Do weighted blankets work?

For many, weighted blankets are a powerful, affordable tool for self-healing. Weighted blankets work by energizing your body’s natural ability to respond positively and effectively to stress. The gentle pressure of the blanket mimics the sensation of deep touch pressure (DTP; also commonly written as deep pressure touch). DTP is shown to have therapeutic effects on the body, specifically our parasympathetic and sympathetic systems, both of which form part of the nervous system.

The parasympathetic is often called the “rest and digest” system and is responsible for conserving energy and slowing the heart rate. The sympathetic is our “fight or flight” system, triggered in stressful situations. DTP affects each of these systems differently:

  • It increases parasympathetic activity, thereby slowing down the heart rate and calming the nervous system.
  • It decreases sympathetic activity by decreasing cortisol (stress hormone) levels, pacifying your fight or flight response, and relaxing the body.

Consider the body’s biological response to being nervous: increased heart rate, shortness of breath or hyperventilation, increased sweat production, plus countless other internal and external signals. These are reactions triggered by the built-in alarm in our nervous system. Many of us already have a subconscious toolkit of natural responses to these changes: deep or mindful breathing techniques, meditation or visualization, mindful relaxation of our muscles, counting sheep, or even talking a short walk or doing a routine task. In much the same way, deep touch pressure can help us regulate our body’s chemistry naturally and promote calmness and balance—inside and out.

Deep touch pressure also encourages the brain to release certain neurotransmitters that have an overall calming effect on the body. DTP encourages the production of serotonin, known as the happy hormone, which regulates our mood and plays an important role in our feeling of wellbeing. Serotonin also leads to melatonin production, which is what controls our sleep/wake cycles, thereby helping to balance our sleeping patterns. All of these chemicals work together to relax the nervous system, reduce anxiety, and stimulate healthy, restful sleep.

In order to create the effect of DTP, a weighted blanket should cover you and contour to your body. The body’s reaction to the comfort and pressure of the blanket isn’t just superficial; the weighted blanket mimics a hug, which floods our bodies with positive response signals. Studies show that this sensation helps reduce blood pressure and slows the heart rate. The chemical and physical reactions to deep touch pressure provided by weighted blankets work in perfect physical and physiological harmony. Once wrapped in the comforting hug of the weighted blanket, energy and stress levels decrease, mood-boosting hormones increase, and the body relaxes naturally.

For further reading on the research behind weighted blankets: