Buying Guide – How to Shop for a Weighted Blanket
Weighted blankets — which may weigh anywhere from five to 30 pounds — are built to be significantly heavier than standard comforters, duvets, and quilts. These blankets have become increasingly popular in recent years among people seeking to address problems with sleep, anxiety, and other health conditions.
Anyone shopping for a weighted blanket should keep in mind that the scientific research into these products is still at an early stage. Much of the evidence for their benefit is anecdotal. While some early studies have found positive results, there is much more research to be done to fully understand the benefits and risks of weighted blankets and how to use them optimally.
Most people find that a weighted blanket that falls between 5 and 10 percent of their body weight offers the best blend of comfort and temperature regulation, but individuals may need to do some trial-and-error to identify their ideal blanket weight.
A wide range of weighted blanket models are available, providing numerous options for different designs, weights, styles, and price points. In general, though, weighted blankets tend to cost more than standard blankets as a result of their specialty construction and materials. If you’re shopping online, many companies that offer weighted blankets allow customers to try them out risk-free thanks to a generous return policy..
This guide explores what’s known about weighted blankets, how they may be able to contribute to better sleep, and who should be cautious about using them. It also reviews their design features, tips for shoppers, and frequently asked questions about these popular bedding products.
How Do Weighted Blankets Work?
A weighted blanket is built to cultivate a particular sensation in the body. This sensation is known technically as deep pressure stimulation, but people may describe it as feeling grounded, hugged, or swaddled.
At a basic level, some people simply find this feeling to be comfortable. There’s also some scientific evidence backing the idea that deep pressure stimulation may affect hormone production. Specifically, it may increase levels of the hormones oxytocin, serotonin, and dopamine that improve mood while decreasing levels of the stress hormone cortisol. The way hormones interact in the body is complex, so it’s hard to know exactly how a weighted blanket influences these processes, but the end result for many people is feeling more relaxed and at-ease when underneath a weighted blanket.
Are There Risks to Using a Weighted Blanket?
Weighted blankets are not for everyone, and they can pose risks to some people. The following groups of people should either avoid using a weighted blanket entirely or should only use one after first consulting with a doctor.
- Children under age 8: Because of their smaller size, young children can be at risk when using a weighted blanket. They may also have a negative emotional reaction to deep pressure stimulation. Parents should talk with a pediatrician before allowing children under 8 to use a weighted blanket.
- People with claustrophobia or similar fears: The feeling of deep pressure stimulation may induce anxiety or fear among people with phobias related to feeling trapped or stuck.
- People with circulatory or respiratory problems: Weighted blankets — especially models that are relatively heavy — can cause complications for individuals who have a hard time breathing and/or circulating blood.
- People who have frequent hot flashes: The added weight can exacerbate heat retention in some weighted blankets, so anyone who experiences regular hot flashes should think twice before using these products.
Weighted Blanket Benefits
A combination of early-stage research and anecdotal evidence points to some potential benefits of weighted blankets.
Weighted blankets may offer some relief to people who struggle with different types of sleeping problems. In a few small research trials, a number of participants have said they have fewer issues falling and staying asleep when using a weighted blanket.
The exact reason why a weighted blanket may improve sleep is unknown. For some people, it may simply be a matter of comfort and enjoying the feeling of a swaddling embrace. In this way, a weighted blanket may help them get settled into bed and drift off for the night.
Experts believe it may also be related to hormones. Improved production of hormones that are associated with a more positive mood and decreased stress hormone production may mean that weighted blankets help to put us in the right mindset for sleep. While not fully established, there are signs that in some people a weighted blanket may increase production of melatonin, a hormone that plays a key role in promoting sleep.
Whether it’s just a person’s perception of comfort or a matter of changing hormone production, many people who use a weighted blanket describe feeling calmer under the added weight, and this reduction in worries and racing thoughts can make it easier to doze off and have a good night’s sleep.
Help With Other Conditions
Research is ongoing to look deeper into how weighted blankets may help with other conditions besides just sleeping problems. For example, there is preliminary evidence that weighted blankets can reduce feelings of anxiety in people who struggle with this disorder. Anxiety disorder is known to have an association with sleeping issues, so a weighted blanket may play a dual role in these situations.
Weighted blankets have also been looked at in helping to provide relief to people struggling with sleep or other problems related to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and Autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Though there are anecdotal reports of the benefits of weighted blankets in these cases, robust scientific evidence is still lacking. For that reason, any person diagnosed with or suspected to have one of these conditions should speak with a doctor before beginning to use a weighted blanket.
Common Design Features of Weighted Blankets
Most weighted blankets are filled with plastic, glass, or steel beads to provide an extra degree of weight. These beads are usually distributed evenly to keep the weight consistent across the blanket. The beads are generally silent, even when the blanket is moving, to avoid sleep disruptions. While this bead-based design is most common, some weighted blankets use heavy fabrics or other weighted fill materials.
Beyond the added weight, these blankets have several other components. These include a cover that can be made with a range of different fabrics such as polyester, cotton, wool, rayon, or blends of various fibers. Polyester, especially brushed polyester called microfiber, is popular because of its plush and cozy feel. Cotton, which is more breathable and smooth, is another common material and one that is especially popular with those who value a cooler feel. Regardless of its composition, a cover may be removable (like a duvet cover) so that it can be washed or fully sewn in place.
Inside the cover, there may be a waterproof or water-resistant lining. In addition, the interior of a weighted blanket usually has padding around the weight that provides a layer of cushioning between the beads and the sleeper’s body.
Other design characteristics of weighted blankets include the following:
- Weight and weight distribution: The majority of weighted blankets weigh between five and 30 pounds. As mentioned above, adults usually feel most comfortable with weighted blankets that are roughly 10% of their own weight. For this reason, most weighted blanket manufacturers offer a wide range of blanket weights. On the other hand, some models come in ‘one-weight-fits-all’ designs; these can be folded in certain ways to distribute more or less weight, providing value to sleepers who want more flexibility in finding the right feel.
- Size: Generally, heavier weighted blankets are wider and longer than lighter ones. Most models are available in sizes that match common mattress dimensions, such as 60 inches wide by 80 inches long, which corresponds to a Queen size.
- Inner clasps: If the blanket has a removable cover, there may be internal clasps or ties to prevent the interior blanket from bunching up inside the cover and losing its full shape.
- Cleaning: When the cover is removable, it can usually be machine-washed and dried on gentle settings. In some cases, the whole weighted blanket may be able to be put in the washer. In other cases, the blanket or its interior components may only be able to be spot-cleaned or dry-cleaned. Following the manufacturer instructions for cleaning and care is important to preserve the quality and longevity of any weighted blanket.
Pros and Cons of Using Weighted Blankets