Home Healthy Aging Weighted Blankets for Restless Legs – Do They Work?

Weighted Blankets for Restless Legs – Do They Work?

by Virginia Fidler
unhappy woman in bed

Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS) is estimated to impact up to 7-10 percent of the U.S. population. RLS occurs in both men and women, although women are more likely to have it than men. As people seek relief from the symptoms, many consider weighted blankets for restless legs. But can weighted blankets help?

The value of a good night’s sleep seems to increase with age. Seniors often complain of restless sleep – or not being able to sleep at all. We’ve written about the benefits of recliners for sleeping, adjustable beds, and even sleeping with a stomach ulcer because the struggle is real. Here we’ll look specifically at RLS, and whether weighted blankets actually work to help relieve the symptoms.

Restless Leg Syndrome and Sleep-Disturbing Symptoms

Restless leg syndrome, also know Willis-Ekbom Disease, causes an uncomfortable sensation in the legs and an irresistible urge to move them. Symptoms occur in the late afternoon or evening hours, and are often at their worst at night when a person is resting. They may also occur when someone is inactive and sitting for extended periods.

Since symptoms often increase in severity during the night, it could become difficult to fall asleep or return to sleep after waking up. Symptoms can also disturb the sleep of loved ones lying next to the person. Moving the legs or walking typically relieves the discomfort but the sensations often recur once the movement stops.

Restless leg syndrome is classified as a sleep disorder since the symptoms are triggered by resting and attempting to sleep, and as a movement disorder, since people are forced to move their legs in order to relieve symptoms. However, it is best characterized as a neurological sensory disorder with symptoms that are produced from within the brain itself.

RLS can cause exhaustion and daytime sleepiness, which can affect mood, concentration, job and school performance, and personal relationships. People with RLS are often unable to concentrate, have impaired memory, or fail to complete daily tasks. Left untreated RLS can lead to about a 20 percent decrease in work productivity and can contribute to depression and anxiety. 

It may begin at any age. Many individuals who are severely affected are middle-aged or older, and the symptoms typically become more frequent and last longer with age.

To prevent or treat RLS, it’s important to understand why it happens. For some seniors, the condition is primarily genetic. About 50 percent of people with the condition have a parent or sibling who also experiences this. RLS can be aggravated by certain medications. If the senior (RLS in older adults) starts displaying signs of the condition, check to see whether it is a side effect of a new medication. RLS has been linked to allergy medications, antidepressants, and anti-nausea drugs.

It can also be brought on by excessive alcohol consumption and prolonged sleep deprivation. Understanding what triggers RLS, may help the person to mitigate the symptoms. Help the senior keep a journal, noting when the symptoms are most severe, and try to identify what triggers them. Triggers can range from excess sugar consumption to inadequate sleep. 

Fortunately, most cases of RLS can be treated with non-drug therapies and if necessary, medications.

Do Weighted Blankets for Restless Legs Work?

woman in bed

Weighted blankets are one of the newest and most popular sleep products on the market. The blankets contains glass beads, plastic pellets, ball bearings, or other materials that add to the blanket’s overall weight. They provide warmth, weight, and comfort. They weight and associated pressure that the weight creates is what sets them apart from traditional blankets.

Scientific evidence for their efficacy is inconclusive, and experts assert that more research is needed to determine if weighted blankets actually lessen the impact of anxiety, insomnia, or RLS.

Some weighted blanket manufacturers claim health benefits. (Always talk to your doctor before use if you have an underlying medical condition.) Many individuals enjoy weighted blankets and feel that they enhance the sleep experience.

The claimed benefits behind the extra pressure from these blankets is that they reduce anxiety and help stimulate sleep.

On the subject of weighted blankets for RLS, Dr. Andy Berkowski writes:

But in terms of what I tell patients is it could be a double-edged sword. Because one, the weighted blankets are going to prevent movement because you have something heavy on the legs. So some people, it may be unhelpful to them. But for other people, maybe that pressure and the weight from the weighted blanket could provide some stimulation to the legs that might replace that need to move the legs to relieve that restless sensation. But I would leave that up to the individual. 

What to Look for in Weighted Blankets

weighted blankets for restless legs on couch

Weighted blankets are a type of at-home measure that can provide similar benefits to deep pressure therapy. These blankets have shown positive results for several conditions, including autism, ADHD, and anxiety. They can help calm a restless body, reduce feelings of anxiety, and improve sleep troubles.

When choosing a weighted blanket for yourself, find a snug size that’s around 10 percent of your body weight.

Tips for Choosing the Correct Weight

Don’t choose a blanket weight based on the heaviest available option. Find a blanket that comprises 10% of your body weight. The goal of the weight is to help calm the sympathetic nervous system, which will help you feel more relaxed when it’s time to settle down for the night.

  • A weighted blanket should be 5 to 10 percent of your body weight. The weighted blanket should also fit snugly to the size of the bed.
  • Adults can use medium to large weighted blankets ranging from 12 to 30 pounds.
  • For a 20 to 70 pound child, a small weighted blanket should weigh from 3 to 8 pounds.
  • For a 30 to 130 pound child, a medium weighted blanket should weigh from 5 to 15 pounds.
  • Older adults should use small or medium weighted blankets ranging from 5 to 8 pounds.

Make sure that the materials are sectioned off effectively before purchasing the blanket. Many come with built-in grids or sewn-in sections that are visible from the outside of the blanket.

Bead Material

Most of the beads are made of glass, ceramic, or heavy-duty plastic. This can also contribute to the temperature, and some brands claim they have beads that can keep you cooler.

3 Great Weighted Blankets for Restless Legs

1) Gravity Blanket

The Gravity Blanket s various weights (15, 20, and 35 pounds). It is soft, comfortable, and washable. This blanket is great as it is covered with a soft microfleece.

Gravity Blankets Weighted Blanket for Adults, 15 lbs Grey 48"x72" Twin/Single, The Original Weighted Blanket for Sleep, Cotton Made Blanket with Washable Removable Microfiber Duvet Cover
  • TROUBLE SLEEPING? Gravity Blanket offers a Premium Weighted Blanket that uses lightweight on the body to improve sleep quality. The latest generation of Gravity's Original Blanket features internal upgrades while maintaining the blanket's signature look and feel.
  • HIGH-QUALITY DESIGN: Our exterior Duvet Cover is made of super-soft micro-fleece material. While the interior of the Weighted Blanket is made of 100% cotton and fine-grade glass beads. Our upgraded zipper system helps the blanket stay inside the duvet. Gridded stitching on the weighted inner ensures the glass beads remain uniformly distributed that helps you wind down.

The inside is made of cotton and very small glass beads that are separated by a grid that keeps them evenly distributed. The Gravity Blanket is machine washable, making it easy clean.

2) ZonLi Cooling Weighted Blanket

This blanket comes in various sizes, and contains glass beads that are separated by an inner grid. The duvet is made from a cooling bamboo and cotton blend.

ZonLi Bamboo Weighted Blanket Queen Size, Cooling Weighted Blankets for Restful Sleep(15 lbs, 60''x80'', Sea Grass), Summer Breathable Heavy Blanket Premium Material with Glass Beads
  • 【Cooling Cooling Cooling Fabric】The weighted blanket is made of 100% bamboo viscose, cooling, ultra soft & smooth. It's perfect for hot summer nights to enable hot sleepers to stay drier and cooler.
  • 【4 Reasons Why to Choose ZonLi Weighted Blanket】Each design has a unique role. (1) High-density sewing technology, two-layer microfiber are added to prevent the loose of the thread and leakage of the beads. (2) Smaller squares to distribute glass beads inside the blanket evenly. (3) Two-layer 100% Bamboo Viscose to keep you cool and comfortable. (4) Loops to secure the duvet cover.

This blanket also has convenient loops that allow you to attach the duvet to the blanket.

3) Baloo Weighted Blanket

The Baloo Weighted Blanket is filled with glass beads that are distributed equally by an inner grid. It comes in a queen and king size. The blanket is super soft and made of breathable cotton that doesn’t trap in heat.

Soft Weighted Blanket, Heavy Cotton Quilted Blanket from Baloo (20 lb Full/Queen Blanket, 60x80 in., Pebble White)
  • Premium Quality Materials: Baloo soft weighted blanket is made of high quality, breathable cotton for maximum comfort and safety. Baloo is the ONLY quilted weighted blanket made with 100% cotton — free from polyester & synthetic liners — for cool, natural sleep.
  • Deep Rest and Relaxation: The tight, quilted pattern holds the weighted filling snugly in place so you never have to worry about the weight bunching or pooling. The soft white color promotes calmness, comfort, and hope.

This blanket comes in 20 and 15 pound options and you can wash the entire blanket, not just the duvet.

Summary

Restless Leg Syndrome is a disease that impacts 7-10% of the population, impacting more women than men. It can force the individual to feel the need to move their legs and it is most noticeable at night, often leading to disturbed sleep.

The evidence behind weighted blankets helping with RLS is inconclusive. While it is not endorsed by the medical community it is also not ruled out as a method of helping people who suffer from RLS. The results, it seems, vary from individual to individual.

The only way to know if weighted blankets can help alleviate your RLS symptoms is to try sleeping with one. The costs are reasonable and could be well worth the purchase if it helps. The blankets could offer a non-pharmacological solution to an otherwise sleep-disrupting problem.

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