Weighted Blankets: A Comprehensive Guides

In recent years, weighted blankets have transitioned from a therapeutic tool to an indispensable household item for many seeking better sleep and a deeper sense of calm. Once primarily used in psychiatric units and occupational therapy sessions, these blankets are now widely praised for providing comfort to anyone, anytime. 

But what exactly makes these blankets unique, and why are they gaining such renown in sleep and relaxation? Let’s look at all the ins and outs of the appeal in choosing a weighted blanket and, if it seems like a good fit for you, how to pick the right one. 

weighted blankets

Understanding Weighted Blankets

What Are Weighted Blankets?

At their core, weighted blankets are designed to be heavier than the standard blanket. They range from 5 to 30 pounds and are filled with materials like glass beads or plastic pellets to provide the weight. This weight applies gentle, even pressure across the body, mimicking a therapeutic technique called deep pressure stimulation (DPS).

The Science Behind the Comfort

Deep Pressure Stimulation (DPS)

  • Definition: DPS therapy involves applying gentle pressure to the body to relieve stress and anxiety.
  • Effects on the Body: This pressure increases serotonin and melatonin levels—hormones responsible for relaxation and sleep—while decreasing cortisol levels, a hormone associated with stress.
  • Research Findings: Studies have shown that DPS, and by extension, weighted blankets, can significantly improve sleep quality and reduce anxiety and stress in individuals.

A Brief History: Hugs Help

The concept of weighted blankets isn't new; it has roots in sensory integration therapy developed in the late 20th century. Initially, these blankets were used exclusively by therapists for patients with severe anxiety, autism, and other sensory processing disorders. The idea was simple: simulate the feeling of a hug, a touch known to soothe and calm.

Over the years, the appeal of weighted blankets has broadened. They moved from clinical settings into the mainstream market, fueled by a growing awareness of their benefits for those with specific conditions and those seeking a deeper sense of calm and a better night's sleep. Today, they are often marketed as a therapeutic tool and a lifestyle choice that could improve the sleep experience for people worldwide.

sleeping under a weighted blanket

Benefits of Weighted Blankets

Weighted blankets offer many benefits, supported by anecdotal evidence and scientific research. Here's a look at a few ways they are purported to improve your well-being. 

Improved Sleep Quality

  • Deep Sleep: The gentle pressure of weighted blankets increases serotonin and melatonin levels, promoting deeper, more restful sleep for many.
  • Reduced Nighttime Movement: They can minimize movement during sleep, leading to less disruption or tossing and turning and a higher quality of rest.

Anxiety and Stress Reduction

  • Soothing Effect: Mimicking a hug and weighted blankets can reduce anxiety and create a sense of safety and security. Something that is often very helpful when a person is in the grip of anxiety. 
  • Stress Relief: Reducing cortisol levels facilitated by the blanket's pressure can significantly decrease stress.

Support for Various Conditions

  • ADHD: Individuals with ADHD often find that weighted blankets help improve their focus and decrease hyperactivity by providing a grounding effect.
  • Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD): Those with ASD may experience reduced anxiety and improved sleep patterns, helping them feel more calm and centered.
  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD): The calming effect of weighted blankets can provide comfort to those with PTSD, aiding in relaxation and sleep.

Pros and Cons

Weighted blankets have garnered attention for their numerous benefits, but like any product, they also have limitations. Understanding both can help you make an informed decision on whether a weighted blanket is right for you.

Pros

Enhanced Sleep Quality

  • Deepened Sleep Cycles: By increasing serotonin and melatonin levels, weighted blankets could promote a deeper, more restful sleep.
  • Reduced Insomnia Symptoms: Many users report decreased insomnia symptoms, finding it easier to fall asleep and stay asleep throughout the night. And aren’t all insomnia sufferers looking for something like that?

Mental Health Benefits

  • Anxiety Reduction: The sensation of being hugged or held can lower anxiety levels, providing a calming effect.
  • Stress Relief: The pressure from the blanket can reduce cortisol levels, diminishing overall stress.

Support for Special Conditions

  • Therapeutic for ASD and ADHD: For individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, weighted blankets can offer a soothing, grounding effect.
  • Comfort for PTSD: Those experiencing PTSD may find the weighted blanket's pressure to be comforting, helping to alleviate anxiety and improve sleep quality.

Cons

Weight Considerations

  • Not One-Size-Fits-All: Finding the right weight is crucial; a heavy blanket may cause discomfort or even feel smothering, while too light might not offer the desired effects.
  • Restricted Movement: Some may find the weight restricting their movement during sleep, potentially leading to discomfort or claustrophobia. In short, it can be an acquired taste that not everyone acquires. 

Material and Heat Retention

  • Material Sensitivity: Individuals with sensitivities to certain materials need to select their blankets carefully to avoid allergic reactions or discomfort.
  • Heat Retention: Weighted blankets can be warmer than traditional blankets, which might not be suitable for hot sleepers or warm climates.  Shopping around to find the right blanket for the season will be important. 

Suitability and Safety

  • Not Suitable for Everyone: Children under a certain age, the elderly, and those with certain health conditions should consult a healthcare professional before using a weighted blanket.
  • Maintenance and Care: Depending on the materials used, some weighted blankets may require special care or cleaning methods, potentially adding to their upkeep.  In short, a weighted blanket isn’t likely to be as easy to care for as your average, everyday blanket. 

Styles and Materials

Weighted blankets come in various styles and materials, catering to different preferences and needs. Understanding the variations can help you choose the best blanket for your comfort and lifestyle.

Styles

  • Quilted Pockets: These blankets have evenly distributed weight, usually achieved through pockets filled with glass beads or plastic pellets. This design helps ensure consistent pressure across the blanket.
  • Knitted: A newer style, knitted weighted blankets are made with chunky, heavy yarns, providing a breathable option that still offers weight.
  • Duvet Cover Options: Some weighted blankets come with a removable cover, which makes them easier to clean and allows for temperature regulation by changing the cover.

Materials

  • Filling: The most common fillings are glass beads, plastic poly pellets, and microbeads. Glass beads are the most popular for being smaller, denser, and quieter when moving.
  • Fabric: Outer layers vary widely, from cotton and polyester to cooling bamboo and mink-like fabric. Cotton is breathable and suitable for all seasons, while mink-like fabric offers a plush, warm option for colder months.
  • Weight and Size: Blankets range from 5 to 30 pounds. Choose one that's approximately 10% of your body weight for optimal comfort and efficacy.
care of weighted blankets

Utilizing Weighted Blankets

Incorporating a weighted blanket into your bedtime routine can enhance relaxation and sleep quality. Here's how to get the most out of your weighted blanket:

For Sleep

  • Choosing the Right Weight: Start with a blanket around 10% of your body weight. Adjust as needed based on comfort.
  • Acclimation Period: Allow yourself time to get used to the weight. Start using it on your legs or while relaxing on the couch before trying it in bed.  It may take more than a couple of tries to figure out if a weighted blanket will be a good option for you. 

For Relaxation

  • Short Sessions: To experience the blanket's calming effects, use it during short periods of relaxation or while reading.
  • During Meditation: Enhance your meditation or mindfulness practice by adding the gentle pressure of a weighted blanket, which can help you focus and remain grounded.

For Therapy

  • Consultation with Professionals: If using it for therapeutic purposes, such as for anxiety or PTSD, consult with a healthcare provider for advice on how to incorporate it effectively into your therapy.

Care and Maintenance

  • Follow Manufacturer Instructions: Proper care extends the life of your weighted blanket. Always follow the cleaning and care instructions provided by the manufacturer.
  • Regular Cleaning: Remove and wash the cover regularly for blankets with duvet covers. Spot cleaning or hand washing might be necessary for blankets without covers, depending on the materials.
buying a weighted blanket

Buying Guide: Choosing the Right Weighted Blanket

Key factors can significantly enhance your experience when selecting a weighted blanket. Here's what to look for:

Weight

  • General Guideline: Choose a blanket that's approximately 10% of your body weight. This ensures the blanket provides enough pressure to be effective without being overwhelming.
  • Adjustments: Consider slightly heavier or lighter options based on personal preference and sensitivity to pressure.

Size

  • Not Too Large: A weighted blanket should cover your body without hanging over the sides of the bed to prevent sliding off during the night.  You may want to select something slightly smaller than what you typically use. 
  • Personal Use: A blanket that matches your body size is ideal for personal use. Couples will probably prefer two separate blankets for individual weight needs.

Material

  • Fabric Type: Choose a material that feels comfortable against your skin. Cotton is breathable in warmer climates, while faux fur or fleece provides warmth in cooler environments.
  • Filling: Glass beads are denser and usually quieter than plastic pellets, making them a preferred choice for many users.

Care Instructions

  • Washability: Check if the blanket is machine washable or requires special care. Removable covers are a convenient option for easy cleaning.

Trial Period and Warranty

  • Satisfaction Guarantee: Some companies offer a trial period, allowing you to return the blanket if it doesn’t meet your expectations. Shop around to ensure you can return or exchange it if it doesn’t meet your needs. 
  • Warranty: Look for products with a warranty to ensure you're covered in case of defects.
colorful weighted blanket

The Benefits Of Weighted Blankets

With their unique ability to provide comfort and improve sleep, weighted blankets have become a valuable tool for many people seeking better sleep hygiene and mental well-being in recent years. These blankets embody a simple yet occasionally profound solution to common challenges, from improving sleep quality and reducing anxiety to offering therapeutic benefits for various conditions. By choosing the right weighted blanket for your needs—considering weight, size, material, and care instructions—you might be the next one to enjoy the benefits. 

As always, here at Seeking Slumber, we are looking to improve your sleep and, by extension, your overall health.  Moving forward, a weighted blanket might just be one of the tools in your toolbelt to make that happen.