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Getting proper sleep is essential for your health and happiness, but many people have difficulty getting the rest they need. People between the ages of 18 and 60 must get a minimum of 7 hours of sleep every night; however, 1 in 3 Americans don’t get enough sleep. For some people, the answer may come in the form of weighted blankets.
Weighted blankets have loops to hold the internal blanket that contains the weighted material securely to the outer cover. This two-part system provides the weight that helps you get the quality sleep you need and a comfortable outer layer that feels good on your skin.
This article will examine the different features of these interesting sleep aids and look at some of the science behind weighted blankets. If you have trouble sleeping and have ever wondered if a weighted blanket may help you get the rest you need, read on.
Weighted Blanket Basics
Weighted blankets are what they sound like—blankets are filled with some material that is much heavier than the typical filling in a duvet or comforter. Instead of feathers or cotton stuffing, a much more substantial material is used in weighted blankets.
Most weighted blankets come with a cover, much like a traditional duvet. These covers are usually made of a more comfortable material that feels better on your skin and makes cleaning a much simpler task—simply take off the cover, throw it in the washing machine, and you’ve got a fresh blanket.
This duvet system is also responsible for the loops on your weighted blanket. These loops are used to hold the blanket in place within the cover and prevent it from bunching into one corner. Some weighted blankets use different fasteners like snaps, velcro, or buttons, but they all achieve the same result.
Standard Filling for Weighted Blankets
Now that we know what those loops are for let’s take a look at what’s inside your weighted blanket.
Micro Glass Beads
This is by far the best material for your weighted blanket and is a standard filling for some of the most popular blankets on the market. These tiny beads are made of soda-lime glass and are heavier than most other fillers used in weighted blankets. This means that less material is needed to get the same pressure, making for a less bulky blanket.
Micro glass beads are also smoother than other options and can flow like sand, allowing for a more comfortable sleeping experience.
Plastic Poly Pellets
These small plastic pellets are the second most common filler in weighted blankets. Resembling BB’s, plastic poly pellets provide the weight that will help you get higher quality sleep. The one downside to this filler material is that if the fabric of your blanket and cover isn’t very thick, you may be able to feel the texture of the individual beads within the blanket.
Some blankets utilize sand as their filling for its low cost and abundance. Many people who choose to make their weighted blankets also commonly use sand as a filler. While it does provide ample weight and comfortable texture, there are a couple of issues with using sand as a filler.
First, it must be thoroughly cleaned to ensure there is no organic material left behind. This is especially important for DIY weighted blankets. Secondly, sand will clump when exposed to water, meaning that extra care must be taken when washing blankets that use this natural material as filler.
Small steel beads are also an option that some producers use. These beads move smoothly against each other and are incredibly durable. However, similarly to plastic pellets, if your blanket and cover don’t have much padding, you will likely feel the individual beads’ texture when falling asleep.
Rice or Millet
These natural materials have a long history of use as filling for pillows and cushions, and they can also provide the desired weight in these blankets. Favored for their low cost and the even distribution they reach within a blanket; they must be kept completely dry as they can rot if not properly maintained.
Finding the Right Weighted Blanket
So you are interested in trying a weighted blanket, but don’t know how heavy it should be?
When it comes to choosing a weighted blanket, the general rule of thumb is that the blanket itself should be 10% of your body weight, plus a couple of pounds. If you weigh 170 lbs, a blanket that weighs 17-20 lbs is a good fit. It is worth noting that this is only a starting point and that finding the right weighted blanket is a matter of personal preference.
Weighted blankets also come in different sizes, and finding one that fits your frame is also important in optimizing your sleep. The blanket doesn’t necessarily have to cover your entire body; however, as long it provides pressure to your chest and torso, the positive effects can be achieved.
It is also essential to buy a blanket that fits your bed since an overhanging weighted blanket will tend to slide off the bed onto the floor.
With a better understanding of these sleep aids, we can look at the science behind weighted blankets.
Do Weighted Blankets Help You Get Better Sleep?
Several studies were performed to determine whether weighted blankets produced tangible results and improved people’s quality and quantity of sleep. The results? Most studies found a distinct improvement in the participants’ quality of sleep when using a weighted blanket.
One study conducted on a randomized group found significant improvement in subjects’ sleep patterns suffering from insomnia. The same study also reported a reduced level of daytime symptoms such as fatigue, depression, and anxiety in the test subjects.
Another study conducted on children between the ages of 8 and 13 who had ADHD showed that when using a weighted blanket, the time it took subjects to fall asleep was reduced. In fact, after just two weeks of sleeping with a weighted blanket, the time it took participants to fall asleep was no different than healthy control subjects.
These don’t even mention the massive amount of scientific research into weighted blankets’ benefits in treating individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder.
How Do Weighted Blankets Work?
Weighted blankets help us sleep better. But how do these blankets work? Our understanding of how these blankets function is a work in progress, although there are many dominant theories in the sleep science community.
It is believed that even gentle pressure distribution on the body by a weighted blanket triggers the same parts of the nervous system as a hug or embrace. Scientists believe that this pressure activates the parasympathetic nerve system, which controls heartbeat, gland functions and generally works to reduce stress in the human body.
As the scientific community continues to examine how these fascinating tools can improve sleep patterns, our understanding of the specific systems in the affected body will grow.
More and more people are waking up to the potential benefits of using a weighted blanket. These unique sleep aids—and the loops that hold them in their covers—are proving to be more than just a fad, and the science behind them gets more convincing every day.
With thousands of Americans taking advantage of weighted blankets, if you’ve ever struggled to sleep, it might be time to give them a try.
- American Academy of Sleep Medicine: Home Page
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: 1 in 3 Adults Don’t Get Enough Sleep
- Weighted Blanket Guides: How to Make a Weighted Blanket – Step By Step Instructions
- Healthline: Pick the Perfect Size Weighted Blanket With This Guide
- Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine: A Randomized Controlled Study of Weighted Chain Blankets for Insomnia in Psychiatric Disorders
- National Library of Medicine: Use of Ball Blanket in Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder Sleeping Problems
- American Journal of Occupational Therapy. Efficacy of Weighted Blankets for Children With Autism Spectrum Disorder, Sensory Over Responsivity, and Sleep Disturbance