While there has yet to be any specific studies that have been done to prove whether or not weighted blankets have any long term effects on blood pressure, there is at least one study that showed promising results for lowering blood pressure.
Weighted Blanket Test
A study in 2006, released in a 2008 edition of the Occupational Therapy in Mental Health Journal, set out to test the safety and usefulness of using a weighted blanket for anxiety. The 32 participant study measured vital signs at the baseline levels and again after 5 minutes of use with a 30 lb weighted blanket. The vitals checked by the scientists were pulse oximetry, pulse rate, and blood pressure.
To study the effectiveness of the blanket for anxiety, they used an EDA measurement, STAI-10 test, and an exit interview as measures of anxiety. The EDA tests (electrodermal activity) was used as the quantitative measure by testing the increases and decreases in eccrine sweat glands throughout the test.
Official Test Conclusions
The test came back with results showing that weighted blankets are safe to use, at least for people with close to healthy vital signs and not suffering from other ailments such as broken bones or open wounds. Of the 32 people tested, only 1 person’s pulse rate was above their baseline level when using the blanket versus not using the blanket.
Looking at the chart below, you can see the results they gathered for both average diastolic and systolic blood pressure from each participant in the study. They determined that participant #2 did not have reliable results as he/she was likely stressed out from the study. The remainder of the participants kept their systolic and diastolic blood pressure levels consistently near their baseline levels with negligible changes up or down. Besides #2, all other participants remained in the safe ranges for SBP and DBP.
“In sum, it can be concluded that the data from the three different vital sign measures collected show that the use of the 30 lb weighted blanket did not cause the participants to move into an unsafe physiological range.”-Exploring the Safety and Therapeutic Effects of Deep Pressure Stimulation Using a Weighted Blanket
Blood Pressure & Weighted Blankets
What we can try to infer about weighted blankets’ relationship to blood pressure from this study is that it is generally safe for individuals with blood pressure in healthy ranges to use a weighted blanket. There isn’t any takeaway that the blankets can effectively treat high blood pressure or low blood pressure.
Other Theories to Explore
This is the closest current study for tracking blood pressure in relation to weighted blanket use. The study does only take into consideration the immediate effects of one session. So, while the evidence from this study does not support a change in blood pressure directly from weighted blanket use, some believe that continued use of a weighted blanket could help with high blood pressure issues.
DISCLAIMER: Below are a few theories related to lowering blood pressure with weighted blankets. There still needs to be clinical testing to validate any of these ideas. As with any medical condition, you should always discuss any changes to your health plans with your doctor.
The study cited above, along with several others, have proven the effectiveness of weighted blankets for calming anxiety. A leading cause of high blood pressure is stress and anxiety. Studies have shown that stress and anxiety-reducing practices like meditation “may produce clinically significant reductions in systolic and diastolic blood pressure.” With the known effectiveness of stress-reduction from weighted blankets, it should at least be studied as another non-medicine based treatment for treating high blood pressure.
Although anxiety isn’t a cause of long term high blood pressure (or hypertension), anxiety can spike blood pressure in the short term. If these spikes are frequent enough, then there can be some negative health effects on your body, such as damage to vital organs and blood vessels. Lowering anxiety will help to reduce these spikes in blood pressure. In addition, if you ever do have to encounter unavoidable situations that can increase stress and blood pressure, your body will be in much better shape to handle it if you keep your anxiety low most of the time.
Frequent anxiety in some people can also lead to some unhealthy behaviors that have a direct effect on blood pressure. Many people turn to smoking, heavy alcohol drinking, and binge eating to cope with stress and anxiety. These behaviors may offer some release of stress, like smoking to get the edge off. Most likely, these behaviors mask the stress that the individual might be experiencing, like ignoring your life problems by drinking and getting drunk. Some believe that overeating and binge eating is just as bad as smoking, and being the direct cause of obesity, has a direct connection to blood pressure.
Some of these vices can be difficult to break. Smoking causes a physical dependency to the body through nicotine, as well as drinking. And overeating and binge eating can be difficult to break because unlike smoking and drinking alcohol, you must eat. And eating releases dopamine, which rewards the body with a euphoric feeling. This makes it very difficult for some people to lose weight and is why many people resort to binge eating when they feel stress and anxiety. Of course, these behaviors are very unhealthy for you and are not the best way to handle your anxiety.
Effects on Nervous Systems
A weighted blanket can also affect the involuntary nervous systems in your body that regulate functions such as breathing, digestion, and heartbeat. The weighted blanket can have a positive reaction to these systems, helping to regulate them and function as they should. Regulating the involuntary nervous system can help keep blood pressure (as well as other body functions) at normal levels.
So, a weighted blanket might lower the likelihood of falling into the kind of bad habits that can lead to high blood pressure. And in addition to this controlling your anxiety will help to minimize spike in blood pressure associated with anxiety. Healthy behaviors do work as a chain, and any weak links will break the chain. Considering this, a weighted blanket controlling and lowering your anxiety has benefits that extend further than its original intent. It is wise to consult with a doctor first before using a weighted blanket to consider if this will be appropriate for your personal use, do not simply rely on this article! But if appropriate, weighted blankets might just be a great way to get your body at a healthy state.