Spend any amount of time on the interwebs researching sleep, and you’re likely to start seeing advertisements and reviews of weighted blankets. Touted to do everything from help you get a better, more restful sleep to lowering blood pressure, reducing anxiety, and even helping manage ADHD, weighted blankets seem to be all the rage right now.
According to Bill Fish, the Managing Editor of SleepFoundation.org, a Certified Sleep Science Coach, and the President of OneCare Media, “Weighted blankets have been around in some capacity for many years. They were first developed for children with various health conditions, including autism, as a way to calm. The same premise has been used for pets with the thunder jacket. The premise is that the extra weight would give a calming effect and a bit of relaxation,” he says.
Here’s what you need to know if you’re in the market for a weighted blanket.
Why does a weighted blanket help us sleep or relax?
Weighted blankets operate on a principle called Deep Pressure Touch or DPT. According to a 1987 clinical trial, occupational therapists who worked with anxious children and adults use the technique of applying touch, hugs, stroking, and other tactile techniques to calm patients down. DPT is also used as a proven technique to help those on the autism spectrum.
Weighted blankets are filled with plastic, glass, or metal bearings or beads to provide a certain amount of weight to your body. They can also be knit with bulky yarn. Weighted blankets can cost anywhere from $150 to more than $300, and you can find them almost everywhere online.
While there is a considerable lack of current studies looking at how weighted blankets affect issues like insomnia or anxiety, there is some evidence that weighted blankets could offer some relief for certain people. According to a 2020 literature review of only eight studies of weighted blankets (the only ones that currently exist), “Weighted blankets may be an appropriate therapeutic tool in reducing anxiety; however, there is not enough evidence to suggest they are helpful with insomnia.
“As far as science, there is nothing definitive,” Fish says, “but the popularity of the blankets has grown exponentially over the past several years. I believe much of that is around how foreign it feels at first to sleep with a weighted blanket.”
Fish also says that weighted blankets help keep you still through the night and discourage tossing and turning, which can disrupt your sleep. “Weighted blankets also give you that natural feeling of being cuddled, or even swaddled as you see with babies. Many feel a weighted blanket provides a feeling of protection,” Fish says.
In particular, children seem to like weighted blankets, though you should never give a toddler or infant a weighted blanket because there is a risk of suffocation.
How to choose the right weighted blanket for you
There are several options on the market when it comes to choosing the right weighted blanket for you. They come in various fills (what’s used to weight them), designs, colors, sizes, and weights.
Fish suggests that first, you start by figuring out what the right weight might be for you. Weighted blankets come in a variety of weights that range from 10 to 20 pounds. To figure out the right blanket for you, Fish suggests finding a blanket that weighs roughly 10% of your body weight. “It should also be noted that couples using a weighted blanket should have their own blanket and not share one between the two parties as it won’t have the same effect,” Fish says.
There are also a variety of types of weighted blankets on the market to consider, too. You can find blankets that are knit, like this one from Bearaby that Fish recommends. Or those that have baffles or pockets where the beads or bearings rest, like this one from Gravity, which has an inner lining that you remove (that’s where the weighted glass beads are) before you wash it.
Once you’ve figured out the right weight, narrow your choices down by size, and look for blankets that offer a good distribution of the weight. Fish suggests that you look for a blanket with a number of pockets evenly distributed across the entire surface since that will help spread the weight better. “You do not want the fill to bunch up in areas of the blanket as you want the weight to be as evenly distributed as possible. You won’t deal with this issue with hand-knit options,” he suggests.
Fish does suggest that you get a slightly bigger blanket than your bed since that can add to the cuddly effect. “With a product as heavy as a weighted blanket, it is very easy for the blanket to ‘fall off’ so to speak, if you toss and turn at all at night, thus having a larger blanket to ensure it continues to cover you is key.”
If you’re choosing a weighted blanket for a child, be sure that you choose the right size and weight to keep them safe. Typically, experts recommend getting a smaller sized blanket for children. As we mentioned above, weighted blankets aren’t recommended for toddlers or infants because of the dangers of suffocation. Kids (and adults) should be able to move around easily underneath the blanket and toss it off if need be. If you’re purchasing for a child, be sure to check with your doctor or therapist to determine the right weight and size for them.
Finally, Fish suggests that you should try out the blanket you choose before determining if it’s right for you, “Some people swear by weighted blankets and some swear at them. That said, you should give yourself a full seven nights testing the blanket before you make a determination whether or not it is right for you.”
While the scientific jury is still largely out on how weighted blankets impact our sleep quality and quantity, many people swear by them. If you struggle with sleep problems or anxiety, it could be worth your while to give a weighted blanket a try and see how it works for you.