The weighted blanket was developed to help people on the autism spectrum relax by offering them deep touch pressure — firm but gentle squeezing — that relaxes the nervous system. This sleep aid has gone mainstream in the last few years.
Raj Dasgupta, MD, a pulmonary, critical-care, and sleep specialist who teaches at the University of Southern California, is a fan of weighted blankets, with a few caveats.
“Getting good sleep is more or less like a puzzle, especially when it comes to insomnia,” Dasgupta explains. There are no one-size-fits-all solutions. Your bedroom may not be dark enough, the room temperature may be off, or it could be too noisy.
“If you have trouble sleeping for any reason, see a sleep doctor,” he suggests. “If it turns out that your problem is obstructive sleep apnea, for example, you’re not going to fix it with a weighted blanket.”
But if the puzzle piece involves anxiety, a weighted blanket may help. People who feel anxious at bedtime and like the sensation of being snuggled may find that it makes them feel secure and calm.
If you’re clear that anxiety is the source of your insomnia problem, Dasgupta recommends sleeping under a pile of standard blankets to see if you like the feeling before you invest in a weighted blanket. They tend to be pricey.
“The weighted blanket is also mainly for an individual person with insomnia. I’m not a fan of getting the whole family under one,” he says. A child could become trapped under a too-heavy blanket. That’s one reason it’s so important to choose the blanket carefully; it should weigh about 10 percent of the sleeper’s body weight, plus a pound.
Another important caveat: People with respiratory, circulatory, or temperature-regulation problems, and those recuperating from surgery, should avoid the blankets.