Do Weighted and Heated Blankets Help Mental Health?
5 min read
Last Modified 2 October 2023 First Added 13 September 2021
Mental health issues are pretty common, in fact, roughly 1 in 4 people in the UK will experience a mental health problem each year. These illnesses can affect many areas of a person’s life, from work to sleep. Certain bedding has been said to help with issues such as anxiety and depression, but can your bedding really help? Blankets are warm and cosy, and can make you feel like you’re wrapped in a big hug. But not all blankets are equal when it comes to helping with mental health. In this post, we’ll take a look at the two most popular types of blankets that are said to help; weighted blankets and heated blankets.
Weighted blankets are popular when it comes to helping with stress relief and healthy sleep habits. These blankets can help to calm anxiety, as well as helping with other conditions.
A weighted blanket is simply a blanket that has additional weight compared to normal blankets. There are two types of weighted blankets, you can get them as a duvet style or a knitted blanket. A duvet style heavy blanket has weight added by the use of glass or plastic beads, ball bearings, or other heavy fillings. Knitted weighted blankets are heavier as they’re often woven with dense wool.
Weighted blankets work by using “pressure therapy”. This therapy adds a calm-inducing amount of pressure to the entire body, which gives the feeling of being hugged. Pressure calms you by activating the parasympathetic nervous system, which lowers your heart rate. A lower heart rate gives a feeling of calmness.
From a mental health perspective, these weighted blankets can help you get some sleep and calm your anxiety and stress. Let’s explore which conditions may see the most improvements…
Weighted blankets are often used as an anxiety treatment. Studies have shown that deep-pressure stimulation helps to reduce autonomic arousal, which is responsible for the symptoms of anxiety. When studied, continual use of a weighted blanket at night was found to ease some symptoms of anxiety, depression, and fatigue during the day.
Deep pressure is widely used by occupational therapists who work with people who have ASD as it is found to be a more rewarding sensory input, even for those who are usually touch-averse. It can help to regulate sensory overwhelm, ease anxiety symptoms, and reduce stress. A weighted blanket is ideal for this as it can cover the entire body like a hug rather than applying pressure to a small area.
Those with ADHD could also benefit from using a heavy blanket when sleeping. Although there are few studies that look into the use of these blankets for ADHD, there has been research into the use of weighted vests. The use of these vests was shown to improve attention and reduce hyperactive movements.
A promising study into weighted blankets and chronic pain patients found that a heavy blanket (15lbs) helped to reduce broad perceptions of pain. So, while they did not reduce pain intensity, they did ease anxiety and gave people a sense of calm, which helped to improve sleep.
Temperature is one of the most important factors when it comes to getting good quality rest. Generally, the optimal room temperature for sleep is around 16 degrees celsius, however, if consistently it’s too warm or chilly, you’ll have problems falling asleep and staying asleep.
A heated blanket is exactly what it sounds like – a blanket that gives off heat. There are a few different ways a blanket can do this, but what most commonly comes to mind is an electric blanket.
An electric blanket has an internally integrated wiring system that provides warmth through coil wires. They are made from heavy, sturdy materials and can be set to different levels of heat. An electric blanket can be mains or battery-powered.
Alternatively, a heated throw gives you on-the-go comfort that travels with you around your home, with all the benefits of a traditional electric blanket.
It is known that anxiety can increase over winter, plus SAD affects millions of people in northern Europe. Warmth is known to be a source of comfort, both mentally and physically. In fact, research has shown that participants who took a hot bath twice a week for 4 weeks significantly reduced their Hamilton Depression Rating Scale scores compared to a placebo group.
While being too hot during the night can reduce sleep quality, heat therapy is well documented to help alleviate some symptoms of other health issues such as muscular pain, joint pain, and even improved heart health.
If you often struggle with your mental health, it could be worth trying a weighted or heated blanket as home therapy. The effects these blankets have, through pressure therapy or warmth, can help to relieve symptoms of stress and anxiety. They can also help to improve sleep, which can help with your overall well-being, including mental health.
Keep in mind, using a weighted or heated blanket is not a cure for any mental illness, but can simply act as an aid. If you need help with your mental health, we recommend visiting your GP or the NHS website.
If you have problems sleeping, check out our articles on sleep problems