Whether you live with an anxiety disorder or are experiencing more stress than usual, a weighted blanket might help bring some relief.

There’s a reason why a warm embrace can make you feel better when you’re stressed or why bundling up in a thick quilt on the couch is soothing.

When your body is on edge from life’s challenges, every one of your senses can feel as though it’s in high gear. You may experience trembling, increased heart rate, or disrupted sleep.

A weighted blanket might offer you the comfort of a hug with the all-over coverage of your favorite quilt.

A weighted blanket looks just like any other blanket. You probably wouldn’t notice any difference until you lift it and discover it’s much heavier than it should be.

What gives weight blankets their weight is their filling.

Unlike standard blankets that might use feathers or polyester-type stuffing, weighted blankets are typically stuffed with glass beads or plastic pellets. Heavier blankets may even use ball bearings.

The exact weight of the blanket you buy will depend on the manufacturer, but weighted blankets come in various sizes, often weighing between 3 and 30 pounds or more.

You can also find weighted blankets for anxiety in many styles to match your décor, from bedspreads to ones that resemble knitted works of art.

You don’t need a reason to use a weighted blanket. Maybe you toss and turn at night, and you’re less likely to kick off something that has a little substance to it.

More commonly, people turn to weighted blankets for help with:

These conditions often come with sensory challenges that respond positively to pressure application.

That doesn’t mean you can’t find comfort in a weighted blanket if you’re living with depression. If you’d enjoy the calm of an embrace, a weighted blanket could be right for you.

The theory behind how weighted blankets work for anxiety is linked to the study of deep pressure therapy (DPT).

While there’s no current evidence that weighted blankets generate deep pressure stimulation, experts believe this is a fundamental component of why they can be effective.

DPT is the application of deep pressure to the body, primarily through physical touch.

Experts have been exploring the benefits of DPT on anxiety for decades. As early as 1987, research looked closely at its effects and found promising calming results for those living with anxiety.

This type of therapy works by switching your body from its sympathetic nervous system to its parasympathetic nervous system.

The sympathetic nervous system is what’s responsible for survival mode. It’s your fight, flight, or freeze response — a natural reaction to stress exposure.

Your parasympathetic nervous system has the opposite effects on the body. It’s the system that takes back over when you no longer need your fight or flight reactions.

Deep pressure has a calming effect on the body. Research suggests it can have immediate effects for individuals with sensory challenges, such as those with autism spectrum disorder or severely impaired by intellectual disability.

While weighted blankets, specifically, have not yet been proven to provide deep pressure stimulation, a study on weighted vests revealed that they offered a level of deep pressure that triggered parasympathetic nervous system responses.

Weighted blankets can offer the same weight as vests, making it possible they also provide DPT benefits.

Anxiety is all about your nervous system’s response to stress.

When you’re experiencing anxiety, your brain tells your body there’s a threat it needs to prepare for. This kicks your sympathetic nervous system into gear, and you’re ready to survive whatever comes next.

Sometimes, though, anxiety doesn’t go away. It can linger, or you may never fully disengage from what’s causing you significant stress.

This constant state of nervous system arousal can begin to wear on your body.

Weighted blankets might help you break the cycle, allowing your parasympathetic system to take over — at least for a little while.

Research supporting their use has been very promising.

A randomized controlled study on weighted blankets for insomnia and psychiatric disorders found they were effective and safe for conditions such as generalized anxiety disorder.

Anxiety reduction was also witnessed in a study evaluating patients receiving chemotherapy treatments and research following adults during inpatient mental health hospitalization.

A recent systematic review, which looked collectively at eight studies of weighted blankets, agreed there appeared to be benefits for their use in helping with anxiety.

Experts conducting the review noted, however, that only limited research is currently available on the subject.

There’s no right or wrong time to use it.

If you’ve had a difficult day at work, you may want to come home and spend an hour on the couch with your weighted blanket. If you’re having trouble sleeping, you may want to use your weighted blanket all night.

What can matter, though, is the weight of your blanket. You might prefer a lighter blanket, while someone else may want theirs to be as heavy as possible.

Generally, most manufacturers recommend starting with a blanket that weighs approximately 10% of your body weight.

If you’re considering a weighted blanket for your child, a healthcare or mental health professional can help you decide what weight is appropriate.

Using a blanket that’s too heavy for a child could increase the chances of suffocation.

Certain health conditions might also prevent you from using weighted blankets for anxiety.

If you experience breathing issues, claustrophobia, or circulatory conditions, your healthcare professional may suggest alternative methods of DPT.

A growing body of research supports using weighted blankets for anxiety.

The consistent pressure of weighted blankets may replicate the benefits of deep pressure therapy and stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system.

When your parasympathetic nervous system is active, feelings related to stress exposure begin to decline.

Weighted blankets don’t require a prescription, but you may want to speak with a healthcare or mental health professional about using one.

People with certain medical conditions may experience increased health challenges from weighted blankets.

Blankets that are too heavy for young children may increase the chances of suffocation.

Weighted blankets come in plenty of colors, sizes, and styles to fit any design aesthetic.