What Are Weighted Blankets?
Most weighted blankets are blankets that have glass beads or other materials sewn into the fabric to make the blanket weigh usually between 10 and 20 lbs. They have been used by therapists and psychiatry clinics for years, but are now becoming mainstream. Weighted blankets are used by many to help with insomnia, though they are also used by people with anxiety. Weighted blankets are also used to treat symptoms of autism, depression, restless legs syndrome (RLS), post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), trauma, and sensory processing disorder.
Weighted blankets have become a popular gift, even given to people who don't suffer from any of the above-mentioned conditions. The deep pressure is believed to stimulate a serotonin response, the hormone that regulates mood, feelings of well-being, and happiness. It also impacts eating, digestion, and sleep. For this reason many users without insomnia report falling asleep quicker and waking up more refreshed when they use a weighted blanket, as well as a sense of calm when they're just lounging on the couch. What a great way to show that you care by giving a gift that gives hugs!
Research on Weighted Blankets
Though there are a few studies on the effect of weighted blankets on children with autism, there's very little conclusive research on the effect of weighted blankets on children or adults. A Swedish study published in the Journal of Sleep Medicine and Disorders followed 31 adults with chronic insomnia. Researchers studied their sleep with their normal bedding for a week, for two weeks with a weighted blanket, and then one more week with their normal bedding. 80% of the participants said that they liked the weighted blanket. This group slept longer and was awake less during the night. They also said that they found it easier to get to sleep, and they felt more refreshed in the morning. Researchers said that the weight should not be too light or too heavy and that the weight should be evenly distributed throughout the body. Even distribution would make a weighted blanket a perfect choice, as opposed to a weighted vest, which only puts pressure on the chest.
The Swedish study also noted that blankets that were over 10% of the sleeper's size were more effective, with over 12% being the most beneficial weight. They also noted that besides providing deep-pressure stimulation, when the sleeper moves the material inside of the pockets in the blankets shifts as well, which may create a sensation similar to a caress. The combination of the deep hug of the blanket and the caress from movement may release neurotransmitters and decrease arousal of the nervous system and anxiety.
Another study from 2008 that was published in the Journal of Occupational Therapy in Mental Health studied 32 adult participants using a 30-pound weighted blanket, studying participants blood pressure, pulse rate, pulse oximetry, and effectiveness of electrodermal activity (EDA), the State-Trait Anxiety Inventory-10, and an exit interview. 33% demonstrated lower EDA (a way to measure arousal) when using the weighted blanket, 78% preferred using the weighted blanket, 63% said that their anxiety diminished.
Weighted blankets and jackets have been used to help give users a sense of calm. Similar to calming an infant by swaddling them in a blanket, weighted blankets give people the sense of being hugged. It's believed that a pressured touch stimulates serotonin and dopamine, neurotransmitters that trigger a sense of calm.
The first person to study weighted blankets was Dr. Mary Temple Grandin, a professor of animal science at Colorado State University. Grandin is a fascinating person who is autistic and prominent advocate for the humane treatment of livestock for slaughter and author of more than 60 scientific papers on animal behavior. She is a consultant to the livestock industry on animal behavior and also an autism spokesperson. She said that as a young child she wanted to be held, but that she would react negatively to touch. She developed a squeeze machine to calm her anxiety and panic attacks. She tested her machine on college students and found that 18 out of the 40 students tested used words such as "relaxing" or "sleep" to describe the experience after 5-10 minutes. 10% described the experience with the words "floating," weightless," and "flight," and she saw that relaxation was evident in some of the participants.
Grandin explains that a very light touch alerts the nervous system, but deep pressure is relaxing and calming. She said that the adults and children who are most likely to benefit from weighted blankets are those who "seek deep pressure" and like to roll up in blankets.
How Heavy Should a Weighted Blanket Be?
The general rule is 10% of your body weight, so if you're 200 lbs, use a 20 lb blanket. But some users prefer a blanket a little heavier, and some a little lighter.
Weighted blankets are fine for teenagers and adults and not recommended for younger children and infants as a 9-year-old with autism died rolled up in a weighted blanket in Quebec. Grandin says that weighted blankets shouldn't be used on children under 7 or 8. If you believe that a weighted blanket would help your child, make sure that you're using a light blanket that they can easily move themselves.
Another thing to keep in mind is the strength of the user. Elderly users might feel trapped under a blanket that's too heavy.
What are the Best Blanket Dimensions?
Keep in mind a few things about choosing a size for weighted blankets as they're different than normal blankets:
They're supposed to cover you and not hang over the edges of the bed
If it's hanging over the edge, you may feel less pressure on you, defeating the purpose of the blanket. Another reason is that if the blanket hangs over the edge of your bed, it's weight may pull it off of you onto the floor.
They're not necessarily designed for sharing
If you plan on sharing your weighted blanket with your partner, you'll want to look at a king-size (or larger, which are difficult to find). Another thing to keep in mind is that if you and your partner aren't the same weight, you should get two different weight blankets. The general rule is to buy a blanket that's 10% of your weight. If you weigh 200 lbs, you would need a 20 lb blanket. If your partner weighs 150 lbs, they should buy a 15 lb blanket.
Beads and Filler Material
The beads that give weight to a blanket are usually glass, plastic, or ceramic. Cheaper blankets use plastic, whereas higher-quality blankets use glass or ceramic.
Plastic beads are louder and can disturb your or your partner's sleep (think of sloshing around in a bean bag chair). Plastic may also disturb a sleeper who suffers from auditory sensitivities. Plastic poly pellets contain propylene, which has a trace amount of fire retardants, preservatives, and other toxins, and therefore not a good choice for some with allergies or sensitivities to chemicals.
Another less popular option is steel shot. They're larger, making them less likely to leak through the stitching. They're also durable, smooth (so they don't collect dirt, making them less likely to accumulate allergens). But they're also noisy.
Micro Glass Beads
Our favorite choice is micro glass beads, which are more expensive than plastic. Glass is environmentally friendly, hypoallergenic, and quiet.
Smaller Pockets and Added Filler
When the beads inside of sewn pockets shift to one side, you get uneven pressure-too much pressure in one area, and no pressure in the other area. Many companies have resorted to sewing smaller pockets to reduce the amount of shifting that occurs, but some companies are now adding fillers to their pockets, which can stop the shifting altogether.
A completely different way to add weight to a blanket is instead of adding pellets to pockets in the blanket, make the blanket larger with a knit pattern. This eliminates the problem of beads shifting and making noise. Many people prefer the look of knit blankets, though they are often significantly more expensive.
Can a Weighted Blanket Be Cooling?
It seems contradictory to have a blanket that weighs more but would make you cooler. It comes down to the material the blanket is made of. Some fabrics are more breathable, moisture-wicking, and feel cooler to the touch. Others are designed to be warmer.
If you tend to sleep with only a sheet because you get very hot during the night, but want the benefits of a cooling blanket, you may be able to have the best of both worlds. Many hot sleepers don't get hot with their weighted blankets, but there's no guarantee. All of our top choices have at least a 30-day guarantee, though all you would need is a few nights to see if the blanket heats you up at night or not.
Some who sleep hot and get hot with their weighted blanket still love their weighted blanket and only cover their upper body or lower body so they can still get the pressure of the blanket but not get overheated. We've also heard of users using a fan or even using a ChiliPad.
Criteria to Review the Top Weighted Blankets
There are several criteria we used for evaluating our top choices:
- Pocket size—cheaper blankets tend to have larger pockets because there's less stitching involved. Larger pockets result in the beads or filling inside shifting more, resulting in less even distribution of the pressure on the user.
- Fabric quality & feel—low-quality fabrics don't give the sleeper a sense of comfort that a softer, higher-quality blanket will. Fabric quality is measured in grams per square meter (GSM). A high GSM count will give a blanket a velvety feel.
- Look—we want a weighted blanket that looks good on the bed or couch.
- Stitching—some blankets don't reinforce their stitching resulting in the beads leaking out of the pockets.
- Bead material—plastic beads don't weigh as much so you need more to create weight in the blanket, resulting in a bigger blanket. Glass beads are non-toxic, smaller, and make less noise when you move.
- Return policy—higher-quality blankets tend to have better warranties and return policies.
Some other criteria that you should consider:
- Washing—some blankets can only be hand washed and/or hang dried, which may be inconvenient for some people. And some blankets are in two pieces, one is the blanket, and the other is the cover, which may have to be washed separately.
- Color and size options—some companies only offer one color (usually grey), whereas others may give you a wide range of colors and patterns. Having different weight sizes is nice as well. You may have tried a 20 lb blanket and love the blanket but need something slightly smaller. If a company offers a wide array of weights, you can choose the weight you want without having to buy a different brand.
The Best Weighted Blankets
- Premium 300 thread count fabric with integrated organic bamboo (eco-friendly)
- 195 GSM (grams per square meter) gives the blanket a velvety feel; other blankets have 25% lower GSM, giving them a lower-quality feel
- No weight bunching—1 mm glass beads are sewn into small pockets with a special filling to keep the beads from shifting
- 100% machine washable—no removable cover where you have to wash the blanket and cover separately; blanket can be washed and dried in all machines and cycles
- Designed to be cool; if you want the option of a Luxome with a removable and reversible cover (one side cool and the other side warm), check out the Luxome Premium Adult Weighted Blanket with Removable Bamboo/Minky Cover
- Blanket weights were optimized to an ideal weight per square foot based on extensive user testing
- 8 lbs, 15 lbs, and 18 lbs available
- Seven different color options
- 30-day 100% refund
Best Budget Choice
- Very soft
- 21 colors available
- Blanket weights from 5 lbs to 30 lbs
- One of the best rated weighted blankets
- Seven-layer design that evenly distributes weight across the body
- Coolmax fabric is breathable
- Oeko-Tex Certified (free from toxic chemicals and a higher standard than organic)
- Small pockets to prevent bunching
- Double-stitched seams
- Non-toxic glass beads
- Wash in cold water on a gentle setting or hand wash; hang dry or tumble on low heat
- 1% of sales donated to Mental Health of America
- 100-night trial
- The all-season cover is removable and has two sides: the cooling side is bamboo and the warm side is cozy minky
- Each pocket has two rows of tight stitching to prevent the beads from leaking
- A high-quality blanket that has a one-year warranty
- Available in grey and in 15 lbs, 20 lbs, and 25 lbs
- It is made from premium materials
- A seven-layer blanket that uses Micro-Peach fabric that's durable and washable
- It has glass beads that make no noise when you shift
- Includes extra polyfill to give the blanket a soft and squishy feel; blankets that use less fill may feel hard to the touch (especially when you can feel the beads)
- The blanket should be machine-washed on cold and air-dried (not tumble dried); the cover can be machine-washed on cold and can be tumble-dried on low
Bearaby Cotton Napper
- Made with 95% organic cotton and 5% spandex
- Instead of using pockets filled with beads, the weight comes from the multiple layers in this hand-knitted blanket
- Highly breathable; if you sleep hot you can look at their Tree Napper
- Wash in cool water, tumble-dry low, and it may take two cycles to get it dry (don't hang dry as it may stretch it)
- Comes with an organic cotton dust bag for storage or transporting
- Available in three weights and sizes:
- 15 lbs - 40" x 72"
- 20 lbs - 45" x 72"
- 25 lbs - 48" x 72"
- Vegan and plant-based
- Available in asteroid grey, midnight blue, moonstone grey, cloud white, and evening rose