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“Gravity blanket” on Kickstarter that claimed to use cozy pressure to treat anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, and other conditions has been taking the internet by storm, raising more than $3 million. But on Thursday, the company quietly deleted the bold medical claims on its crowdfunding site — language that violated Kickstarter policy and went against FDA recommendations — after STAT inquired about its promotional statements.

The creators of Gravity call their product a “premium-grade, therapeutic weighted blanket” intended to treat psychiatric illnesses. People quickly snuggled up to the idea: More than 15,000 donors contributed to the Kickstarter campaign to help get the blanket to the market, where it’s projected to sell for as much as $279.

A slew of publications have touted the product with headlines such as, “I Want This Anti-Anxiety Blanket and You Will Too.” But the science behind the blanket’s claims is scarce— as STAT found by reviewing the studies the manufacturer cites as evidence for its claims.

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The Kickstarter campaign made big promises: “The science behind Gravity reveals that it can be used to treat a variety of ailments, including insomnia, post-traumatic stress disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, as well as circumstantial stress and prolonged anxiety.”

But on Thursday afternoon, that language was swapped to say the blanket could be “used” for those conditions, rather than treat them. Then, the section disappeared entirely. The makers haven’t posted an update about the changes for their buyers.

The blanket’s creators didn’t respond to a request for comment. After STAT inquired about the campaign with Kickstarter, the site said it asked the Gravity team to change the language because it wasn’t in line with their rules on health claims.

A screen capture of the Gravity Kickstarter page before the language was changed.

Gravity isn’t the type of product regulated by the Food and Drug Administration. However, FDA recommendations released in July 2016 laid out clear guidelines for promoting wellness products, which are low-risk items designed to support a healthy lifestyle.

They can be marketed as supporting people who live with anxiety. They shouldn’t claim that a product can treat an anxiety disorder.

The marketing language also appeared to violate Kickstarter’s rules. The crowdfunding site prohibits campaigns for “any item claiming to cure, treat, or prevent an illness or condition.” Kickstarter has previously said that the rule was developed out of concern that medical claims could have “harmful consequences” for consumers.

Regardless of how it’s promoted, the evidence behind the product is scarce.

It’s not a miracle therapy,” said Dr. Khalid Ismail, a sleep medicine researcher at Tufts Medical Center in Boston. “I don’t think it’s ready for prime time yet.”

Weighted blankets simulate the feeling of a big hug. The creators say it’s similar to swaddling a newborn baby, but with a much higher price tag. They claim that the increased weight — also known as deep touch pressure stimulation — can increase serotonin and melatonin levels while driving down cortisol, a stress hormone, “all without filling a prescription.”

It’s not a novel concept: Weighted blankets have been used in children with autism and elderly individuals with dementia. You can even buy them with a lower price tag from home goods stores.

What’s new is that they’re trying to broaden the indication for its use,” said Ismail. 

But the research they cite falls short of the hype.

One study looked at the use of weighted blankets, among other products, in a “sensory room” in an inpatient psychiatric unit. The researchers studied 75 people who used that room and concluded that those who tried the blanket reported a decrease in their anxiety and distress. But there was also a decrease in those symptoms among people who didn’t get under the blanket. And the study wasn’t blinded, so people might’ve reported positive effects because they were led to expect the blanket would have a positive effect.

Another study touted by Gravity’s creators found that 63 percent of individuals who used a 30-pound weighted blanket had reduced symptoms of anxiety. But the research included only 32 adults and no control group.

The creators of the blanket did not respond to a request for comment.

Ismail said it isn’t clear who, exactly, the blanket would benefit. Many cases of sleeplessness result from poor sleep hygiene, like being glued to a phone before bed; others result from underlying psychiatric disorders that require treatment.

It might have a role, but in a very, very small subset of patients,” Ismail said, “and I don’t think we’ve identified that subset of patients with a really good randomized controlled trial.” 

The campaign says it expects to start shipping blankets in October.

This post has been updated with information about new changes to the Kickstarter page.

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  • “It might have a role, but in a very, very small subset of patients,” Ismail said, what a crock. Any form of swaddling would benefit a very large subset of patients. Ptsd for starters. Question you should be asking them is why no one is getting the product and feel scammed.

  • As I lay under my weighted blanket dealing with insomnia, anxiety, depression, and chronic pain due to MS I can honestly say my first night using the weighted blanket was the first night I fell asleep and stayed asleep without sleep aids. I can’t speak to the company behind gravity blanket, but my weighted blanket provides so many benefits. Sleep that isn’t I duced by pills is one of the best. But I can see how physicians and big pharma wants to disprove natural treatments. If people taske less pills they make less $$$.

    • I am glad you felt better Using a weighted blanket, but how are “physicians and big pharma” wanting to “disprove natural treatments” allegedly because “they make less $$$” different from the natural industry, which is an industry, making billions off unproven treatments and supplements that often times don’t even contain the ingredients in the dosages they claim? This is a $250 blanket and you think those people are trying to help others and not their profit margin? Is it possible a doctor with a medical license maybe wants their patients to get evidenced-based treatment, and discourage the use of things that could be harmful by sheer lack of proven effectiveness alone, instead of being sold over-priced, false promises that prey on people desperate for help who often can’t afford the cost, but pay it out-of-pocket anyway? These are not non-profit organizations and the money they rake in is not reinvested in research to help anyone.

  • This company is a scam. The email address on their Facebook page is not real, and if you try and get a refund no one will answer your messages. Do not by this blanket as it is not a real company.

    • Look up a company called guiniveres on Facebook. They sell weighted blankets at a fraction of the cost of others and they are ecologically sound as they use cherry stones instead of the polluting plastic beads which other companies use.

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