The following guide will help you understand who might benefit from a weighted blanket, how they work, what features to look for when making a purchase, outline the scientific research, and answer frequently asked questions about this type of popular blanket.
What are weighted blankets?
Weighted blankets are heavy blankets that weigh between 5-30 pounds that provide various benefits. In their simplest form they are basically two pieces of fabric sewn together with a heavy filling. The filling may include glass, plastic or steel beads that is evenly distributed throughout the blanket provide a consistent feel across the whole blanket. Due to the weight, it adds a pressure around the body and feels much heavier that a traditional comforter. Weighted blankets are used for both sleeping and just for resting on the couch.
The blankets also feature a fabric padding that provides a mild cushion between the beads and the body. Some are also designed with waterproof or water-resistant qualities. Others come with a cover to protect your blanket and make it easier to just wash the cover.
How do weighted blankets work?
The heavy weight of the blanket provides a deep relaxing pressure that is similar to a comfortable hug or “cocooning” feeling that helps promote stress relief, a reduction in anxiety, relaxation and improved sleep. The blankets improve sleep quality by promoting production of melatonin which is a natural hormone that controls your sleep cycle. Occupational therapists call it Deep Touch Simulation or DTP by helping calm nerves with “grounding” which activates your parasympathetic system to release serotonin or happy hormones. The deep pressure provides a calming and relaxing effect for those who have clinical conditions such as autism spectrum disorders, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder and pervasive development disorders.
What do they feel like?
The small beads which are weighted are evenly distributed through the seams gives users the following types of feelings:
- A cocooning feeling
- A hug
- Lead vest at the dentist or doctors office.
Who might benefit from weighted blankets?
Weighted blankets are commonly used by adults, kids, and the elderly for a variety of conditions that include:
- Stress / Anxiety (Most common)
- Autism (Common) Helps those with autism more secure, increase body awareness, reduces anxiety, and improve sleep.
- Chronic Pain
- Alzheimer’s / dementia
- Mental illness
- Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
- Sensory processing disorder (SPD)
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) – Helps them feel grounded to deal with emotions during counseling or therapy when dealing with the intensity.
- Restless legs syndrome (RLS)
What does the research say?
Journal of Sleep Medicine and Disorders [Ackerley R et al] (2015)
Those who suffer from insomnia benefited from using a weighted blanket. When using a weighted blanket their sleep time increased and they also had a decrease in movements when using the blanket. The participants also liked using the blankets because they found it easier to settle down for sleep, had improved sleep and they felt more refreshed in the morning. The study found that a weighted blanket is an approach to help those with insomnia get better sleep without the use of pharmaceuticals. There was a positive impact on sleep both objectively and subjectively with both psychological and behavioral benefits. When using the blankets participants had a calmer night’s sleep with a reduction in movement. No adverse effects of using the the blankets.
Occupational Therapy in Mental Health [Mullen, B et al.] (2008)
Some participants reported decreased anxiety and felt more relaxed when using weighted blankets.
Features of weighted blankets
When considering weighted blankets there are a few key components that should be reviewed.
Weight / weight distribution
Blankets typically weight between 5 and 30 pounds. The target weight of a blanket should be more than 10% of a person’s ideal body weight. Knowing your weight is important when deciding on the weight of your blanket. The weight is distributed through weighted beads that are sewn into various pockets in the blanket to be evenly distributed. The padding materials include cotton, polyester, fleece of chenille.
|BODY WEIGHT||BLANKET WEIGHT|
|30-50 lbs||3-6 lbs|
|50-70 lbs||6-9 lbs|
|70-90 lbs||8-10 lbs|
|90-110 lbs||10-13 lbs|
|100-120 lbs||10-12 lbs|
|120-140 lbs||12-14 lbs|
|140-160 lbs||14-16 lbs|
|160-180 lbs||16-18 lbs|
|180-200 lbs||18-20 lbs|
Tip: If you are between sizes or unsure consider your sleep position. If you sleep on your side or have joint pain in knees, hip or back choose the 15lb blanket. If you are healthy who sleeps on front or back consider the 20lb blanket.
Most weighted blankets match common mattress dimensions. Typically they will fit the TOP of your mattress and isn’t like a standard comforter that is design to hang way over the sides of back of the mattress.
Tip: If you are between sizes or unsure consider your sleep position. If you sleep on your side or have joint pain in knees, hip or back choose the 15lb blanket. If you are healthy who sleeps on front or back consider the 20lb weighted blanket.
Many weighted blankets are machine washable but to increase the life of your blanket consider dry cleaning. Getting a duvet cover may extend the life of your blanket and making it easier to maintain and clean.
Some models that internal clasps to prevent the blanket from bunching up inside the covert.
FAQ about weighted blankets
Do they keep you warm? Are they hot?
Typically not, they aren’t decided for warmth but some blankets do have extra fabric for warmth. They are many times used along with your standard blanket.
What weight is right for me?
Use your body weight to calculate the ideal weight for your blanket. Most people feel more comfortable using a blanket that is 5%-10% of your weight.
I didn’t get any benefits from the blanket. What should I do?
If you didn’t seem to get any benefits there are a few things to try.
- Use the blankets for at least three to four nights.
- Try increasing the weight of the blanket.
Can weighted blankets create dependence?
There hasn’t been any formal research that users can become dependent. But when we find something that brings comfort or security they may choose or prefer to use it more often. The blankets provide feelings of safety and calming.
What kinds of feelings do you get from a weighted blanket?
- Body regulation
- Grounding pressure
Are there are tips or safety warnings?
- Use the lowest weight that achieves the benefits. Heavier doesn’t necessarily mean better or greater benefits.
- User should be able to remove the blanket independently.
- Don’t use on a child under 3 years old due to filling is small and could be a choking hazard
- Do not ingest the beads
- If filling comes out of blanket clean immediately and may be slipping hazard
- Do not roll up a person in a the blanket
- Don’t use as a restraint
- Do not use if there is history of respiratory issues or potential issue of weight on the body
- If unsure about your health conditions, consult a doctor.