How weighted blankets help with anxiety - and the best options to shop

Weighted blankets can help to ease anxiety, studies have shown. [Photo: Getty]

With the nights drawing in, many of us are battening down the hatches and staying cosy indoors.

While some turn to weighted blankets to keep them warm over the winter months, the snug bedding may also reduce anxiety.

Scientists from the University of Massachusetts had 32 adults lie under a 13.6kg (30lb) blanket, with 63 per cent later reporting lower anxiety.

Another team of US researchers looked at 12 people suffering from insomnia, pain or stress. The participants agreed to be “grounded” in their sleep via a compression “pad”.

Eight weeks later, their levels of the stress hormone cortisol had started to normalise.

Anxiety affected 8.2 million people in the UK in 2013 alone, statistics show. [Photo: Getty]

Dr Diana Gall, from Doctor4U, told Yahoo Style: "Weighted blankets are certainly a convenient and easily accessible method of treating anxiety or reducing the intense symptoms of this condition.

She told Yahoo Style: “They work by putting gentle pressure on the body, a method that’s used in some therapies for anxiety.

“Pressure against the body can be deeply comforting and soothing for some people. This deep pressure can simulate a hug or massage, and provide a sense of safety and security which can be reassuring when going through an episode of anxiety.

“Weighted blankets can also make you sleep more deeply, and good quality sleep is essential for physical and mental health.

“Scientific research is still ongoing on the effectiveness of weighted blankets for anxiety but it’s thought these blankets can reduce cortisol levels which is a stress hormone.

“Apart from this, weighted blankets are calming and provide a lot of comfort which can definitely help with anxiety symptoms, they’re safe to use so it’s worth a try as a treatment on its own or alongside other anxiety treatments."

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Weighted blankets are typically filled with glass or metal beads, which are evenly dispersed throughout the bedding.

Writing in the journal Occupational Therapy in Mental Health, the Massachusetts scientists recommended people opt for a blanket that is around 10% of their body weight. Anything heavier may make users feel trapped and uncomfortable.

By pushing the body gently down, the bedding is said to have a “grounding” or “earthing” effect that leaves us feeling calm.

The blankets also stimulate the same deep pressure touch used in massage to promote relaxation.

On top of the scientific evidence, various brands of the bedding have received rave reviews on Amazon, with happy customers calling the blankets “amazing” and “fantastic”.

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Anxiety affected 8.2 million people in the UK in 2013 alone, Mental Health Foundation statistics show.

In the US, 40 million adults suffer every year, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America.

Many anxiety patients struggle to nod off, with their mind racing through the night. This can then become a viscous cycle, with a lack of sleep causing worriers to feel more unsettled.

Insomnia is a common symptom of anxiety, which can then make it worse. [Photo: Getty]

Anxiety UK recognises the deep pressure of weighted blankets could have a calming effect and therefore may be of benefit in the management of anxiety,” a spokesperson told Yahoo Style.

Insomnia is also a major issue in the UK, with as many as 16 million adults suffering sleepless nights, according to 2016 data from the Office of National Statistics.

In the US, up to 35% struggle to nod off at any given time, while 10% have chronic insomnia, Sleep Education statistics show.

As well as relieving anxiety and insomnia, weighted blankets are also often used in children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

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A Danish study found youngsters with the behavioural condition nodded off significantly faster when sleeping under a “ball blanket”. Their attention spans were also 10% higher the following day.

The bedding has also been shown to help autism children nod off, with insomnia being a common symptom of the developmental disorder.

A small study of four autistic youngsters by Idaho State University found the patients got between one and three hours more shut eye when using the blankets.

Weighted blankets may not be for everyone, however. Pregnant women and people with diabetes, heart disease or high blood pressure are advised to speak to their GP before using the bedding.

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