Weighted Blankets in Dementia Care Reduce Anxiety and Improve Sleep

weighted blankets in dementia care

Non-drug options to reduce anxiety in dementia

Alzheimer’s and dementia often cause older adults to feel agitated, anxious, or have disturbed sleep.

A weighted blanket or lap pad is a simple, non-drug option that can be used day or night. They reduce anxiety, calm nerves, provide comfort, and promote deep sleep.

We explain why weighted blankets and lap pads help seniors with dementia, share tutorials on making your own, and help you find good ones to buy.

weighted blankets in dementia careWhat a weighted blanket looks like


Why weighted blankets in dementia care work

Weighted blankets in dementia care may sound silly, but they’ve been scientifically proven to relieve anxiety.

The heaviness of the blanket provides something called deep pressure therapy. When the body feels the gentle pressure, it produces serotonin. That improves mood and promotes calm.

A 2008 study showed that weighted blankets were a safe and effective therapy for decreasing anxiety. These results were later confirmed in a 2012 study that found weighted blankets successfully decreased distress and visible signs of anxiety.



Use a weighted blanket day or night

A weighted blanket for deep pressure therapy can be used anytime – day or night.

If your older adult wakes frequently during the night, consider a weighted blanket that covers their body. The blanket will help them relax and improve sleep quality.

If your older adult is anxious or agitated during the day, use a weighted lap pad for the same calming and soothing effect in a more convenient, compact size.


Certain health issues may make weighted blankets unsafe

Since older adults often have serious medical conditions, we recommend asking a doctor if a weighted blanket is safe for them to use.

People with respiratory, circulatory, or temperature regulation problems may not be able to use a weighted blanket or lap pad. It may also not be safe if your older adult is in recovery from surgery.


How heavy should the blanket be?

The weight of the blanket depends on your older adult’s weight and physical condition.

The typical blanket weight for adults is about 15 to 30 pounds. The standard guideline is that a blanket should be about 10% of your older adult’s body weight, plus 1 or 2 pounds. You’ll probably need to lower that estimate if they’re frail.

Since lap pads cover a smaller area, the typical weight is about 2 to 5 pounds.


If you’re interested in making your own custom-sized weighted lap pad or blanket, keep reading. Otherwise, click here to skip to the next section and find out where you can buy one.


Make your own DIY weighted lap pad or blanket

If you enjoy crafts or sewing, you can easily make your own weighted lap pad or blanket. We’ve rounded up 3 helpful free online tutorials.

Use the tutorials as a guideline and customize the size, weight, filler material, and fabric to suit your older adult’s needs. The most important thing to remember is to divide the filler weight evenly across the entire blanket.

If you use rice or beans for the filling instead of plastic pellets, make sure to have a removable outer cover so you can wash it. Using plastic pellets as filler makes the whole blanket washable, but the pellets are more expensive than rice or beans.

Note: Weighted blankets are sized to fit the user, not the bed. See size guidelines here.

1. No-sew weighted lap pad
This is a good tutorial for an easy, no-sew weighted lap pad that has the added bonus of a “mermaid” cover that provides additional sensory stimulation.

You could easily substitute a plain fabric pillow cover or attach fiddle items to keep restless hands occupied. Get the tutorial

2. No-sew weighted lap pad or blanket
This tutorial shows how to make a no-sew weighted lap pad or blanket. The size is flexible, make it as large or small as you like.

The tutorial uses rice to fill the bags, but you could use other filler materials like beans or plastic pellets. See the tutorial part 1 and part 2

3. Simple weighted lap pad or blanket (sewing required)
This video tutorial clearly walks through each step of sewing a weighted lap pad or blanket in whatever size that will work for your older adult.

We especially like that the video shares tips to help you avoid problems like broken needles, how to keep the heavy blanket supported as you sew, and more.

This woman chose to make her blanket with non-weighted pockets down the sides and with stuffing. Feel free to customize your blanket to your older adult’s preference. You could follow her directions exactly, not use any stuffing for a flatter blanket, or add weight to every single pocket. Get the tutorial



Where to buy a weighted blanket or lap pad

DIY projects aren’t for everyone. If you’d rather buy a weighted blanket or lap pad, we found some good options.

Note: weighted blankets are sized to fit the user, not the bed. Get size guidelines here.

1. More affordable weighted blanket options

2. $30 – 320 SensaCalm weighted blankets and lap pads

  • Lap pads, blankets, shoulder wraps, and other weighted products
  • Weights from 2 – 40 pounds
  • Prices from $30 – 320, based on size, weight, and fabric
  • Choose from a variety of fabric colors, textures, and patterns
  • Customization available on the SensaCalm website

See SensaCalm blanket options

3. $50 – 296 Sommerfly weighted blankets

  • Lap pads, blankets, shoulder wraps, and other weighted products
  • Blankets have a curved cut-out at top for the neck
  • Weights from 3 – 25 pounds
  • Prices from $50 – 296, based on size and weight
  • Customization available on the Sommerfly website

See Sommerfly blanket options

4. $79 – 514 Customizable weighted lap pad or blanket

  • Customize the size, weight, and fabric
  • Weights from 2 – 66 pounds
  • Prices from $79 – 514, based on size, weight, and fabric

See custom lap pad or blanket options


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By DailyCaring Editorial Team
Image: Independent Living Centres Australia


This article wasn’t sponsored, but does contain affiliate links. We never link to products or services for the sole purpose of making a commission. Recommendations are based on our honest opinions. For more information, see How We Make Money.


  • Reply May 16, 2017

    Wendy Davis

    I feel, being a senior myself, that this blanket may help my sleeping situation. I would like to thank you for the concern and research of what is necessary for the comfort of our elderly.


    • Reply May 16, 2017


      I’m so glad this article is helpful! I hope a weighted blanket does help you sleep better.

  • Reply May 1, 2017


    From my work, I know that children on the FASD spectrum often are calmed by using weighted blankets, or pressure vests when they are up.
    Is this the same reason in both cases? I have seen how effective the vests are – would an adult sized pressure vest be useful in a dementia situation?

    • Reply May 1, 2017


      Yes, I think a weighted vest would be a good option too! For a quick DIY option, adding pouches of weighted beads into a vest with multiple pockets would work. Weighted vests for adults are also available for purchase — some are made for athletic use, but would probably work just fine for someone with dementia.

  • Reply March 20, 2017

    annemarie vonderwerth

    Do you have a monthly news letter/magazine? I love the tips!!

    • Reply March 20, 2017


      So glad our suggestions are helpful! We have a free daily email newsletter that keeps you up to date with the latest practical tips and useful resources. Sign up using any of the sign up modules on our site: pop-ups on the page, at the very top of the page, in the right sidebar, and at the bottom of the page.

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