I Tried a Weighted Blanket for Anxiety—And Here’s What Happened
As someone prone to anxiety who also loves a good gadget (my kitchen is filled with one-use-only instruments), I’ve tried many a product that claimed to be the solution to acute or ongoing worry, stress and nervousness. Few of them stand up to their claims, and lots of them are barely worth the time they take to use. So when my therapist suggested trying a weighted blanket to help treat both my acute anxiety and to help me more easily fall asleep at night, I was a bit skeptical. But since some research supports it, and because I’m willing to try almost anything that doesn’t also come with significant side effects, I decided to give it a go. Here’s what happened when I tried a weighted blanket.
My Problem: Anxiety, Ruminating and Mild Insomnia
I manage a portfolio of health issues on the daily, including two autoimmune diseases and a chronic back injury. Autoimmune disorders are linked to higher rates of anxiety and depression for a number of reasons, including that the inflammation usually present with an autoimmune condition can actually impact your brain’s function. What that means in practice in my life: My autoimmune conditions make it easier for my body and brain to get to higher levels of anxiety at a quicker rate—and stress only compounds that. It’s a bit of a vicious cycle.
My anxiety also often leads to an inability to fall asleep. I have that traditional “can’t turn my brain off” feeling, and the things I have to do the next day, or the things I didn’t finish today and round and round it goes, until it’s just turtles, all the way down.
My Solution: A Baloo Living Weighted Blanket
I’ve tried melatonin, 5-HTP, meditation, breathing techniques and the old, don’t-lay-in-bed-for-more-than-20-minutes-if-you-can’t-fall-asleep trick. And some of them kind of worked, at times. But I was ready for a little magic of sorts, something that I didn’t have to actively DO in order to more quickly relax and drift off to dreamland.
The weighted blanket from Baloo Living seemed like an excellent choice for my foray into deep-touch pressure as a means to fall asleep. For one, it’s huge—they offer a queen-size blanket, which felt more legit to me than the personal sizes many companies offer.
The blanket is also eco-friendly and made from certified, chemical-free cotton. That meant no (extra) worrying about what possibly harmful fumes I was inhaling as I tried to sleep. The Baloo Living weighted blanket resembles a regular blanket, but it’s filled with lead-free glass microbeads. These microbeads are sewn into tiny autonomous pockets, which are evenly dispersed throughout the blanket. That creates the “weighted” feeling.
The Treatment: Bed My Baloo Living Weighted Blanket
When I opened the Baloo Living package containing the weighted blanket, I was surprised at how heavy it was. Yes, I’d gone with the 20-pound option, as it’s recommended by the company for those with a hard time falling asleep, and those with anxiety, but 20 pounds, dispersed in a queen-sized blanket is HEAVY. It certainly required effort to lift.
But that’s sort of the point. A weighted blanket is intended to create a cooling, comforting cocoon around your body and therefore your mind, to soothe and calm. It initiates a deep-touch pressure that imitates the sensation you get when you receive a good hug—and that sensation can be calming to the nervous system, which can reduce cortisol levels, and alleviate symptoms of anxiety and light insomnia.
I tested it two ways: First, I used it at night, on top of my comforter, as an added layer to help soothe my anxious thoughts around bedtime. I also used it as a tool during the day, in combination with a guided meditation, when I was feeling stressed or anxious.
The Result: Better Sleep, More Daily Calm
At first, I had a hard time adjusting to the pressure of the blanket when I tried to fall asleep. I loved the calm, soothing feeling I got while laying underneath it, but I found it hard to move around or switch positions. I sleep with a body pillow to help alleviate pressure to my hips and back, and navigating the weighted blanket over that pillow was a bit of a chore. On days when my chronic back injury was flared up, I also found it really hard to physically move the blanket, whether that be to put it on top of me, or to just fold it up and put it away for the day.
But, once I got myself adjusted and comfortable, the heaviness of the blanket was so cozy and so welcoming. I genuinely felt cocooned, and safe. I can’t say I totally understand the official science of how it works (and it could be a placebo effect), but having the gentle pressure on top of me was like flipping a switch in my brain—it was like a natural Xanax. I felt less tension in my chest, I felt like I could breathe more deeply and both of those things seemed to lead to my thoughts being less likely to spiral.
Sleeping with the weighted blanket at night was lovely, but I found its true power to be when I was on the verge of a panic or anxiety attack in the middle of the day. At least once a week, I get worked up over a work deadline, my increasing to-do list or the combination of being a working human trying to balance ongoing health issues with the normal stress of adulting. Usually, I do a deep breathing exercise, take my dog for a quick walk or use an Emotional Freedom Technique (tapping) to circumvent my anxiety.
But since I’ve had the weighted blanket, I’ve employed it, along with a guided meditation, to prevent my stress from becoming debilitating. I stop in the middle of whatever I’m doing, grab the blanket and lay down with it, while a 20-minute guided meditation plays from YouTube on my smartphone.
It’s become a habit because of its effectiveness: It’s trained my brain to know that it’s time to calm down, stop spiraling and reset to manageable. The blanket is a key part of this routine because when I’ve tried meditation in the past, it only sometimes works as an acute treatment. Adding in the weighted blanket makes it a success every time. After 20 minutes, I feel fully capable of going back to work, and my body, mind and spirit are soothed, calm and restored.
The weighted blanket has become an invaluable part of my routine, both for better sleep and for a calmer demeanor. My inner skeptic, along with my inner anxiety, is fully abated.
Interested in other techniques for calming anxiety? This writer tried cold showers—and here’s what happened.