The Weighted Blanket Solution to sleep better for Restless Legs

Restless Legs: Weighted Blanket Therapy To Help You Sleep Better

Woman walking while holding her leg, possibly experiencing discomfort

Image courtesy of Canva/Africa Images

Emma had always been a light sleeper, but the past few months had introduced a new challenge for which she wasn’t prepared. 

A few minutes after lying down to sleep, Emma started to experience an uneasy feeling in her legs. The sensations were difficult to describe, sometimes they felt like pins and needles, and other times more like waves of tingling, and an irresistible urge to move her legs. It felt like tiny creatures were scurrying beneath her skin, forcing her to kick her legs and rid herself of the uncomfortable sensations. 

Sleep was becoming a fight between her and her legs, and her daytime activities suffered because she was exhausted, and dreaded the thought of sitting still for too long or going to sleep. This thing was taking over her life, but what was it? And more importantly, what could be done to get rid of it?

Restless Leg Syndrome

Emma consulted her doctor who explained that she was suffering from restless leg syndrome, a sleep disorder that affects sleep quality and eventually leads to sleep deprivation. 

Also known as Willis-Ekbom Disease, it is a neurological disorder characterized by overwhelming periodic limb movements, often accompanied by uncomfortable sensations. [1] 

These sensations can vary from person to person but are commonly described as:

  • Crawling
  • Creeping
  • Pulling
  • Throbbing
  • Aching
  • Itching
  • Mild electric shocks

In America and Canada, restless legs syndrome affects between 4% and 30% of the adult population. [2] Yet for many years RLS was not recognized as a legitimate medical condition, preventing sufferers from receiving scientifically based treatment. 

Causes of RLS

Unfortunately, the causes of RLS are not well understood. Some theories have suggested that it may be a result of a disturbance in the part of your brain that affects movement, the basal ganglia. The basal ganglia uses dopamine to regulate movement in your body and an imbalance in this neurotransmitter can cause an array of symptoms, including restless legs. 

Other studies on how to treat restless legs syndrome have discovered the following commonalities in people with RLS.

  • A genetic anomaly (autosomal dominant) passed on from a biological parent. 
  • Iron deficiency that affects delicate neurotransmitter balances in your brain. This can occur despite normal blood-iron levels.
  • Any co-morbid medical condition that affects dopamine levels. This would cause secondary RLS, which means the condition is related to another health condition you have.
  • Certain medications such as antihistamines, antidepressants, and antinausea tablets, or other medications that affect the sleep hormone, melatonin.
  • Diabetes, peripheral neuropathy (stabbing, burning, or tingling in the limbs), substance abuse.

Certain substances can aggravate or trigger RLS, in combination with the causes mentioned above. Caffeine, nicotine, alcohol, and stress have been implicated in worsening symptoms. [3] Stress is a factor for elevating the stress hormone, cortisol which is implemented in a range of sleep disorders.

Armed with an understanding of her condition, Emma decided on natural therapies and a weighted blanket as treatment options. This decision made a big difference to her RLS symptoms and paved the way for healthy sleeping habits.

Let’s take a look at Emma’s approach, but first, if you would like to benefit from the use of a weighted blanket, Gravid - Canada’s #1 online weighted blanket supplier is offering RLS sufferers a discount on their weighted blanket purchase, to help you get rid of those unpleasant symptoms. 

Person unwinding in bed with a cup, making a peace sign under a weighted blanket

The weighted blanket loved by 60,000 Canadians

Natural treatments for RLS

Treatment for RLS will likely involve several options, including sleep medications. Here we discuss a natural approach to managing your condition, which includes the use of weighted blankets.

  • Avoid caffeine, nicotine, alcohol, and other stimulants 4 hours before bedtime.
  • Apply heat or ice packs to your legs. This will vary according to the individual because some sufferers get relief from heat and others from cold. 
  • Elevate your legs when sleeping. Some sufferers have reported that putting a pillow under the knees or lower legs has helped to alleviate sensations. 
  • Drink calming teas such as camomile, passion flower, and California poppy throughout the day.
  • Take magnesium, a natural muscle relaxant. This can be in supplement form or naturally by eating bananas avocados, legumes, seeds, and fatty fish. 
  • Deal with reasons for stress, worry, and anxiety since these concerns can disrupt delicate biomechanical mechanisms in your body, leading to imbalances. 

Weighted blanket therapy for restless leg syndrome

The use of a weighted blanket for restless legs is gaining in popularity due to its effectiveness. Although not the conventional treatment for RLS, sufferers are lauding its effectiveness in weighted blanket reviews online.  

Deep pressure stimulation

Person enjoying a massage, lying face down on a massage bed.

Image courtesy of Canva/Getty Images

One of the reasons it helps to calm twitching legs, and unpleasant sensations is because it simulates deep touch pressure therapy, originally used for sufferers of anxiety and panic attacks, it is the application of gentle pressure to the limbs, or back through squeezing. To understand this, think of a hug or a gentle foot massage. 

This gentle pressure has an inhibitory effect on the sympathetic nervous system, producing a calming effect for the patient. Weighted blankets provide the same gentle deep-pressure stimulation, thus increasing muscle relaxation and producing a feeling of relaxation and well-being. For sufferers experiencing RLS symptoms due to stress and anxiety, this provides relief from unpleasant symptoms. 

Try a weighted blanket for relief of RLS symptoms

Does a weighted blanket work for RLS?

Evidence supported by the Journal of Sleep Medicine and Disorders has shown the effects of using a weighted blanket on insomnia and other sleep disorders such as RLS. Focusing on natural therapies, it concluded that a weighted blanket that is no more than 10% of a person’s body weight is beneficial for the relief of symptoms. The chain (knitted) weighted blanket was found to be helpful in muscle and nervous system conditions, as well as other types of blankets that we will discuss shortly. 

Over three months, various self-assessment questionnaires were given to sufferers and the results were tracked. Sufferers were evaluated to be suffering from moderate to severe insomnia due to a variety of conditions. After using a weighted blanket nightly for three months, the sufferers considered a marked improvement in sleep quality and mental health. 

In another study by Journal of Occupational Therapy in Mental Health 78% of participants reported its effectiveness as a calming modality and 33% reported lower anxiety levels.

Lastly, a study called: Weighted Blanket Therapy for Periodic Limb Movement Disorder, reported that weighted blankets can be considered as an option for primary treatment when a patient does not want to take medication.  

Suitable weighted blankets for RLS

In this section, we examine different types of weighted blankets for RLS sufferers. We know that everyone is different and what works for one person, may have the opposite effect on another. Our recommendations come from the Gravid range of weighted blankets. 

Plush weighted blankets

Ultra Plush Blanket by Gravid

Ultra Plush Blanket by Gravid

This weighted blanket is filled with glass beads that are evenly distributed within ‘pockets’. An outer cover of plush fabric called TENCEL™ Lyocell provides a warm, luxurious feel that helps you fall asleep. Derived from the eucalyptus plant it wicks away moisture and can hold the inner weighted blanket without tearing. 

The plush weighted blanket is for RLS sufferers who have had success applying heat to their legs. 

Blanket review:

‘My new Gravid weighted blanket: I had lots of trouble with restless legs. I have no more problems with my legs and it just feels like a really nice hug. You're all cozy and tucked in. I've also got the cooling cover on it... helps stop the night sweats! If you're thinking about getting one, you should definitely get it. They are awesome!’

  • Penny - verified purchase

Yes! I want to purchase this blanket now.

Cooling weighted blankets

Woman sleeping soundly in bed, covered with a Gravid cooling weighted blanket

Breeze™ Cooling Weighted Blanket by Gravid

Based on the same principles and materials as the plush design, this weighted blanket has a cooling outer cover. Calling on the cooling properties of TENCEL™ Lyocell, the blanket provides deep pressure stimulation without adding extra heat.

The  Breeze™ Cooling weighted blanket is for RLS sufferers who have had success applying cold therapies to their legs. 

Fiona, a satisfied customer gives her testimony about how this blanket keeps you cool even in a heat wave.

Blanket review:

‘I struggle hard with anxiety and PTSD, and found my old weighted blanket far too warm in the summer. When I had the opportunity to replace it, I did some research and found Gravid. The recent heat wave was no match for it! I swear it stays cool by way of sorcery, and I am 100% okay with that!’

  • Fiona - verified purchase

I’ll take one of those - thanks!

Knitted weighted blankets

Knit Weighted Blanket by Gravid

Chunky Knit Weighted Blanket by Gravid

As mentioned in the Journal of Medicine sleep study the knitted weighted blanket provides the best of both worlds. 

The meticulous hand-weaving process creates tiny pockets of space within the fabric, promoting the circulation of air and preventing any buildup of heat. As a result, you stay cool and comfortable, even during warmer months. In winter, the plush microfiber and polyester yarn work together to trap body heat on chilly nights, ensuring you stay snug and toasty without overheating. 

The Chunky Knit weighted blanket is for RLS sufferers who want deep pressure therapy and are not affected by heat or cold. 

Blanket review:

‘I was hesitant to buy this blanket but I decided to take the gamble on this Gravid Chunky Knit one because the only other two options I found was Hush and it was $120 more - and the Silk n' snow reviews, in particular, said that the blankets had an odour (which I really didn't want to deal with). I'm happy to report the gamble paid off! Thankfully, no odour. It's my new favourite blanket! Weighted blankets have been crucial for my sleep (I used to have insomnia from general anxiety), so was happy to find this option. I've had regular weighted blankets before this one, but they were weighted with beads that leaked and shifted around a lot. I found this one looking for an option without beads. It is so far proving much better - the weight distribution is really even and it feels soft and sturdy. I also love how breathable it is with the knitted design. I've been able to comfortably wrap myself in it. I will say, the grey one I ordered is more of a blueish, steal-grey. But it's still an appealing color - somewhat softer and less industrial/sterile looking. Like my previous weighted blankets, the twin size only covers the top of a twin bed (rather than going over the sides like a comforter). Since my other weighted blankets also fit like this, I think that's pretty standard, but keep that in mind if you're actually looking for a comforter.’

  • Lucas B - verified purchase

  • Where can I get one of these?

    A good night’s sleep for everyone

    Thanks for sticking with us. In this article, we’ve examined the causes of RLS and natural therapies that will help you get a good night’s rest. The star of the show is the weighted blanket which is gaining in popularity in Canada, the U.S., and Europe for conditions like RLS, bringing relief to thousands of sufferers. 

    We would love to hear from you when you find our blankets helpful for your condition. This can also help others who are looking for a natural way to treat their restless legs. Find us on Instagram and facebook.

    Until next time.