer from anxiety, and with the fast pace of life and the events happening today, it’s no wonder that people are searching for solutions that actually work.
In a nutshell, it’s a blanket with some type of weight sewn into the padding.
Most commercial weighted-anxiety blankets use plastic polyethylene pellets that are sewn into distinct compartments throughout the anxiety blanket so that the weight stays evenly distributed. At least one company uses glass beads instead of poly pellets, though. Some use seeds, like buckwheat seeds.
Basically, anything that provides weight and is not going to collect moisture and grow bacteria can be used.
How Did a Weighted Blanket for Anxiety Start?
In the 1970’s, occupational therapist and psychologist Jean Ayres published information on her Sensory Integration Theory. This led to occupational therapists using weighted blankets to help children and adults with autism or other related disorders.
The basic idea was that, by focusing on a sensory experience, the individual could improve with regard to regulating their emotions and controlling their behavior.
This led to the creation of what’s known as Deep Touch Pressure Therapy. Deep Touch Pressure Therapy (DTPT) is when you apply pressure all over your body, like a big, warm hug. It can also be achieved with squeezing, stroking, holding, and swaddling.
Initially, DTPT was used for autistic children, because it activates the parasympathetic nervous system and is pretty darn effective at calming and relaxing them.
If you don’t remember, the sympathetic nervous system stimulates us and prepares us for the “fight-or-flight” response. The parasympathetic nervous system, on the other hand, relaxes and calms the body and mind. It starts a cascade that ends up reducing heart rate and blood pressure, among other things.
What Benefits Does a Weighted Blanket for Anxiety Provide?
Not everyone feels the same benefits from weighted anxiety blankets, but here is a list of the most common benefits reported by users and in the scientific literature:
- Improved sense of calm that lasts for a few hours after use
- Better social interactions
- Deeper, more relaxed sleep with less waking up (increases the brain’s melatonin production)
- Less anxiety overall when used regularly
- Better focus
- Better mood and mood regulation
- Increased production of the hormones serotonin and dopamine (“happy hormones”), so users report feeling happier
- Decreased blood pressure, pulse rate, and pulse oximetry readings
- Less cortisol production (“stress hormone”)
- Increased feelings of comfort and security
- Improved body coordination
Does Science Support Using a Heavy Blanket for Anxiety?
There have been a LOT of studies conducted on the benefits and effectiveness of deep touch pressure and/or heavy blankets for anxiety. If you like to delve into the scientific literature, here are some studies to get you started:
- The clinical application of deep touch pressure with a man with autism presenting with severe anxiety and challenging behaviour (Deep touch pressure helped an adult man with anxiety and autism)
- The Effects of Deep Pressure Touch on Anxiety (23 Healthy College Students tested, DTP decreased anxiety)
- Calming Effects of Deep Touch Pressure in Patients with Autistic Disorder, College Students, and Animals (DTP reduced anxiety and nervousness in autistic children with ADHD, college students, and animals)
- Physiological Effects of Deep Touch Pressure on Anxiety Alleviation: The Weighted Blanket Approach (15 adult women had reduced dental anxiety symptoms and lowered physiological responses like lowered heart rate, etc.)
- Massage Therapy of Moderate and Light Pressure and Vibrator Effects on EEG and Heart Rate (Massage therapy showed reduced anxiety, decreased heart rate, and the EEGs showed increased delta waves as well as decreased alpha and beta waves, suggesting a relaxation response).
- The Use of a Weighted Vest To Increase On-Task Behavior in Children With Attention Difficulties (weighted vest increased focus with ADHD children)
- The effectiveness of the Anxiety Wrap in the treatment of canine thunderstorm phobia: An open-label trial (This was done on dogs. Dogs who suffer thunderstorm anxiety used an anxiety wrap. Anxiety diminished by 47%, and 89% of dog owners said it helped their dog’s anxiety).
- Effects of massage on pain and anxiety during labour: a randomized controlled trial in Taiwan (60 women in labor were tested, not with anxiety blankets but with massage. The ones who got massage had lower pain levels and reduced anxiety)
What Conditions Can Benefit from Using a Weighted Anxiety Blanket?
A weighted anxiety blanket can be effective for reducing various forms of anxiety, obviously. But they’ve been effective for quite a few other disorders, as well. Here are some of them:
Are There Any Dangers Associated with a Weighted Anxiety Blanket?
Anxiety blankets are considered safe for adults but there are precautions you consider. These blankets are heavy, often weighing 30 pounds or more. If a cat or dog gets under it, they may not be able to get out, and it could restrict their breathing or even kill them if it gets wrapped around them. The same is true for small children, babies, weakened people, or elderly people.
A 50-pound, 9-year-old autistic boy in Quebec suffocated and died after a teacher rolled him “three or four times” in a weighted blanket.
A 19-pound, 7-month-old infant died at a daycare when placed in a crib with a weighted blanket that weighed 4 pounds. When discovered, the blanket was below his waist (not over his head).
What Factors Do You Need to Consider When Getting a Weighted Anxiety Blanket?
Length and Weight
When considering a weighted anxiety blanket, of course you will need to determine the best length and weight. They come in a plethora of sizes and weights, so you have a lot of options to choose from.
When choosing a blanket weight, a good rule of thumb is to get a weight that is 1/10th of your ideal body weight. This is for teens and adults, though.
You also need to consider your personal preferences, though, too. Some people are comfortable with a 15-pound blanket and a 30-pound one would feel too heavy and restrictive. So, before you spend a fair amount of money on one, see if there’s a way to test out what weight works well for you.
It’s kind of hard to imitate what a 30-pound blanket will feel like, but you can just pile up as many blankets as you can gather. Once you’ve used all your blankets, weigh them to see how much they weighed. Was it comfortable? Too heavy? Alternatively, try putting on a weighted vest. Test various weights using that. It might help you make an educated guess on approximately what weight of a weighted anxiety blanket would work for you.
The problem with my weighted blanket is that now I never want to get out of bed!
Just remember that if you’re ordering a weighted blanket, check the return policy before you buy. You want to be able to exchange it if it’s not the right weight for you.
For length and width, you definitely want it to be long enough to cover your entire body, but you don’t want it hanging over the edge of your bed. If you’re going to use it to cover 2 people in bed, get one that covers the entire width of your bed, but again, you don’t want it hanging over the edges.
You must remember that these blankets can be pretty big when you fold them up for storage. If you live in a tiny apartment, consider the amount of space they’re going to take up and choose your size accordingly.
They’re bulky and heavy, so it’s not that easy to keep moving them around or to carry them upstairs and downstairs and such. Unless you like a workout!
Cost and Durability
These blankets are not cheap if you purchase one (as opposed to making one). Therefore, if you’re investing a good chunk of change, make sure the fabric is durable and able to stand up to regular use and laundering and still last for a couple years, at least.
Blankets that incorporate anti-fungal or anti-microbial elements are a good choice, because it’s not easy to just grab them and stick them in a washer every week. And you definitely want it to last.
Where Are the Best Places to Buy a Heavy Blanket for Anxiety?
When it comes to buying a heavy blanket for anxiety, you have plenty of options. There are thousands of merchants online selling a huge variety of anxiety blankets.
I chose the best options based on price, durability, return policy, shipping time, material quality, previous customer reviews, and the company’s longevity and reputation.
Here are the best options, in my opinion.
I love buying from Amazon. The shipping is fast and included in the Prime membership, and they have top-notch customer service. Also, reviews are by verified purchasers, so you know you’re not reading a bunch of fake reviews paid for by the company. Here are some great options available on Amazon:
This weighted blanket is available in 11 colors, and has a removable outer cover for easy cleaning.
This high-quality anxiety blanket is a lighter blanket made by the reputable YnM company and comes with 21 color choices. It’s 48” wide and 72” long, so it works well if you’re under 6-feet tall and want to use it for one person. The weight is provided by sand pellets, which is a bit more pliable and comfortable than plastic poly pellets.
Anxiety Blanket Manufacturers
If you prefer to purchase your anxiety blanket from the manufacturer, here are some of the most popular, high-quality manufacturers of anxiety blankets.
Weighting Comforts offers incredible weighted blankets at very affordable prices. In addition to the incredible quality and phenomenal price, each of their blankets is sewn by international refugees, so making a purchase from them helps change lives.
With plenty of colors and sizes, this company can give you the perfect anxiety blanket. They offer a 72-hour return policy within the US if there are no customizations on the blanket and the blanket it unused. After 3 days, you may be able to get an 80% refund minus shipping. Be sure to check the return policy before ordering.
Gravity Blanket is another option. It comes in 15-, 25-, or 30-pound weights. This is a new company, and orders start shipping in Jan. 2018. They have one size (48”x72”) and one color (grey), but they’re new, so I’m sure they’ll expand their offerings later. There are no customer reviews yet.
Harkla makes weighted blankets, as well. They offer 5 sizes/weights and 3 colors. Weights range from 5-25 pounds.
Salt of the Earth lets you build your own weighted blanket, and you can opt for poly beads or find stones for the weight. You choose the size, the fabric, the filling, etc. Very convenient and very affordable.
How Can I Make My Own Anxiety Blanket?
If you have the patience and the sewing skills, you can definitely make your own weighted anxiety blanket and probably save quite a bit of money.
Simply choose which size works best for you, whether you’ll also sew a removable cover for it, and what kind of filling you want to use for the weight. Purchase your materials, and start sewing.
There are plenty of instructions online. Here’s a guide on how to make a 40” x 76” blanket. YouTube has over 7,400 instructional videos on how to sew a weighted blanket, as well.
What is the Best Weighted Blanket for Anxiety?
Everyone has a different opinion, but the one I use and the one I love is the 30-lb. 80” x 87” Weighted Blanket from Amazon. It’s soft, cozy, durable, and big!
What Are Some Weighted Blanket Variations?
People are using the concept of weighted blankets and coming up with new and improved ways to incorporate their benefits into our lives.
Artist Mia Cinelli designed a weighted “cape” with arms and hands to simulate a “hug from behind”. It helps people suffering from grief, as well as anxiety, Autism, ADHD, and PTSD. What’s great about this design is that it’s a lot more mobile than the traditional blanket version.
There are also weighted vests, weighted “Snakes”, weighted lap pads, weighted plush toys, weighted wraps…you name it, and someone’s probably making a weighted version.
Weighted anxiety blankets are a great tool in your arsenal to combat anxiety, and they provide extra benefits, too. Better sleep, improved focus, and easier relaxation are just a few. Try it and see for yourself!