While science does back the ability of deep pressure to activate the parasympathetic nervous system2 and reduce anxiety, research on weighted pillows is limited. However, one 2021 study3 showed promise that weighted blankets could encourage sleep and relaxation, particularly for children with ADHD or autism spectrum disorder (ASD).
Psychologist Anjali Ferguson, Ph.D., previously told mindbodygreen, “Given the deep pressure effects, these [weighted] blankets can calm the nervous system and stimulate relaxation to promote sleep.” And science backs this, too. One small 2022 study found weighted blankets caused a 30% increase in melatonin levels for young adults, suggesting DPS could be a helpful technique for better sleep as well.
Another small study evaluated the effects of deep pressure on young people with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and severe intellectual disabilities. Results showed improvements in calmness, engagement with activities, responsiveness to instructions or other stimuli in the environment, happiness, and communicativeness4 across most participants.
“Some children with anxiety, ADHD, and autism can experience a sense of calm with deep pressure, which may stimulate the release of serotonin to calm the nervous system,” Ferguson said. “This calmness can allow better focus, more regulation, and improved mood.”
If you’re not sure whether you or your child should use a weighted pillow or blanket, it’s always best to consult with a medical professional. Most weighted pillows and blankets are not recommended for children under four years old—and you should never use them with an infant.