Uncovering The Science Behind Weighted Blankets

Sleep trends come and go, and as traditional mattress makers, we often take new ones with a grain of salt. In our experience, when it comes to sleep, simple, time-tested and natural usually outlasts and outperforms many of the latest industry crazes! 

So when weighted blankets exploded on the sleep scene recently, we had to ask: is it just a fad? 

Turns out they not only have a long history of improving sleep, but plenty of science to back them up. 


So how do they work? 

Weighted blankets promote relaxation and sleep by providing Deep Touch Pressure (DTP) therapy. DTP is essentially a gentle but firm pressure, similar to a hug, squeeze or massage, that helps relax the nervous system. 

When applied, it causes the nervous system to shift from sympathetic (“fight or flight”) to parasympathetic (“rest and digest”) mode - the mode we need to be in to fall asleep. This shift happens because DTP lowers cortisol (the stress or activity hormone) and activates melatonin (the sleep hormone), as well as endorphins, dopamine and serotonin that help you feel happy and relaxed. 

And the beauty of weighted blankets is they apply DTP gently, continually and evenly throughout the night, providing a more lasting effect than some other sleep aids that may wear off over time. 

Evidence of this sleep-promoting effect can be seen in numerous studies. For example, in this one from 2015, chronic insomnia patients had an easier time falling, their sleep quality improved and they felt more refreshed in the morning when using weighted blankets over a 2 week period. Another study showed 63% of people reported lower anxiety after using weighted blankets, and other markers of stress such as blood pressure and pulse rate were also improved with use.

Other studies have shown the benefits of DTP, through weighted blankets or vests, in helping children with ADHD focus and stay on task, and had positive effects (including better sleep) for children with autism and sensory processing disorders. In fact, it was Dr. Temple Grandin, now a prominent autism researcher (with autism herself) who played a huge role in evolving the concepts of the weighted blanket and DTP. The idea was sparked while observing on her family farm in the early 90s how “squeeze machines” would calm down livestock by applying a light pressure as they walked through. Finally, DTP is also being studied for its effects on fibromyalgia (because of its ability to increase the commonly low serotonin levels in this condition) and restless leg syndrome (because it increases the often low levels of dopamine for these patients). 

These promising results have paved the way for the exploration of weighted blankets and DTP for many more applications as well. And they certainly convinced us to give weighted blankets their due credit as a simple, natural sleep and relaxation aid. 

How do I choose a weighted blanket? 

The rule of thumb for a healthy adult is to choose a blanket that weighs about 10% of your body weight, or 10% of your and your partners’ combined weights if you’re sharing. Most people are comfortable with a range between 8-12%.* 

Of course, as with any sleep accessory, we also always recommend choosing a blanket made from healthy, natural materials that breathe. This is why we were thrilled when Hush. blankets came to us with their Ice 2.0 model, whose 100% organic bamboo cover meets our standards for being both natural and breathable. 

And lastly, we at Black Sheep understand that sleeping preferences are highly individual, so we fully support trying it out before you commit. And no, we don’t mean just piling on layers of blankets at home! (It’s not the same, we promise: these weighted blankets are not only heavier, but way less bulky). If you’re not sure if you’d like the feel of a weighted blanket, or are curious about the different feel of various weights, we definitely recommend coming by the showroom to take them for a test nap… Warning: you may be pleasantly surprised how quickly the relaxation kicks in! 

For the month of May we are offering a promo code for our Hush Weighted Blankets. Use the code HEAVYSLEEPER at checkout and receive 10% off. Those who know us know we don't do sales or promotions often, so act fast! Limited quantities available. 

*If you have blood pressure, circulatory or lung concerns (such as asthma and sleep apnea), we recommend talking to your doctor about whether (and how heavy) a weighted blanket is appropriate for you. 

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