The Weighted Blanket FAQ Edition [Mollie's Monday Obsessions v.112]
2020, year of the weighted blanket.
The 411 On Weighted Blankets
CALLOUT If weighted blankets are your first step along the process of improving your sleep, you need to understand that they are simply one tool in the toolkit. Experiment with them and see if they work for you, but remember that this is not a one-and-done thing. You need a higher-level approach to transform your sleep over the long term.
All that aside, I have several clients who are downright fanatical about these things. I personally like them for a grounding power nap in the middle of the day. I’ve honestly found it to be one of the more polarizing topics in sleep right now. People seem to either love them or leave them. So what is the deal with these HEAVY blankets?
THE CONCEPT When it comes to weighted blankets 101, it can help to distinguish what they are not. They are 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. 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.
The idea behind it is that it creates something called deep pressure touch, which presumably releases feel-good hormones like serotonin, leading to a promotion of melatonin.
Where did this concept even come from, and why has it become such a phenomenon? And if you’re like me, you might want to check out a longer origin story (here) of how they came to be one of the most popular gifts of this past holiday season.
But if you don’t want to go digging, the main takeaway is that weighted blankets were primarily an unknown concept for the vast majority of the population until only a few years ago. They were previously used with children and adults dealing with a sensory-processing disorder, autism, anxiety, PTSD, or other mental health conditions.
STUDIES Unfortunately, there are not many. Most are either tested on select small sample size or have a conflict of interest in the funding. However, I’m eagerly awaiting as more are released. In the meantime, I have provided some existing studies in the list below.
WEIGHT When discussing the age-old (and by this, I mean, the last few months!) questions, “How heavy should I go?” I have coined a silly, but hopefully, helpful phrase to bring with you as you navigate the aisles google or amazon:
“When in doubt, leave some out!”
What I mean by that is, 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. Another known rule of thumb is to typically not exceed 10% of your body weight. Of course, you will want to factor in your unique physical frame and (depending on the blanket’s breathability/cooling properties), accounting for whether or not you tend to run hot or cold at night. For instance, some of my smaller frame clients with sensitive joints found that the 20+ weights put a bit too much pressure on the joints, but the lighter was just right. #GolidlocksEffect
KIDS You want to be mindful of the topic of children and weighted blankets. Different experts point to different acceptable start ages. However, using with or children under the age of 5 and some even keep them regulated for teens and up. However, because part of this concept came as a method for calming children and adults alike, there is room to experiment with a lighter weighted blanket as a calming method during the day for children far past the toddler age. And as always, talk with your doctor on this topic.
PARTNERS Many weighted blankets are sized for a single individual alone, presumably so that the effect mimics a cocoon. Case in point, over the past few weeks, Blake is happily using a separate blanket while I’m testing a single-person weighted blanket. When we were in Budapest, this independent comforter method was often the norm in many of the Airbnbs we stayed at, so this doesn’t feel weird to us! Don’t be afraid to experiment with those tired conventions until you find what works best for the two of you.
Resource: Eco-friendly Weighted Blanket, BalooLiving I enjoyed connecting with the owner of this company and love her commitment to helping improve people’s sleep! Goop sings their praises for offering an eco-friendly option (glass beads and fabric devoid of chemicals!). I particularly appreciate how cooling this brand is when many of the competitors fall flat.
Resource Cooling Weighted Blanket, ChiliPad Weighted Blanket: I connected with this company during CES and tested their water chilled weighted blanket. It’s an excellent option for us hot sleepers, although the price tag reflects its luxury status.
Resource: List of Kid-Friendly Weighted Blankets: Will a Weighted Blanket Help an Anxious Kid? “Long before weighted blankets became one of the most in-demand gifts for adults with insomnia and anxiety they were used primarily in therapeutic settings for children suffering from sensory processing disorder, autism spectrum disorder, sleep problems, and issues of self-regulation. “I have been an occupational therapist working with kids for 20 years, and we’ve been using weighted blankets since I got out of college,” says Keri Wilmot She explains that these blankets offer deep pressure, which, like a massage, creates “a feel-good reaction of comfort and a sense of calm” for most people. They’re often used to help children calm down when they’re overstimulated or to help them fall — and stay — asleep.”
Resource: Study, Positive Effects of a Weighted Blanket on Insomnia This is one of the studies that had a conflict of interest since Somna funded it. “The weighted chain blanket used in the present study had a positive impact on sleep, both objectively and subjectively, where several physiological and behavioral measures were improved during weighted blanket use. When the participants used the weighted blanket, they had a calmer night’s sleep, decreasing movements. Subjectively, they believed that using the blanket provided them with a more comfortable, better quality and more secure sleep. In conclusion, a weighted blanket may aid in reducing insomnia through increased tactile and proprioceptive inputs, may provide an innovative, nonpharmacological approach and complementary tool to improve sleep quality.”
Resource: Test, Blublox, How To Test Blue Light Glasses If you’re like most people and your blue blockers fail this test, ‘Sleepisaskill’ will get you a discount for Blublox.
SLEEP IS A SKILL PODCAST
️Resource: Podcast Episode, 019: Elizabeth Grojean, Founder of Baloo Living, Weighted Blankets 101: Every Question Answered! I am asked a LOT about one sleep “gadget” in particular...it’s relatively low-tech, but lands as a very confusing concept: weighted blankets! “How heavy should it be?” “Will it hurt my joints?” “How do you wash it?” “Should I get it just for me or to cover the whole bed?”, “Will it get too hot?” and beyond. Despite a history of use in psychiatric units for potential calming properties, weighted blankets are relatively new for the average consumer. They have certainly experienced an uptick in interest on the heels of Covid-19. People who love them say that they calm their nerves, reduce their anxiety, and make them feel more grounded/safe. Anecdotally, many of my single clients, in particular, speak to the experience of feeling supported and like that the bed feels all-around less lonely.
I’m so grateful to have my friend and creator of Baloo Living, a wildly successful eco-conscious weighted blanket line on the podcast, to clear up the confusion!
Elizabeth Grojean is the founder and CEO of Baloo Living, a sleep and wellness company providing tools to support the mind-body connection and sleep. She started Baloo while living abroad in Bali, creating the brand as an expression of the lessons learned while reconnecting with nature, tuning out external noise, and listening to intuition.
Weighted blankets don't have many studies behind them so what we know is mainly from user-feedback.
Users speak to reduced anxiety and stress and bring with it the feeling of being secure and safe.
It is thought that the way these blankets might achieve these benefits is by helping to decrease the stress hormone cortisol while increasing the happiness hormone serotonin—all necessary components to produce melatonin.
Weighted blankets seem to improve restfulness scores for some users, including users’ sleep quality, who didn’t even realize that their sleep is subpar.
Anxiety rates have been increasing worldwide. As a result, weighted blankets are even more en vogue now with their ties to anxiety reduction.
‘A blanket which feels like a gentle hug.’
Weighted blankets are believed to reduce stress and anxiety while giving a feeling of comfort, improving the mood, and helping the user relax.
Relationship to sleep:
Thought to decrease the stress hormone cortisol and increase serotonin, which is necessary for melatonin production
Relax the nervous system and calm down the user by tapping into primal senses. Feedback from users includes feeling more safe and secure while using it.
Many people who did not know that they had sleeping problems realized they weren't getting high-quality sleep before switching to the weighted blanket.
Calm down hyperactivity and anxiety built up through the day
Micro glass beads are used to create the weight in some blankets. From a sleep perspective, the benefits are that they don't keep the heat as synthetic fillings can.
How can it help with sleep quality and wakeups?
There are different weights for different people, which depends on the user's preferences. 15lbs is the most popular option. For side sleepers, it is not recommended to go above 15lbs.
Recommended for children above the age of 4
Benefits for people on the spectrum? ADHD, PTSD, and anxiety?
As always, please send me your thoughts on this week’s obsession or your current fascinations.
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