You might have heard a lot of talk about weighted blankets online and in your community. People describe them as cozy, comforting, and therapeutic, but you might still have some confusion about what is a weighted blanket and why you should try one out for yourself or your kids. It might even seem like a bunch of fluffy fake science. How can a heavy blanket have such amazing benefits to such a wide range of people?
Once you understand what a weighted blanket is, the real, scientifically-proven body and mind reactions it causes, and all the benefits that come with them, you will probably want to get one for yourself. This is especially true if you or anyone you care about has trouble falling asleep or staying asleep at night, or has been diagnosed with anxiety, depression, ADHD or ADD, or autism spectrum disorders.
What is a Weighted Blanket?
As the name implies, these blankets are heavier than normal ones you would find in a home or decorating store. This is not due to them only having thicker fabric, however. Instead, various types of heavier materials are sewn into pockets between the layers of the blanket. The idea is more weight without sacrificing comfort.
Many use glass or plastic beads to achieve this. Others use more natural items like dry rice or millet. The latter types can cause problems if the blanket gets wet, of course. The heavy materials are even dispersed throughout the blanket and often covered by cotton batting to make things feel softer and more comfortable.
Weighted Blanket Benefits
The main benefit of a weighted blanket is relaxation. This occurs for two reasons. First, the weight helps the blanket feel more like a comforting hug against your body. Science calls it “deep touch pressure” or DTP. This is the same type of feeling you get when you experience a quality massage from someone with knowledge about how to give a good one like a professional masseuse or masseur.
Second, the DTP triggers the body’s natural chemical responses to pressure and physical stimulation of nerve cells. The two chemicals that get triggered with weighted blankets are oxytocin and serotonin. Both of these make you feel better almost immediately and are often referred to as the feel-good chemicals in your brain.
The hormone oxytocin is released by the brain into the blood stream when people hug, cuddle, or bond with other people or pets. It is sometimes called the love hormone, or the cuddle hormone. When you snuggle under your weighted blanket, you get the same physical triggers that tell your pituitary gland to start producing oxytocin. The end result is lowered blood pressure, slower heart rate, and a truly relaxing feeling overall.
Serotonin is another natural brain chemical that is responsible for feeling relaxed, calm, and comfortable. It even helps you de-stress, sleep longer and deeper, and awake more rested and refreshed. Having too little serotonin is associated with depression and anxiety.
The benefits of weighted blanks have long been known in the therapy community for those with sleep disorders, autism, ADHD, and anxiety problems. People will these problems frequently have trouble with appropriate serotonin response systems. Autism is also frequently associated with sensory processing problems, which can make normal touch uncomfortable or not noticeable at all.
How Heavy Should a Weighted Blanket Be?
The appropriate weight for one of these blankets depends on the user’s age and size. Never use one for an infant or baby under one year of age. Toddlers can use small weighted blankets that are about 10% of their body weight. This same rule holds true for children up to six-years-old.
For older children up to 12-years-old, calculate the weight of the blanket based on 10% of their body weight plus two pounds. Teenagers and adults get the best benefits with ones that are 10% of body weight plus three pounds. Some people find that they prefer blankets that are a bit lighter or heavier than the general recommendation. Still, since you cannot try before you buy, going with these guidelines makes sense.
The blanket may feel excessively heavy the first time you lie down underneath it, but it will get more comfortable as you are used to the feeling. The proper weight is important to trigger the serotonin response and create all associated benefits.
Many blankets come in 10, 15, 20, or 25 pound weights. It is okay to round up to the closest amount, but do not round up more than that. Never sleep under a weighted blanket that is so heavy it is uncomfortable or constricts any body part or blood flow.
Where to Buy a Weighted Blanket
The rising popularity of weighted blankets for therapeutic purposes or general use has made them rather easy to find at major retailers. People can find them on Amazon and Ebay from various manufacturers. Some handmade ones are available on Etsy, too.
Mosaic Weighted Blankets is a popular site that makes custom blankets in different sizes and fabric types. YnM Weighted Blankets also provides multiple designs, sizes, and weights with various material options. They also use the latest high-tech sewing methods and offer machine washable blankets, which is something not readily found elsewhere.
The decision about where to buy a weighted blanket is determined largely by what is available in your area, available price points, and shipping costs. Since these are heavier products, the shipping costs may be more than you expect.
How to Wash a Weighted Blanket
While some options like those found at YnM Weighted Blankets have a washable inner layer, most of them cannot just be thrown into the washing machine to launder. Any that do allow for it should be washed on a low, gentle cycle only. Do not put a weighted blanket into the dryer on regular or high heat. Only use cooler-air options. This is especially important if the blanket used plastic beads inside to provide the weight. Hang the blanket up or drape it over a clothes line to air dry.
For general dirt or stains, spot cleaning is always a good option. However, when someone uses their blanket to sleep under, cuddle up on the couch, and at other times as well, it does need to be laundered regularly. One of the most often recommended ways to deal with this problem is to buy a duvet cover and zip it around the weighted blanket at all times. This extra layer keeps the weighted part clean and can be removed easily and put in a washing machine with regular linens.
Also, please be aware that having a heavy blanket tumbling about in your washing machine or dryer puts more strain on the mechanisms themselves than if you were laundering t-shirts or socks. You might want to opt for taking your weighted blankets to a commercial laundry shop or laundromat that has sturdier machines.
With the numerable benefits that weighted blankets bring to people with autism, ADHD, anxiety, and insomnia, they have fast become a highly-recommend therapeutic option. The same soothing comfort and relaxation helps neuro-typical people as well, so everyone can benefit. Choose your favorite fabric, the correct weight for age and body size, and get ready to enjoy a new weighted blanket: the best thing in personal comfort.