Weighted blankets are becoming one of the most popular sleeping aids for a comforting and peaceful night’s rest.
It’s too hard to see why either. Weighted blankets, also known as gravity or anxiety blankets, are heavily weighted blankets designed to make you feel like you’re being hugged. This not only gives you comfort but is also thought to release hormones that make you feel happier, calmer and more relaxed, giving you better sleep in return.
But what is in a weighted blanket to make them heavy and how do they work? Read on to find out the answers to this and more.
What is a weighted blanket?
Weighted blankets are heavy blankets. It’s like a normal blanket, except someone added weights inside of it to make it heavier.
They don’t sound like much, but the extra weight can have a massive comforting effect to those that use them by evenly applying pressure all over your body.
This pressure has a similar effect to being hugged. It makes you feel comfortable while stimulating your brain to release serotonin, the hormone that makes you feel good and oxytocin, the hormone that makes you feel relaxed. So, just by adding weight to a blanket, you feel calmer, more comfortable and happier.
Not only are you more comfortable, but this extra pressure will also help your body produce melatonin, which is an essential hormone for sleep.
What is in a weighted blanket?
Okay, so what exactly makes the weight in a weighted blanket?
Weighted blankets have two parts to them:
- An inner section, which is where the weight comes from;
- An outer cover, which is usually a soft exterior that feels nice.
The inner section to a weighted blanket is made up from small sections of plastic pellets or glass beads sewn into small fabric pockets.
The exact type of material that is used depends on the brand and the expense of the blanket. Normally, the higher quality blankets will use Quartz glass beads as they offer better weight distribution than cheaper plastic pellets.
How these pellets or beads are sewn into the material makes a big impact on the quality of the weighted blanket. Those with smaller, but more tightly constructed pockets will be less likely to have the beads move about in the blanket. This means that the weight stays in place, rather than gathering in one area and disproportionally applying weight and pressure to the body.
The fabric used for the inner section of a weighted blanket is usually made from three materials:
Cotton is a durable fabric that is breathable, making it great for increasing airflow and ensuring that you don’t get too hot underneath the blanket.
Polyester is cheaper than cotton, but a lot less breathable. So if you’re planning on using the blanket year-round or get hot easily, you might want to avoid weighted blankets made from this material.
Bamboo is a more sustainable material that is also more breathable than cotton – making it great for use in summer months and for those that are environmentally conscious. However, there is some criticism over the process of converting bamboo into the fabric and it may be hard to come by a brand that offers 100% certified organic bamboo for their weighted blankets.
How are weighted blankets made?
Now that you know what is in a weighted blanket, let’s explain how are they made. There are two methods of creating weighted blankets:
- A standard layering process;
- An advanced blending process.
The standard layering process is the one that’s most commonly used by manufacturers and involves sandwiching the plastic pellets or glass beads into the inner fabric.
First, a thin layer of padding will be placed at the bottom. Then, the plastic pellets or glass beads are poured on top of this material. Because they are poured on, there’s no guarantee that the weight will be 100% evenly distributed among the blanket.
Finally, another piece of the padding fabric is placed on top, and the whole thing is sewn together. The fabric is also sewn into small squares throughout to help keep the weighted filling in small pockets and prevent them from moving about within the blanket.
The advanced blending process is a more expensive and longer construction process, but it results in better weight distribution.
Instead of sandwiching the weighted filling between two layers of fabric, the pellets are hand blended into the material. This prevents any of the pellets from becoming loose and provides a more exact and even weight distribution for the blanket.
How do weighted blankets work?
To correctly use a weighted blanket, you just need to lay down in a comfortable position with the blanket on top of you. Once your body starts feeling the weight of the blanket, it will start a series of reactions in your body to relax, comfort and calm you down.
Weighted blankets work through deep pressure stimulation.
This is basically the scientific name for having a pressure applied to your body, much in the same way as someone hugging you would. This pressure decreases the activity of the body’s sympathetic nervous system, which is what is responsible for making you feel stressed and anxious.
So, a weighted blanket reduces stress and anxiety levels, while also increases the activity of the parasympathetic nervous system, which lowers heart rate, blood pressure, and gets your body ready for rest and relaxation.
In addition, weighted blankets also cause the release of:
- The hormone serotonin, which makes you feel happy;
- The hormone oxytocin, which makes you feel calm and attached to someone. It’s also the hormone that has linked to increasing sleep time and quality and can reduce symptoms of obstructive sleep apnea;
- The hormone melatonin, which is responsible for sleep.
So in short, the pressure from the weighted blanket causes your body to produce hormones that make you feel calm, happy, relaxed and help you sleep.
How heavy should a weighted blanket be?
There’s no one size fits all for weighted blankets. They come in different sizes and weights and should be selected carefully to make sure that you’ve got the right size for you.
For your first weighted blanket, you should select a weight that is approximately 10% of your own body weight.
This will make sure that what is in a weighted blanket is heavy enough to activate the deep pressure stimulation and make you feel better – but not too heavy that you feel crushed or trapped underneath the weight. You should always be able to lift the blanket off of you.
If you’re planning on sharing a blanket with a partner, it’s best to use the lighter partner’s weight for selecting the right size.
If you’re buying a blanket for a child, go with an option that’s less than 10% of their weight. It’s always better to be cautious when buying for a child and ensure its something they can lift by themselves.
Are weighted blankets safe to use?
Yes, weighted blankets are 100% safe to use as long as you have the right size and weight.
The weight from a weighted blanket should feel like a comforting hug. It should be just enough to stimulate the deep pressure stimulation that enables your body to release its feel-good hormones, but it should never be heavy enough to feel like you can’t lift it or move underneath it.
If you feel like you’re struggling under a weighted blanket, then stop using it and size down immediately.
What are the benefits of using a weighted blanket?
Weighted blankets make people feel calmer, happier and more relaxed. If you’re looking at who particularly will really love using one, take a look at these top benefits of using a weighted blanket.
1. They help with anxiety and stress
As covered before, the deep pressure stimulation from weighted blankets reduces the body’s “fight or flight” stress responses. This is one of your body’s alarm systems, which creates common anxiety symptoms such as an increased heart rate or palpitations, hyperventilation, and nausea.
In summary, people will feel calmer and more relaxed, meaning weighted blankets are an excellent tool for anxiety. In fact, one study of weighted blankets found they reduced stress levels by 33%. In addition, 63% of participants reported a decrease in anxiety, and 78% said they found using a weighted blanket a preferable way to increase their level of calm.
If you suffer from anxiety or get a lot of anxiety attacks when sleeping, you might also want to pair your weighted blanket with relaxation exercises designed to help lower your anxiety levels.
2. They improve sleep
Weighted blankets help stimulate the body to produce the sleep hormone melatonin. If you’re unfamiliar with melatonin, this is a hormone that is secreted by the pineal gland in your brain whenever your body gets a message that it’s time to sleep, usually controlled by your circadian rhythm.
When your body starts producing melatonin, it will then start the process of sending you to sleep, including dropping your temperature and heart rate, relaxing your muscles and shutting your mind off for sleep.
If you’re thinking of getting a weighted blanket to improve your sleep, you’ll want to use it as part of a healthy sleep routine and consider also:
- Giving up the caffeine and alcohol, especially in the afternoon;
- Avoiding gadgets, as the light and stimulation can make it hard for your body to switch off;
- Keeping your room cool and clean, to get rid of any mental distractions that could keep you awake.
If you need more help on getting a good night’s sleep, see our sleep tips and solutions here.
3. They help with restless leg syndrome
Restless leg syndrome is a condition where people have uncontrollable and irresistible urges to move their legs. The condition can also cause an unpleasant “crawling or creeping sensation in the feet, calves and thighs”, which is often worse at night.
This means restless leg syndrome can prevent people from getting to sleep at night, or even wake people up by involuntary jerking and twitching their limbs.
It can be fairly common with those who suffer from depression and anxiety, which can also be accounted for as one of the main triggers for the condition.
By creating a comfortable weight on your legs, weighted blankets can ease the symptoms of restless leg syndrome and quieten the urges to move it, even when asleep.
Our top-rated weighted blankets
Ready to give weighted blankets a try? Take a look at our reviews of the best weighted blankets on the market.
Top-Rated Weighted Blankets:
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For a taster, we’ve included a summary of our top three here for you.
1. Mela Comfort weighted blanket – Our rating: 9.4/10
The Mela Comfort weighted blanket is one of the priciest options on the market, costing an impressive £159.99. But if you can afford this in your budget, the Mela comfort blanket is definitely worth your attention.
The Mela comfort blanket is made using high-quality glass beads using the advanced blending process. This means they are entirely rustle-free and won’t move about inside the blanket, giving you even weight distribution at all times.
Our official Sleep4Beginners rating: 9.4/10.
2. Sommio weighted blanket – Our rating: 9.1/10
Unlike the other options, the Sommio weighted blanket offers a truly unique ‘build a blanket’ service to create the right blanket for you.
This means you can fully customise the weighted blanket that you need. First, pick from 6 different weights, which range from 1kg (perfect for children) to 12kg.
Then complete it with your choice of 8 different fabric patterns, allowing you to pick the right materials and make for your weighted blanket. What’s more, they also offer a weighted duvet, if that’s a better option for you.
Our official Sleep4Beginners rating: 9.1/10.
3. Gravity weighted blanket – Our rating: 8.8/10
For those of you that are environmentally conscious, Gravity weighted blankets are produced and manufactured in Europe from completely organic materials from a socially responsible company.
They’re so responsible actually, that they offer a payment option to pay in 3 instalments rather than buy the entire thing up front, helping split the cost for those that are on a budget.
The downside? The weighted blanket covers are made from velvet, which is an unbreathable fabric and will prove to be too hot for some, especially in summer.
Our official Sleep4Beginners rating: 8.8/10.
Sleep comfortably with a weighted blanket
Weighted blankets are the answer to sleepless nights for thousands of people. They feel great while releasing hormones that help you feel calmer, happier and more relaxed.
If you’re looking to improve your sleep, this could be the solution for you.
Need more tips on getting the best night’s sleep? See more helpful advice here.