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Should People With Lung Disease Avoid Weighted Blankets?

For the last year or so, I’ve used a weighted blanket (off and on, because making such a blanket out of duct tape, Ziploc bags and rice is maybe not the best solution and sometimes they break open). I’ve always slept with lots of blankets and layers, and eventually stumbled across the concept of the weighted blanket (which, is great for not only some people with autism or anxiety, but also those of us with ADHD with some sensory processing issues, AKA me), however, repeatedly I read the same verbatim caution from the internet, if you have respiratory or circulatory issues, you should not use a weighted blanket. This caution extends as well to those with strength issues who may become trapped under a blanket that weighs somewhere from 10-15% of their body weight.

Well, Asthma.Net, guess what? I have asthma! The cautious people of the internet suggest I not use a weighted blanket. But I also have ADHD, and the people of the internet said that weighted blankets might be helpful to me. Such blankets are stated to be calming,1 increase relaxation, help people fall asleep faster, sleep longer, and experience better sleep quality as evidenced in waking up more easily, feeling more rested, and feeling more positive, in at least a third of the trial group.2 Lots of people without ADHD or autism (and so on) also experience better sleep or daytime relaxation with weighted blankets. The research is not extensive, but it does exist.

But what about this claim for those of us with lung issues? That we, too, should not try to benefit from the use of a weighted blanket? How founded are those claims?

What’s the risk of weighted blanket use in people with lung disease?

I have not found any research that speaks specifically to using a weighted blanket for those of us with lung disease, at least nothing beyond the claims that we should not use one, which seems to be made without evidence. I tried to consider why these claims would be made and considered other phenomena that may have linked to this recommendation.

Alongside people with asthma or COPD, it is recommended those with obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) also not use weighted blankets. Often, OSA is associated with central (abdominal) obesity, increasing the physical work of breathing. This can also occur in asthma—often asthma is more difficult to control in people who are obese than it is in people who are not. Having extra weight on the anterior (front of the body) chest wall,3 makes the work of breathing greater as the lungs have more to push up against as they expand to take air in.

My conclusion here is that a weighted blanket simply will add to the resistance that our lungs, diaphragm, and intercostal muscles have to work against to breathe—extra work of breathing may cause more issues with asthma (or breathing issues that are perceived to be related to asthma), thus influencing the recommendation for those of us with lung disease to not use these items.

Giving an educated “try”

You guys know by now that I throw caution to the wind. It’s why I constantly say your asthma may vary (hat tip to Bennet Dunlap of YDMV – Your Diabetes May Vary), and why the choices I make are not always the right ones and I share my adventures and misadventures so that you can use that knowledge.

It’s fair to say that I don’t make educated guesses—I make educated trys.

My educated try is not research, but, I have not felt or experienced any difference in my own asthma at night using a weighted blanket. I feel I fall asleep faster, sleep better, however, per my SleepCycle data of a sample of 254 nights (127 with a weighted blanket and 127 without), the differences is not as striking as I feel it to be. With “0% sleep quality” nights (??) removed, my average sleep quality for the 127 nights without a weighted blanket was 74% without the weighted blanket, and 75%… so nothing statistically significant.

Should weighted blankets be avoided by people with lung disease?

Just like everything, it’s not a one size fits all. I have found my 13 pound weighted blankets to be beneficial in relaxation for me, and not detrimental to my breathing. However, people with more severe asthma/lung disease, muscle weakness, or who are obese, may experience more issues with extra weight on their body, and it may not be a good idea. The best choice is to speak with your doctor, and perhaps consider using a smaller weighted blanket over your legs only to ensure breathing is not restricted.

Have you used or considered using a weighted blanket with asthma? How did using a weighted blanket impact your asthma?

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The Asthma.net team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

  1. Off-Campus Access to Subscription Digital Resources. Libproxy Access Authentication. http://www-tandfonline-com.libproxy.uwinnipeg.ca/doi/pdf/10.1300/J004v24n01_05?needAccess=true. Accessed March 13, 2017.,/li>
  2. Västmanland. Follow-up of the use of weighted blanket Report. http://www.sensisereni.it/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/Follow-Up-of-the-use-of-Weighted-Blankets-Region-V%C3%A4stmanland-.compressed.pdf. Published 2012. Accessed March 13, 2017.
  3. Zammit C, Liddicoat H, Moonsie I, Makker H. Obesity and respiratory diseases. International Journal of General Medicine. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2990395/. Published 2010. Accessed March 13, 2017.

Comments

  • TracyLee
    5 months ago

    Developing asthma as an adult, I had to stop using “heavy” (not nearly as heavy as weighted blankets) in winter and instead zoom the thermostat up to 60F at night. (We used to keep it at 55F.)

    Perhaps sleep position is a factor? When I’m lying on my side, I like the cuddly warmth of heavy blankets. But when lying on my back, no matter how much I wanted to continue to use them, the extra weight triggered coughing.

  • Leon Lebowitz, RRT moderator
    5 months ago

    Hi TracyLee and thanks for this post. We appreciate you sharing your experience using ‘heavy’ blankets with your condition. What struck me is that you have kept the house at 55 degrees – that is pretty cold to keep a house. Even 60 degrees (which is the temperature you ‘zoomed it up to’), is pretty cold for indoors. How did you manage in that cold in your house setting?
    Leon (site moderator)

  • Leon Lebowitz, RRT moderator
    5 months ago

    Hi again, TracyLee and thanks for your reply and explanation. I got a chuckle out of the story about your grandmother, too, shoveling in the 23 degree weather! Warm regards, Leon (site moderator)

  • TracyLee
    5 months ago

    Thank you for your interest. Years ago I read a list of what people in climates hotter or colder than mine consider a comfortable temperature range. From Greenland to Ethiopia, not everyone reported that 70F was ideal, which I had assumed.

    My spouse and I decided to see if we could adapt to being comfortable at a wider range of temperatures. Motivation was not only reducing utility bills (which increased a lot when I developed adult onset asthma and started running multiple purifiers year-round) but also to make us more comfortable for off-season camping in early spring (less campers so less campfire smoke) and hiking in hot weather (less hikers so less dogs running loose). If I had to limit myself to good air quality days AND a temperature range of 55 to 85 outside, I would be stuck inside even more than I already am.

    Good warm clothing is no longer limited to expensive sportswear. and by adding in a little physical exercise every few hours on a cold day, and I’m good. Tolerating extra heat is fine with extra water and resting in the shade when outside.

    As we grow older, we may not be as adaptable. On the other hand, when we called my 88-year-old asthmatic mother-in-law this morning, she was outside shoveling the addditional 5 inches of overnight snowfall. The temperature was 23F.

  • RWmC
    5 months ago

    I suppose it depends upon the individual. Having sleep apnea and a paralyzed diaphragm, I’m sure an RT or Pulmonologist would tell me NO! However, I also suffer from narcolepsy and need to take medication to put me into REM sleep. But, that med can make me act abnormal, when I need to awaken during the night. I also tend to thrash around sometimes waking my wife up. I purchased a weighted blanket, which was intended for my son. But, I used the new blanket for three nights, when it arrived. While I did tend to find it somewhat heavy, maybe because of my respiratory issues, though I didn’t feel my breathing was further compromised, my spouse said I slept more quietly and didn’t thrash around as much. So, in my case, I think its benefits outweigh the risks. But, I would opt for a lighter weight and certainly not use the 10 percent rule.

  • John Bottrell, RRT moderator
    5 months ago

    As an RT, I’ve never even heard about weighted blankets prior to reading this post. And I think you’re right, that it certainly would depend on the individual. In your case, it certainly seems that it proved beneficial for you, and that’s certainly a good thing. Thanks for sharing your experience. John. Site Moderator.

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