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How do weighted blankets work?

how does a weighted blanket work

We’re all familiar with snuggling under a blanket to warm ourselves up and feel cosier, but what about weighted blankets, how much do you know about them?

This article is designed to lift the lid on weighted blankets or, what people also call weighted duvets or gravity blankets.

Hopefully all of the queries you have right now, will have been answered by the time you reach the end of it. So let’s start in the most logical place, with a look at what they are…

What is a weighted blanket?

Weighted blankets are as they sound, blankets that have weight to them, usually because they’ve been filled with plastic pellets or metal or glass beads.1 

They are, in essence designed to apply light and even pressure to the body, which makes you feel as though you’re being held or hugged.

They don’t all weigh the same, some can be heavier than others, they usually range from anything between 5 and 30lbs.2

How does a weighted blanket work?

Weighted blankets essentially mimic the technique known as deep pressure stimulation.3

Deep pressure simulation works by applying hands-on pressure to relax the nervous system which, in turn, may help alleviate pain and anxiety.

This pressure can also encourage the brain to release more of our ‘happy chemical’ serotonin, which can make us feel more calm.4 

It’s also thought that weighted blankets can reduce levels of cortisol, the stress hormone, which can potentially impact sleep quality.5

How heavy should weighted blankets be?

When we’re shopping around for non-weighted blankets, we tend to go for the chunkiest and thickest option (if we want them to keep us warm in the winter, that is).

But when you’re looking for a weighted blanket, you shouldn’t necessarily choose one because it happens to be the heaviest.

The weight/size of your weighted blanket should be calculated based on how much you weigh. This is to make sure you don’t feel trapped or too weighed down when you’re using it.

The general rule of thumb when choosing a weighted blanket is to make sure it weighs 10% of your body weight, give or take one or two pounds.6

Weighted blanket weight guidance

If you weigh... Your blanket should weigh...
100 - 120lbs 10 - 12lbs
120 - 140lbs 12 - 14lbs
140 - 160lbs 14 - 16lbs
160 - 180lbs 16 - 18lbs
180 - 200lbs 18 - 20lbs

 

Height is also a bit of a factor when it comes to selecting the right sized weighted blanket. If you want to make sure it covers you properly, then go for one that’s the same size or a little bit (not too much) larger than you.

While we’re on the subject of ideal size, your weighted blanket shouldn’t be so large that it hangs over the side of your bed, even if that’s what you’re used to with your usual duvet.

If it does overhang, then it’ll most probably slip off onto the floor.

What’s more, if you’ve gone for too large a size, then the weight will be really spread out, so you’ll feel less pressure.7

Choosing a weighted blanket for kids

It’s really important you get the size and weight right, depending on your children’s weight and frame.

If the blanket’s too heavy and large, then it can potentially prevent them from moving around freely underneath it. You may also want to look out for weighted blankets that have been specifically designed for children.8 

Children under the age of three, pregnant women and anybody with a respiratory or chronic medical condition should steer clear of using weighted blankets due to the potential risk of suffocation.9

It should never feel like it's trapping or crushing you. If in doubt, check with your GP before buying one.

What are the benefits of a weighted blanket?

One of the main, widely-reported benefits of weighted blankets is that they provide deep pressure therapy.

Their ability to help calm the body and reduce anxiety has also been linked to helping with several conditions, including:10

  1. ADHD – while research is limited, some studies have found that weighted blankets, in particular weighted ball blankets, could help with ADHD-related sleep issues11
  2. Anxiety – is one of the main areas weighted blankets are used for. One particular study found that using a weighted blanket reduced anxiety in around 33% participants12
  3. Sleep disorders – a 2014 study of autism and weighted blankets revealed they were effective at helping reduce sleep issues experienced by both adults and children13

3 questions to ask yourself when buying a weighted blanket

Q1: ‘Do I want it to warm me up too?’

Some weighted blankets also include polyester fiberfill, which adds warmth. If you want a cooler, more breathable blanket, choose one that doesn’t incorporate this extra layer. FYI – cotton is the coolest option.14

Q2: ‘What is it made from?’

Some blankets are filled with plastic pellets, which are larger and tend to make bulkier blankets.

Meanwhile, other manufacturers may use glass beads, which are smaller than plastic pellets. On the other hand, plastic pellets are cheaper for manufacturers to use.15

Q3: ‘Am I going to share my blanket?’

It is perfectly possible to share your weighted blanket with your partner, you just need to make sure you factor this in when selecting the size of it.

Both of you need to feel comfortable underneath it and the pressure needs to be distributed as evenly as possible still.

To choose a weighted blanket for a couple, calculate their average weight and then select a blanket based on the 10% guidance.16 

We hope this article has answered your queries, as well as filled you in on weighted blanket benefits, best practice advice on choosing them and more.

For more insight on how to have a better night’s sleep if you have anxiety, check out our comprehensive guide to anxiety to help manage it.

Last updated: 21 September 2021

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