The Ultimate Guide to the Weighted Blanket
From understanding and learning to making an informed purchasing decision, our weighted blanket guide has you covered.
If you’ve not yet heard of a weighted blanket, you may be one of the remaining few. Surging in popularity over the last few years, the weighted blanket hit a peak of trendiness this past holiday season when it was pegged the top holiday gift of 2018. Despite its recent surge of popularity, weighted blankets are far from a new invention and have actually been in use as a therapeutic tool for many years.
Depending on how familiar you are with these specialty blankets, you may find yourself wondering, what are weighted blankets, how do they help and how do they work? If you’re a skeptic, you’re likely wondering if they help at all. And if you’re ready to buy a weighted blanket, you still may not be sure what you should look for and how to choose the right blanket for you.
We put together this definitive weighted blanket guide, so that no matter what stage you're at in the process, from initial research to purchasing, you'll have the information you need. Let’s first take a look back at the science and origin of the weighted blanket.
The Origin of the Weighted Blanket
The use of weighted material as a therapeutic device was first introduced in sensory integration therapy to help individuals with Autism. These weights helped those with Autism center on sensory experiences, which in turn allowed them to better manage their behavior and emotions. Doctors learned that various weights incorporating deep touch pressure (DTP), calmed patients who were experiencing such issues.
Similar tools were also used at the time. Dr. Temple Grandin, who was diagnosed on the Autism Spectrum in her 40s, is a highly respected authority, who has given not only valuable insight on Autism, but also developed a device called a Hug Machine when she was a teenager that employed deep touch to help with stress relief. Her original design has been used over time to help individuals on the Autism Spectrum.
Grandin’s Hug Machine was actually inspired by a device that farmers and ranchers use, called a squeeze chute, which is used on livestock to keep animals still and put them at ease during inoculations.
The earliest versions of the weighted blanket and vests utilized a variety of materials, ranging anywhere from rice, beans, popcorn, buckwheat, and pebbles among others. Problems would arise, especially if the organic materials (such as seeds) began to sprout, rendering the blanket useless. Some of these materials also quickly went out of favor, being too heavy for someone to handle and rendering them difficult to use.
Initially, as medical professionals and therapists explored weighted blankets as a tool for sensory therapy, weight was being applied to specific areas only, without much distribution to other areas that might benefit from DTP. Over time, larger sized coverings were designed to help evenly distribute the weight. Hence the weighted blanket was born.
Since then, weighted blankets have been used by doctors to help individuals with a variety of issues, including stress, anxiety, depression, sleep deprivation (insomnia), restless leg syndrome, OCD, attention deficit disorders as well as cardiovascular and metabolic problems.
Weighted Blankets have also proved beneficial in dealing with Sundowning Syndrome (a neurological phenomenon that occurs during the middle stages of Alzheimer's disease and mixed dementia), menopause, panic attacks, Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), and Sensory Processing Disorder, chemo anxiety, menopause, Parkinson’s Disease, dementia, cancer related issues, Alzheimer’s, Asperger’s Syndrome, dental issues such as wisdom tooth removal, brain trauma injuries, restless leg syndrome, Tourette’s Syndrome, and Cerebral Palsy.
Some veterinarians also use weighted blankets to help calm down stressed cats and dogs. You’ve heard of a Thunder Shirt or an Anxiety Shirt for a dog? It draws its idea from the weighted blanket.
For many, weighted blankets have proven invaluable as a calming influence. The key is how weighted blankets actually work on the body and the brain.
The Science: How Does a Weighted Blanket Work?
Deep Touch Pressure and Its Beneficial Results
Weighted blankets use plastic pellets or glass beads that are distributed throughout the blanket to be around 10% of a person’s IDEAL body weight. The blanket weight will typically range from 5 to 25 pounds. The blanket is constructed in quilted squares so that its weight is distributed evenly, and it’s this weight that helps produce what is called Deep Touch Pressure (DTP).
Serotonin is an important neurotransmitter. It’s a chemical that can affect a variety of psychological and physical issues, such as mood, sexual function, appetite, digestion, sleep, memory and much more. You’ve probably heard of low serotonin being associated with depression.
Dopamine, on the other hand, is a hormone (a neurotransmitter to be more exact) that helps to control the brain’s reward system. It’s often associated with sensations such as motivation, happiness, excitement and bliss, hence, it’s reputation of a “feel good hormone.”
Like dopamine, melatonin is also a hormone. Melatonin is most often associated with sleep, but its influences go well beyond that, including having some strong immune system benefits.
Since serotonin, melatonin and dopamine have an impact on the nervous system, the soothing effect of a weighted blanket can offer a feeling of protection (think of a baby being swaddled) once the weight begins to provide deep pressure. Often we hear our customers speak of how using a weighted blanket feels like being hugged.
The nonapeptide hormone Oxytocin (OT) is also released when DTP is applied. While it’s usually released into the bloodstream during sexual activity, labor and childbirth, it also has a positive effect when released by sensory stimulation, and works as a type of natural anti-depressant. A 2015 article from the National Institutes of Health states that the activation of sensory nerves aids in the release of OT and that it can help individuals with stress.
DTP also helps lower cortisol, a steroid that’s produced by the body in relation to stress.
The DTP of weighted blankets have been invaluable for children, not just for those suffering from disorders, but also for use in calming down rowdy or restless children, and helping them feel protected and safe.
It’s not just children who can benefit from the use of weighted blankets; adults and seniors can also benefit from them, as part of an overall wellness plan, and/or if they’re experiencing stress, aches and pains, as well as dementia related issues, with the deep pressure providing much needed relief.
Scientific Research, Weighted Blankets and Why Everyone Should Have One
Weighted Blankets for Issues with Sleep Deprivation and Anxiety
Sleep deprivation can be extremely problematic, and it affects all of us at some point. Not getting at least 8 hours of sleep every night can have a detrimental effect on one’s overall health.
How many times have you felt sluggish all day from a lack of sleep the night before? And since roughly one third of the population (in industrialized nations) has some issue with sleep, the weighted blanket can be of great help.
In fact, outside of its use in medical and therapeutical industries, the weighted blanket has gained much traction as a natural sleep aid, particularly for those who want to put away their pills and naturally get a good night's sleep.
A 2015 study from the Journal of Sleep Medicine & Disorders, states that weighted blankets have been invaluable in helping to improve sleep patterns. Serotonin helps enhance mood, as well as regulate relaxation. It also helps release melatonin, which signals when your body needs sleep. A lack of sleep can add to stress, and can affect your performance at work and your relationships with your loved ones.
It’s a vicious circle.
The sense of calm produced by a weighted blanket can be beneficial, not only to your peace of mind, but to your overall health. If you’ve ever had a sleepless night, where you toss and turn, or where you’re anxious and your mind is churning, a weighted blanket can aid in reducing that anxiety.
If you experience crippling panic attacks or suffer from Tourette’s Syndrome, and other related anxieties, your nervous system can experience a ‘mellowing out’ with a weighted blanket, which in turn allows you to get a better night sleep, without the use of pharmaceuticals.
A 2006 group study by Dr. Tina Champagne and several others tested the effectiveness of a weighted blanket on a group of 32 adults. The study showed that 33% of the participants demonstrated a decrease lowering in electrodermal activity (EDA) while using the blanket, 63% of the subjects reported lower levels of anxiety, and 78% preferred using the weighted blanket to help reduce stress and promote calm.
Weighted Blankets and Re-Focusing
In the case of children (and adults) who experience ADHD, DTP can help them re-focus, especially in a classroom environment.
For children who have behavioral issues, some studies have found that using weighted blankets and vests actually improved their overall responsiveness and made them focus on their coursework.
A 2001 study published by the National Institutes of Health found that weighted vests were helpful in reducing fidgeting and other self-stimulatory behaviors, often brought on by an overwhelming sensory overload. This particular study showed that children with pervasive developmental disorders (PDD), who used weighted vests, saw an increase in their overall attention span and a decrease of such stimulatory behaviors.
Weighted blankets can also be helpful if you have children who are restless during a long road trip, as it will help to release serotonin to help them relax. We carry a travel weighted blanket for just that purpose.
Calming Down and Dealing with Transitions
For children who have special needs, it’s very likely that they’ve experienced an emotional eruption, which can be caused by sensory overload. Weighted blankets can create the feeling of being snuggled or hugged and help reduce the intensity of of an emotional eruption. Some schools and hospitals have designed sensory rooms in which a child can be given a weighted blanket in a safe environment in which they can calm down. Stress and anxiety are greatly reduced, allowing for serotonin to be released.
For children (and adults) with autism, the emotional eruption might be more severe. Many parents and teachers experience children having great difficulty making a transition from one activity to the next. Some special education classes offer downtime in which a child can sit with a weighted blanket for several minutes in an effort to calm down.
If this is a routine in the classroom, then the child will have a greater responsiveness to any transitions; they know that the blanket will be part of their daily routine. The same routine can also be applied at home, as children will adapt to a special time with the blanket.
Chronic Aches and Pains
In addition to sleep deprivation and anxiety, weighted blankets can also alleviate issues where physical pain is prevalent. If you’re suffering from chronic pain brought on by a variety of issues, you can find some relief by using weighted blankets, as the deep tissue pressure helps the pain subside.
Here are a few of the lesser known conditions where weighted blankets can also be helpful:
Fibromyalgia is a disorder that can produce extreme musculoskeletal pain and tenderness, with fatigue, memory, mood, dizziness, hypertension, nausea and sleep deprivation as side effects. It affects roughly 10 million Americans. As it affects your muscles and even your skeletal system, it can sometimes be misdiagnosed.
Approximately 90% of those who suffer from fibromyalgia are women. There is no real cure for this disease, and while there are medicines on the market that can help alleviate the pain, they are sometimes not entirely effective.
But this is where a weighted blanket comes in… while the blanket cannot cure fibromyalgia, it can help increase serotonin levels with applying gentle pressure; once the serotonin levels increase, sufferers may experience less fatigue.
Neuropathy is a disease that affects the peripheral nerves, but it has many causes. Many of them are derived from the aftermath of surgery, genetic diseases, endocrine diseases, immune disease, viral infections, and even by chemotherapy. Regardless of the causes, the effects can be extremely painful.
Medications such as antidepressants are often prescribed to treat Neuropathy, as well as duloxetine, which is a serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor, and some doctors even prescribe cannabinoids to help alleviate the pain. A weighted blanket can be used as an additional tool to help relieve some of the pain.
According to the Sidran Institute, a non-profit that advocates on behalf of those suffering from PTSD and traumatic stress, approximately 70% of adults in the United States experienced some sort of traumatic event in their life. It’s estimated that 5% of Americans will have PTSD at any given time and about 8% of adults will develop PTSD during the course of their life.
While PTSD has often been connected with soldiers who’ve experienced combat (where it was often called ‘shell shock’ and ‘combat fatigue’), it can basically be applied to anyone who suffers from trauma, such as from a natural disaster, a life threatening accident or injury, and physical or sexual abuse and assault.
Nightmares and a lack of sleep are common symptoms of PTSD, and the deep pressure simulation from a weighted blanket can also be beneficial.
While some PTSD sufferers may have to seek medical attention for their symptoms, a weighted blanket, and the deep pressure therapy that they provide, can certainly help as an additional aid, especially if the stress is very high and sleep is affected.
The release of serotonin can help with sleep deprivation, and also with any psychological symptoms related to stress. The swaddling, some may even compare it to being in a womb, can provide, along with the blanket’s weight, produce an overall comforting effect.
Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS) creates extreme pain in the legs. Considered a neurological disorder, most experience this at night as they’re trying to sleep…but they can’t as the pain is often excruciating.
Symptoms of RLS include an endless need to move, an inability to get comfortable and painful sensations, such as itching, and throbbing in the legs. A fact sheet issued by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke states that RLS causes exhaustion and sleepiness, which can greatly impact ones mood, concentration, work performance, as well as relationships. RLS affects both men and women, yet more women seem to be affected by it overall. Some causes include a lack of iron, alcohol, caffeine and nicotine usage, neuropathy, and third trimester pregnancy.
Added weight and Deep Touch Pressure on ones legs can help reduce the symptoms of RLS. If you experience these symptoms while working, a weighted lap pad can also help reduce discomfort.
The deep pressure stimulation of a weighted blanket can also help reduce both anxiety and depression. If you suffer from disorders such as Fibromyalgia, Neuropathy and any others where you experience chronic pain, a weighted blanket may help temporary relieve some of these issues.
Weighted blankets have a long history of helping those with autism and sensory disorders. Based on research from the aforementioned studies, they are also valuable in helping people of all ages, with all types of issues, including those seeking general wellness and relief from everyday stress.
Buying a Weighted Blanket: What You Need to Know
One of the most important things to keep in mind when buying a weighted blanket is that weighted blankets work a little differently than regular blankets. The weighted material works by enveloping your body, so it’s best not to let it hang loosely like a regular blanket. When used correctly, our blankets offer a soothing and calming deep pressure therapy that will help you relax and improve concentration.
Like all things, when purchasing a weighted blanket, do your due diligence, so that you know exactly what you’re purchasing. Not all weighted blanket companies are created equal. Like any industry that grows sensationally, weighted blanket sellers pop up every day who may not be selling quality blankets. Many import their blankets from China, and are made with cheap and toxic materials. Not only does this mean you likely won’t be getting the therapeutic benefits you're seeking, but you may also be putting yourself at risk in other ways.
When buying a weighted blanket, keep in mind that for the most therapeutic benefits, you should opt for a weighted blanket that is 10% of your ideal body weight. "Ideal" being a key aspect here. But more important than exact weight, you’ll want a weighted blanket that feels comfortable on your body. For each person, that can differ. We’ve found that some people prefer more weight, and some less.
If you need more guidance on this aspect, take a look at our blanket sizing chart.
As you consider weighted blankets, look for a weighted blanket company that offers you time to test your blanket, and exchange it if the weight or size is inappropriate for you. We offer a 30 day return policy on our blankets, because we want you to be happy with your purchase for years to come.
We may be a little prejudiced here, but we suggest buying from a company that makes their weighted blankets in the USA. In addition to the obvious benefits of supporting the American economy, quality and materials are better regulated in the US and when you’re making a significant (and therapeutic) purchase, you’ll want to make sure you get a quality product.
When purchasing a weighted blanket, you may be considering whether you want a blanket made with glass beads or plastic pellets and which type is better.
Though glass beads do tend to be smaller, and a little less noticeable in the blanket, you should be aware that when buying a weighted blanket with glass beads, that unless the company you’re buying from guarantees otherwise, there is a strong possibility that the weighted blanket may contain lead from the glass beads, particularly with companies who are sourcing their materials from China, or having their weighted blankets made in China. If you’re not familiar with the dangers of lead, you can read this article from the World Health Organization on the dangers of lead.
Our weighted blankets are custom made in the USA at our commercial grade facility, and are expertly crafted from non-toxic materials, 100% cotton and/or minky fabrics. We use plastic pellets in our weighted blankets to avoid the possibility of lead contamination. The pellets we use are BPA-free and hypo-allergenic.
One thing you'll want to consider when buying your blanket is if you're ok with dry cleaning or if you need a machine washable weighted blanket. Many weighted blankets on the market require dry cleaning, which will involve extra cost and care that you should be aware of prior to purchasing. We make machine washable weighted blankets.
Organic is important to many purchasers nowadays, and only a handful of weighted blanket companies make organic weighted blankets. For those looking for an organic solution, we offer a weighted blanket made from organic cotton fabric.
In making your purchase decision, choose a weighted blanket you love, whether that be a neutral or solid color blanket or one that has unique patterns and colors, or a minky weighted blanket (minky is a premium fabric with a soft, luxurious feel). Your blanket is something you'll have for a long time and it should be something that compliments your taste & style. We offer one of the largest selections of colors, patterns, weights & sizes, so you can find the right weighted blanket for you.
Depending on where you're purchasing your weighted blanket, you may come across blankets in a variety of sizes. For adults, the most popular size weighted blanket is 42x72. Children's sizes are typically smaller. That’s also the size of our twin size weighted blanket. In addition to that, we also offer larger sizes of weighted blankets for those wanting more room or looking to share with a partner. These include a 54x75 (full size weighted blanket), a 60x80 queen size weighted blanket, a 76x80 king size weighted blanket.
A quality weighted blanket will last you for years to come. Although all our weighted blankets are made to last and quality constructed, some of our customers prefer to purchase a weighted blanket duvet cover, along with their blanket, whether that’s to change up the look of their blanket from time to time, or to generally protect and prolong the life of their blanket even further.
When looking to buy a weighted blanket, you'll want to make sure the weighted blanket you're purchasing is made by a reputable manufacturer, with a history in the industry, as well as a good and researchable reputation. Fly by night companies may not provide with you a quality product, nor may they be around tomorrow should you need to return or exchange your blanket.
Each Weighted Blanket, Wrap and Lap Pad we make uses Deep Touch Pressure to help you relax and sleep better. We have over 2000 positive reviews from customers who have purchased and had success with our products. Since our founding in 2011, we’ve had an exemplary history of providing quality, long-lasting products. When purchasing your weighted blanket, be sure you choose a company to buy from that subscribes to these types of standards.