Alternative Medicine

Gravity Weighted Blanket Sellers Walk Back Some Claims

As first reported by Scientific American, sometime in the past week the sellers of the much publicized Gravity weighted blanket began removing some of the bolder claims used to hawk the product on the crowdfunding website Kickstarter. Gone are promises like the ones I found on an archived page from May 05, 2017:

  • “a proven anxiety treatment”
  • “. . . can be used to treat” insomnia, PTSD, ADHD, OCD and anxiety
  • “. . .┬ácan actually prevent these panic attacks . . .”

They also tweaked some of their spiel. For example, “Promotes production of serotonin and melatonin, reducing stress and anxiety,” is now “Studies have shown weighted blankets increase serotonin and melatonin levels.”

The people behind the Gravity blanket haven’t said what, if anything, prompted them to purge their Kickstarter page of those particular phrases. Nor did they explain why they felt comfortable leaving in claims that, in my opinion, could be equally troubling to the FDA. Take for example:

  • It’s like Advil PM for your whole body.

And the company’s undated press release announcing the Gravity blanket still holds the claim that “90% of those [with PTSD or autism] who use weighted blankets experience reduced anxiety”.

For its part, Kickstarter prohibits the selling of “Any item claiming to cure, treat, or prevent an illness or condition.” And the FDA announced last year that it had no intention of chasing after sellers of what it calls “low-risk wellness products“.

The Gravity weighted blanket has a Kickstarter price of $169; similar products are available on artisan-friendly Etsy for as little as $45.

What Science Says About Comfort Objects Like Weighted Blankets

Weighted blankets for conditions like panic, anxiety and autism are nothing new but the science behind them is. The earliest indexed study I can find goes back only to 2012 and looked at what are called sensory rooms, or comfort rooms, in psychiatric facilities. In this pilot study from Australia, the use of weighted blankets did not reduce patients’ aggression but did lower their anxiety and feelings of distress.

A 2014 study published in the journal Pediatrics looked specifically at weighted blankets for the treatment of what the researchers described as “severe sleep problems” in kids with autism. Although the children reported liking the blankets, they did not appear to fall asleep faster, sleep longer or wake less often throughout the night.

Will “Investors” In Gravity Blanket Get A Refund?

To date, the Gravity Kickstarter campaign has raised nearly $3.5 million. There is no word on whether anyone pre-ordering under the impression that they were getting “a proven treatment” is seeking, or would get, a refund.