by Carrie Jurney DVM DACVIM (Neuro)
A NOMV member recently posted a link to a new weighted blanket. Now I feel it's important to note that this particular blanket isn't on the market yet, but after reading through their marketing, I felt compelled to track down some of the science.
The theory of these blankets is this: the weight provides a proprioceptive input that increases production of neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin and increases parasympathetic tone.
The neurologist in me is interested! In looking, this seems to have come from a popular therapy used in autism and other behavioral disorders where weighted vest are used to increase attention and decrease other negative behaviors. I can say that when dealing with my own neurologic patients, many of them do better when placed in a snug blanket. Burrito wrapping a neurologically pacing/dysphoric animal is one of my better tricks to get them to settle down in the hospital. This helps me not resort to sedatives, which in intracranial patients can have unexpected results.
Looking at weighted blankets in people, the literature is a bit divided. Some studies show that this perceived improvement for sleep and attention tasks does not always hold up under scrutiny for total sleep time. Interestingly, they report while there was no objective benefit on their tests, parents and children preferred the weighted blanket. There do seem to be some behavioral improvements on attention tasks and reduction of self-stim & harming behaviors after using it in children with behavioral disorders. But what about adults? I mean truly, my interest lies in whether or not this blanket is going to help me sleep. A study in adults found 63% reported lower anxiety after use, and 78% preferred the weighted blanket as a calming modality. I also found this study in children which showed not only an improvement in attention, but also that the children asked to wear the vest. It should be noted that many of these studies had rather small sample sizes, so the quality of the data is not stellar.
So what does this mean to me? This might have some effect- maybe not every claim of the weighted blanket camp may be true- but people seem to like them and their anxiety decreases. For a therapy as harmless as weighted blankets, that's good enough for me.
Does anyone in the group use weighted blankets?