Do Weighted Blankets Work and How to Pick the Right One

Have you jumped on the weighted blanket bandwagon? Learn all about weighted blankets and why they work so well for so many users.

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Weighted blankets are definitely having their moment. The trendy bed coverings started gaining in popularity a couple of years ago and are now the must-have item of 2020 — maybe because we all need a little extra comfort this year. Let’s take a closer look at weighted blankets, including what they are, how they work and how much they cost.

What Are Weighted Blankets?

Weighted blankets are bed covers or throws made with weighted material — usually plastic or glass pellets — sewn into them. They typically weigh between five and 30 pounds. Most weighted blankets have removable, washable covers, although some are made from washable open-weave fabric.

How Do Weighted Blankets Work?

Weighted blankets have long been used as a calming aid for children with autism or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and for adults with anxiety disorders, explains Patrick Seiffert of the American Textile Company, makers of the Tranquility line of weighted blankets. “They’ve existed in a limited clinical setting for a specific purpose,” he says, “and have only recently found a popular audience.”

The weight of the blanket creates what’s called “deep touch pressure,” a sensation users most often describe as a feeling of being hugged. Anamika Adwaney is a London-based physician who with her husband launched The Little Blanket Shop, Ltd., which makes children’s weighted blankets. She says that “hugging” feeling causes the brain to release serotonin, which reduces anxiety. Serotonin also helps create melatonin, the hormone that helps us fall asleep.

Weighted blankets also discourage users from changing position as often in their sleep, so they avoid the classic tossing and turning that leads to sleepless nights or poor sleep. Large-scale scientific studies on weighted blankets have yet to be completed, in part because it’s impossible to do a “blind” sleep study when the subjects clearly know whether or not they’re under a weighted blanket.

But even lacking large-scale studies, Adwaney says that “the most important thing is that they don’t do any harm.” Plus, we’re in what Seiffert calls the “golden age” of sleep awareness. “We know a good night’s sleep leads to better functioning during the day,” he says, “and that longer-term benefits of sound sleep include strengthened immunity response, cellular repair and positive effects on memory.”

Then there’s the pandemic to consider. “Globally, we’re living through such an unusual period,” Seiffert says. “People are on edge, and they’re looking for ways to reduce anxiety and stress.” Weighted blankets have essentially caught the tailwind of the pandemic, he says, and offer “a safe, non-chemical way to help relax and stay calm.” We recommend the Bearaby weighted blanket.

How to Choose a Weighted Blanket

In choosing a weighted blanket, go for one that’s 10 percent of your body weight, meaning a 150-pound adult would choose a 15-pound blanket. Anything lighter might not provide that hugging sensation, and anything heavier might feel too restrictive.

Adwaney recommends that users — especially children — ease into weighted blankets by using them for an hour or so at a time until they’re comfortable with the weight. Another option for kids: Break them out for TV or nap time before putting them on the bed.

Are Weighted Blankets Right for Everyone?

Seiffert says an overwhelming number of customers who tried Tranquility blankets (shown above) shared positive reviews. But loving or loathing weighted blankets is a matter of personal taste. For example, Adwaney says that when some children get upset, they don’t like being hugged as a comforting or calming measure. These same kids likely won’t do well with a weighted blanket.

Medically-speaking, some pre-existing conditions may preclude the use of a weighted blanket. A Harvard Medical School article reports people who suffer from sleep apnea, respiratory problems or certain other sleep disorders should check with their doctors before curling up under a weighted blanket. Weighted blankets are also not considered safe for toddlers less than two years of age.

How Much Do Weighted Blankets Cost?

Once a significant bedtime investment, weighted blankets now range widely in price. The Tranquility line, available at Walmart, Target, and other retailers, is on the lower end, running from about $25 to $70 depending on size and weight. The Little Blanket Shop sells its kids’ blankets, which can be monogrammed, for about $100.

In an informal survey of weighted blanket pricing, we found most adult-sized blankets between $100 to $160, but some run as high as a few hundred dollars. Our advice? Buy a blanket with a removable, machine washable cover.

Elizabeth Heath
Elizabeth Heath is a travel, lifestyle and home improvement writer based in rural Umbria, Italy. Her work appears in The Washington Post, Travel + Leisure, Reader's Digest, TripSavvy and many other publications, and she is the author of several guidebooks. Liz's husband is a stonemason and together, they are passionate about the great outdoors, endless home improvement projects, their tween daughter and their dogs. She covers a variety of topics for Family Handyman and is always ready to test out a new pizza oven or fire pit.