While there are no scientific studies into weighted blankets and Restless Legs Syndrome, people with the condition report good results.
People with Restless Legs Syndrome have a strong urge to move their legs, because of an unpleasant feeling down there. This is often described as a tingling or crawling sensation, but it can also manifest as a painful burning sensation.
The end result is people with RLS, also known as Willis-Ekbom Disease, move around more in bed and toss and turn more in the night. They can also struggle to fall asleep. In fact, RLS and poor-quality sleep are directly linked.
Is RLS keeping you awake?
If you struggle to fall asleep because of restless legs, or you suffer from low-quality sleep because of RLS, you might have heard about a promising therapy called Deep Pressure Stimulation (DPS), which has been successfully used as a non-medicinal method to treat the symptoms of insomnia and anxiety.
DPS is a touch-based therapy which applies a gentle, but firm pressured to the body. It replicates the sensation of being swaddled as a baby - or perhaps more relevantly as an adult - of being cuddled.
The neurological effect this has is profound. DPS has been proven to increase the production of hormones that regulate the sleep-wake cycle in the human body, and lower the output of cortisol, the hormone that causes stress.
The psychological effect this has is equally as profound: people feel calmer wearing a weighted blanket, they feel less stressed, they fall asleep easier, and they have better quality sleep. This quadruple whammy is what makes DPS such a promising non-medicinal technique for treating insomnia and anxiety.
How all this relates to RLS
Restless Legs Syndrome is a neurological movement disorder. It makes you want to move your legs, because you feel sensations running through them. DPS applies firm, but gentle pressure to your legs, which can alleviate the urge.
The reason behind this is both neurological and physical.
On the physical side, having your legs (and your torso) under a weighted blanket is comfortable and reassuring. You can feel the weight on your legs, which is real, and this is a welcome distraction from the sensation caused by RLS.
On the neurological side, deep pressure touch therapy increases melatonin production, which regulates the sleep-wake cycle. In other words, the hormone that helps you sleep is boosted and so too is your ability to sleep.
What real people are saying
Because everyone is different, results vary with weighted blankets and Restless Legs Syndrome. However, well-reviewed products, such as the Koala Blanket, have a number of customers with Restless Legs Syndrome who report good things.
People have reported a weighted blanket for restless legs has helped them to:
- Fall asleep faster
- Stay asleep longer
- Reduce the urge to move their legs
- Boost energy levels as a result of the above
So, in answer to the question of whether weighted blankets work for Restless Legs Syndrome, yes, they can, but results vary.
Because it’s a non-medicinal treatment, it may well be worth a shot to help reduce the symptoms you are suffering from. RLS is a horrible condition to have because there are no obvious external signs of illness. Doctors can only listen to what you describe the condition as being like when determining a treatment.
Some doctors have recommended weighted blankets to those with RLS, although not everyone will benefit from one.
Is there anything to beware of?
Some people with RLS can’t bear to have anything on their legs in bed. If you feel the same way, it is unlikely a weighted blanket will help, because it’s heavier than a duvet so will only agitate you and increase your symptoms.
If, however, you find applying pressure to your legs helps alleviate your symptoms, a weighted blanket could really help. The only way to know is to give it a try, but before you do, there are a few things to bear in mind.
Making the most of a weighted blanket
A weighted blanket for restless legs should be neither too heavy nor too light.
As a general rule of thumb, you should aim for 10% of your body weight, although the golden number is anywhere between 7 and 13%. You might like to try a slightly heavier or lighter blanket to see which works best for you.
The Koala Blanket is available in two weights - 6.8kg and 9kg. If you weigh 85kg or less, we recommend the lighter version. If you weigh over 85kg, we recommend the heavier version.
The great thing about the Koala Blanket is the weighted insert has an even weight distribution, so it is never top or bottom heavy. It always stays the same because the glass beads - which provide the weight - are sewn into small, individual pockets. This ensures they are always in the same place and do not move around.
Using a weighted blanket with Restless Legs Syndrome is quite simple. All you need to do is throw it over your legs when you get into bed. Alternatively, the Koala Blanket has a unique loop and tie system which lets you fix it to your duvet. This ensures your blanket stays put to maximise comfort through the night.
The loop and tie system is also highly beneficial if you have RLS because it ensures the blanket won’t bunch up during the night. So, when you do get the urge to move your legs, there will always be firm, even pressure on them.
The bottom line
If you find compression socks helpful in alleviating the symptoms of Restless Legs Syndrome, or you find swaddling helpful, a weighted blanket could really help maximise your comfort. By applying firm, but gentle pressure to your legs, a weighted blanket can also be very useful in improving sleep quality.The bottom line - if a weighted blanket can help reduce your symptoms by just a little, that’s a big win in the world of RLS because very few things seem to help. It’s non-medicinal too, so has absolutely no risk associated with it.