Weighted blankets have surged in popularity over the past few years and are continuing to do so. But what is the rave all about weighted blankets? This post will provide you answer from what is a weighted blanket, its construction, the benefits, and a guideline on buying one.
What is a Weighted Blanket?
A weighted blanket resembles a regular blanket but with an added weight to it. It is filled with materials like glass beads and plastic poly pellets, and the blanket is meant to help people calm down, relax, and sleep well.
Before they went mainstream, weighted blankets were used for many years in therapy and psychiatric clinics to help alleviate symptoms of autism, anxiety, and ADHD on children and adults. Seeing its many benefits, manufacturers adopted the weighted blanket’s design and made it available for the public.
Weighted blankets nowadays are designed to resemble a regular blanket, not a medical or therapy equipment. Its weight varies from 7 pounds to 30 pounds and has sizes ranging from twin size to king size. There are also many color and design options to cater to each person’s preferences.
How Does a Weighted Blanket Work?
What makes a weighted blanket therapeutical is its ability to induce deep touch pressure on the body. Deep touch pressure or deep pressure therapy increases the release of good hormones like dopamine and serotonin and decrease the production of stress hormones.
Many of the challenges of clinical disorders like ADHD, anxiety, and autism can sometimes make it hard for the person to feel a sense of calm. The deep touch pressure from weighted blankets comes handy as it helps calm the nerves and lead to a good night of sleep.
The weight from the weighted blanket also has a grounding effect. The weight grounds and calms the body during sleep by pushing it downwards, which is why people who use weighted blankets reported feeling an overall sense of calmness and relaxation that make them easier to fall asleep.
What is a Weighted Blanket Construction?
What is in a weighted blanket? To have an in-depth understanding of what is a weighted blanket and how it works, let us look at what is a weighted blanket construction and its two main components: the fabric and the filler.
Weighted blankets come in different materials. The fabric is the outer layer of the weighted blanket that comes in contact directly with the person’s skin. It holds the plastic pellets and glass beads that are inside the blanket. Fillers are what weighs down a weighted blanket; however, some manufacturers layer the fabric to add more weight. The most common materials used on weighted blankets are as follows:
Cotton is a widely used fabric for weighted blankets. Weighted blankets with cotton fabrics will not feel hot as cotton has excellent temperature control. Cotton is also hypoallergenic, does not stain easily and easy to wash and dry.
Cotton comes in two varieties: organic and conventional cotton. Organic cotton is a lot softer and safer compared to conventional cotton. Conventional cotton, however, can be harmful to health due to the toxic chemicals used during its production.
Minky is a favorite because of its super soft and plush feel. Usually used with baby products, minky has also found its way as a fabric for weighted blankets. Minky is durable and will stay soft with proper care and handling. Minky is super warm and is ideal for use during winter and cold seasons.
Flannel is also a warm fabric. This fabric, although warm, won’t cause the user to sweat as it has excellent breathability. Flannel does not get snagged easily and does not require high maintenance. Just like minky, however, it is not ideal for summer because of its warm nature.
Fleece is a synthetic fabric and will make a cozy and warm choice. It is lightweight but warm, durable, and inexpensive, making it a great winter blanket. The downside of fleece, however, is that it quickly absorbs the smell and can be hard to wash off.
This smooth, glossy, and luxurious looking fabric is an excellent choice for people prone to heating during sleep. This fabric is warm and has outstanding breathability and would make a perfect all season blanket.
Fillers like plastic poly pellets and glass beads are inserted inside the pockets of the blanket to make the blanket weighted. These fillers are systematically placed inside the blanket to result in an even weight distribution throughout the weighted blanket. The different types used in making a weighted blanket include:
Plastic Poly Pellets
Plastic Poly Pellets are small round beads made with polypropylene. They are usually placed inside the blanket with cotton stuffing to lessen the faint rustling it creates when you move the blanket. Some manufacturers use minky fabric or other thicker fabric to mask this soft rustling. However, when not constructed properly, the pellets and cotton stuffings can cause lumps throughout the blanket.
Micro Glass Beads
Micro glass beads are incredibly tiny and with a texture similar to sand. They are one of the quality choices when it comes to weighted blanket fillers as they glide smoothly inside the blanket. They are heavier than plastic poly pellets so it would require less of them to weigh down a weighted blanket. Blankets with micro glass beads as fillers are heavy but not too thick compared to plastic poly filled weighted blanket.
Steel Shots Beads
Steel shot beads are heavy fillers. They are durable micro balls with high-temperature rating, which makes them safe inside a dryer. Steel shot beads are slightly larger and heavier than micro glass beads which make them perfect filler for a thin weighted blanket. Just like plastic poly pellets though, they give off a faint rustling and can lump inside the blanket if not properly constructed.
An inexpensive alternative to plastic poly pellets, glass beads, and steel shot beads are rice, grains, and sand. These fillers come cheap and are readily available. Unlike plastic poly pellets, they are lighter and would require quite a quantity of them to weigh down a blanket. Another drawback is that they are organic, which means they will expire and rot at some point. Also, when the natural fillers get wet, they are susceptible to mold and insect infestation, which makes the blanket not wash-friendly.
What is a Weighted Blanket Benefits?
What is a weighted blanket benefits that make it appeal to the mass? The many benefits of a weighted blanket are as follows:
1. Overall sleep improvement
If you are a restless sleeper, a weighted blanket can help. The grounding effect of the weighted blanket decreases movements, which makes it easier for people to settle down to sleep. Even people with insomnia can benefit from a weighted blanket. Deep touch pressure induced during the use of the blanket increases the production of melatonin, resulting in a night of uninterrupted and restful sleep.
2. Decreases stress hormones and calm the nerve
An abnormal amount of cortisol, the stress hormones, results in anxiety. With increased cortisol, melatonin production is compromised, which harms a person’s sleep quality. The weighted blanket helps as it decreases the production of cortisol and triggers the release of serotonin, which is a happy hormone, that calm the nervous system and helps people feel more relaxed.
3. Benefits people with clinical conditions
A weighted blanket can help people with clinical conditions. One of the causes of most clinical conditions like ADHD and autism spectrum disorder is the low production of serotonin, decreased melatonin levels, and increased cortisol levels. The ability of the weighted blanket to trigger serotonin hormones to increase alone can alleviate the symptoms of these clinical conditions, including:
- Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)
- Anxiety disorder
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
- Restless legs syndrome
What are the Factors to Consider Before Buying a Weighted Blanket?
Now that you know everything about what is a weighted blanket let us look at the factors to consider when buying one.
- Age Group
Weighted blankets should not be used with babies and infants as they don’t have the strength to support the weight of a heavy blanket. Children below six years of age should also not use a weighted blanket because of the safety risks they present. Be cautious even when using a weighted blanket on elderlies with frail bodies as the heavy blanket can restrict their movement.
Your weighted blanket should weigh 10% of your ideal body weight - this is the general guideline when choosing the weight of your weighted blanket. However, you can go heavier or lighter, depending on your comfort level.
Take note though that a weighted blanket works due to its weight. Going lighter than the 10 percent guideline will not make your weighted blanket beneficial as a therapy blanket.
Your weighted blanket should exactly fit your body size or your bed size. Buying a weighted blanket in the full size while sleeping in a single bed will have your weighted blanket sliding onto the floor.
If you are buying a weighted blanket to use it as a lap pad, you can buy the smallest sized one. Weighted blankets are available in different sizes, from twin size to king size, so more options for you.
It is essential to choose the type of fabric you are comfortable with, especially if you have texture sensitivities and allergies. It is also better to select a material which is breathable and will not suffocate during sleep. If you sleep warm and you sweat easily, it is better to go for blankets with natural fibers as they tend to be more refreshing compared to synthetic fibers like polyester.
Almost all fillers tend to produce a faint rustling sound when you move the weighted blanket. Some filler also lumps on some sides of the sheet. But as long as the weighted blanket has quality construction, the rustling sound should be at a minimum, and there are no lumps around the blanket.
Washing small sized weighted blankets are easy, but for the full-sized one, it is another matter. Consider various factors when washing a weighted blanket – the weight, size, fabric, and filler. Heavy weighted blanket adults are recommended to be cleaned at Laundromats so that you won’t risk damaging your washer. Some weighted blankets should not be tumble dried as the heat can damage the fabric and the fillers. Frequent washing a weighted blanket can affect its quality, in the long run, so covering it with a removable cover is recommended to keep washing at a minimum.
Weighted blankets either come in two styles: duvet or one piece. One piece does not come with a removable cover and has its cover already sewn in with the weighted layer. Duvet style weighted blanket, however, comes with the weighted sheet and a removable cover. With a cover, a weighted blanket is easy to keep clean as covers are lighter and can be easily machine washed compared to the weighted layer.
Weighted blankets do not come cheap, but it is an excellent investment that will benefit you and your sleep in the long run. It is then essential to be meticulous when choosing a weighted blanket. Some weighted blankets, although expensive, can last you for at least ten years as long as it they are quality weighted blankets.
- Medical Conditions
Before buying a weighted blanket for a medical condition, always consult your doctor or a therapist. Although weighted blanket is beneficial, not everyone is safe to use it. Never use weighted blankets on people with the following conditions: claustrophobia, respiratory diseases, and women going through menopause. If you notice discomfort when using the weighted blanket, assess and observe what might be causing it and replace the blanket if necessary.
- Trials and Warranty
Looking for the perfect weighted blanket is a trial and error process. Some companies offer a trial period where you can take home and try the blanket for some time. Some weighted blanket also comes with a warranty if the product comes with a defect.