I’m no stranger to sleep woes, as I’ve already documented in detail. I’ve tried pretty much everything there is to try when it comes to falling asleep. So when weighted blankets rose in popularity, the idea became more and more appealing. I wasn't without doubts, though: “Wouldn’t that make me feel suffocated?” and “Will my weak, weak arms be able to pull that over my body?” chief among them.
That was then.
After more than a year of using a weighted blanket on my bed and couch, I’ve grown to really like it—although my initial concerns still factor in. I only want the weighted blanket on me when I’m completely settled in—no going back to the fridge for more apple juice once I’m inside my cocoon—and yep, my weak, weak arms have trouble pulling it back up over me if it slips off my bed. On the bright side, I’ve found that when I’m inside my little weighted nest, I do experience a dip in fidgeting and mind-wandering, bringing on both quicker and deeper sleep.
My experiences notwithstanding, I reached out to Mollie McGlocklin, creator of Sleep Is A Skill—a resource for the sleep-deprived—for a slightly more scientific perspective on the matter. Through her own sleep struggles and her experience with clients, McGlocklin sheds some light on the benefits of weighted blankets, and how best to approach one for the first time.
What is a Weighted Blanket, Exactly?
“They’re distinct from traditional comforters because rather than being filled with a more standard fill like cotton, down, or polyester, they are typically filled with glass pellets or beads,” McGlocklin says. "The resulting experience is one of distributed weight or pressure over your entire body. They’ve been called gravity blankets for this very same reason.”
What’s the Science Behind It?
“Weighted blankets were primarily an unknown concept for the vast majority of the population until only a few years ago,” McGlocklin points out. “Previously, they were used with children and adults dealing with a sensory-processing disorder, autism, anxiety, PTSD, or other mental health conditions.” They’ve steadily risen in popularity over the past few years, and become one of the most popular gift items, too.
The idea behind lying under about 20 pound of pressure is to create something called deep pressure touch, which presumably releases feel-good hormones like serotonin that lead to a promotion of the release of melatonin. But, like many homeopathic sleep remedies, it’s been difficult to point to specific scientific findings. While McGlocklin says “most studies currently available are either tested on a small sample size or have a conflict of interest in the funding,” she’s eager to see what progress will be made on this front as weighted blankets continue to trend in the sleep world. In the meantime, though, the testimonials from any one of your friends or family members will likely prompt you to do some digging, so McGlocklin recommends reading further about this independent study .
What's the recommended weight for a beginner?
McGlocklin has been asked this question a lot, so she refers her clients to the mantra of "when in doubt, leave some out.”
By that she means, “Unless you’re confident that you prefer a hefty amount of weight on you throughout the night, it can be wise to start with one of the lighter weighted blankets.” The established rule of thumb is typically not to exceed 10 percent of your body weight, and factor in whether you tend to sleep hot or cold, breathability of materials, and your own body. “For instance, some of my smaller-frame clients with sensitive joints found that the 20+ weight put a bit too much pressure, but the lighter one was just right. It’s kind of a Goldilocks effect.”
Are weighted blankets recommended for children?
Different experts point to different acceptable start ages (ranging from 5 to early teens), but since this concept came as a method to calm children and adults alike, McGlocklin says “there’s room to experiment with a lighter weighted blanket as a calming method during the day for children who are past the toddler age.” Of course, with children, it’s always recommended to talk to a doctor beforehand.
What about sharing a weighted blanket with a partner?
Many weighted blankets are sized individually, presumably so that the effect mimics that of a cocoon. However, McGlocklin points out that “in many European countries, the independent comforter method is the norm, so don’t be afraid to experiment with those tired conventions until you find what works best for the two of you.”
Ready to try one out yourself? Below are our favorite weighted blankets.
What the name doesn't tell you is that the plush microfiber is machine washable and instead of beads inside, the weighted blanket uses amethyst and clear quartz for more calmness.
2. Bearaby Cotton Napper, $199+
I’ve successfully gotten multiple people in my life (like, five) to purchase a Bearaby Cotton Napper because it makes the perfect foray into weighted blankets without sacrificing the aesthetic of your home. Since they’re knitted with chunky cotton and come in a range of colors, they look right at home draped over the couch or the end of a bed. Then, when it’s nap or bed time, they’re just like the best of the weighted blankets—a big, cozy hug.
3. Bearaby Tree Napper, $269+
Meanwhile, editorial lead Margaret Eby prefers Bearaby's lighter Tree Napper for its breathability. "I love this weighted blanket because it manages to have a pleasing amount of heft without being too hot, particularly useful during the summer. The woven fabric distributes weight more evenly than other blankets I've tried, which also helps stop the blanket from ending up on a heap on the floor when I shift in my sleep."
4. Brooklinen Weighted Comforter,
Market editor Jada Wong loves her Brooklinen weighted comforter because it ingeniously removes the need for an extra blanket on top her usual duvet. It also means one less piece of bedding that gets kicked onto the floor overnight.
5. Brookstone Calming Weighted Throw Blanket,
Staff writer Kelly Vaughan loves feeling extra cozy so she piles on all the blankets. "I love to be incredibly bundled when I sleep and so for years, my solution would be to sleep with five comforters. Not kidding. Sometimes I still do that, but nothing beats this 18 lb. fuzzy blanket on top of my sheets. This one features a removable, machine washable cover which is an added practical benefit."
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