Weighted Blanket: 5 Things to Know About Them

For those of you suffering from difficulty sleeping, anxiety, or insomnia, there may be an answer for you that does not involve medication. Weighted blankets are known to offer help when it comes to getting the rest you need.

What is a weighted blanket?

 A weighted blanket is exactly what it sounds like; a heavy blanket, usually anywhere from 5-25 lbs. They are known to be calming, to help you sleep.

How do weighted blankets work?

Weighted blankets typically work in two ways:

Nervous system changes.

 Weighted blankets work by providing deep touch pressure evenly distributed to touch receptors throughout the body. When deep touch pressure is applied, the body switches from its “fight or flight” response of the sympathetic nervous system to its “rest and digest” response of the parasympathetic nervous system.

The sympathetic nervous system is there to help us cope with daily stresses life throws our way. For many people, this “fight or flight” response runs overtime, into the evening and causes us to feel tired, but also anxious. This keeps us from relaxing and being able to sleep.

When we apply deep touch pressure, such as with weighted blankets, our body then activates the parasympathetic nervous system, calming our anxiety, lowering heart rate, and helping us rest and relax.

Chemical changes.

  • Deep touch pressure is known to release a chemical neurotransmitter called serotonin, which is known as the “feel good” chemical that makes us happy, calms anxiety, and helps us to relax.
  • Serotonin is needed in the body to help produce melatonin, which is the hormone responsible for telling us we are sleepy when the sun goes down. Melatonin is crucial for our circadian rhythms, also known as our sleep/wake cycles. It’s produced in the pineal gland and is responsible for making us feel sleepy when daytime changes to nighttime.
  • Weighted blankets are known to mimic a hug, and hugs release a hormone called oxytocin, which makes us feel warm and happy. Oxytocin is known to decrease blood pressure, decrease heart rate, and aid in relaxation.

Disorders that may be treated with weighted blankets

Things to consider when purchasing a weighted blanket:

What weight is right for me?

Your doctor may want you to try a different weight than what’s typically recommended, so always check first. Usually, it’s recommended your blanket be 10 percent of your body weight. So for someone weighing 150 pounds, the blanket would be around 15 pounds.

Some companies recommend 10 percent of ideal body weight, and others recommend 10 percent of your body weight plus 1-2 pounds. So before purchasing, check the company’s recommendations, or better yet, check with your doctor to be sure.

Fabric

 You’ll want to make sure you get the fabric you want since different companies use different materials. Weighted blankets are quilt-like and are many times hand-sewn. Cotton and polyester are two of the most common fabrics. Polyester does not breathe easily and is probably best for those in colder climates or people that don’t get hot when they sleep. Cotton is more breathable than polyester, so cotton would be a better choice for those that get warm at night or live in warmer climates.

Size

 You’ll want to choose the appropriate size since weighted blankets are meant to fit you, not the bed. If you have a king size bed, you can choose a king size blanket that will cover both you and your partner, if desired. These blankets are made to fit on the top of the bed, and not to hang over the side. If weighted blankets are too large and hang off the bed, there’s a good chance it will keep falling and you’ll be fighting to keep it on all night. You can also get a smaller blanket if you’re planning on not sharing it with your partner.

What makes the weight?

Weighted blankets are filled with poly pellets, glass beads, or steal shot beads. Some people also make them using rice or barley on the inside. Poly pellets, made from polypropylene, seem to be the most common filler for weighted blankets.

It’s important to make sure that the pellets (or other filler) are evenly distributed throughout the blanket before using.

Where to get a weighted blanket

With access to the internet, purchasing a weighted blanket is only a couple clicks away.  Some medical supply stores also carry them.

It’s important to research the weighted blanket before buying to make sure you get the size, material, and filler you want.

Weighted Blanket Reviews

Most, if not all of the reviews and comparisons are anecdotal. At the time of this publication, there were no large scale trials comparing weighted blankets for sleep efficacy.

FAQ’s about Weighted Blankets

Can weighted blankets be washed?

While it’s important to check with the manufacturer of your particular blanket, most weighted blankets can be washed in cold water and air-dried.

What’s the cost of a weighted blanket?

There’s a very large price range for weighted blankets. Price seems to depend on size, material, quality, and whether it’s hand-made or factory made. Blankets can be $60, $360, or more.

Will insurance cover a weighted blanket?

Weighted blankets can be found at some medical supply stores and although many insurance companies do not cover weighted blankets, some do. You’ll need to check with your insurance provider to be sure.

Who should NOT use a weighted blanket?

Talk to your doctor before using a weighted blanket if you suffer from:

  • Sensitivity to temperature changes
  • Chronic heart conditions
  • Circulation issues
  • Respiratory issues/disease
  • Menopause

Even though weighted blankets are a great, medication-free treatment for getting to sleep, it’s always a good idea to check with your doctor to make sure it’s right for you. If it is the way to go, your doctor can help you decide which blanket and weight will offer the biggest benefit to you.