Can a Weighted Blanket Be Too Heavy?
It’s hard to miss weighted blankets these days. They’re everywhere. While they may look like a simple blanket, these heavy blankets have some science (and heft) behind them. They feel like a gentle hug from your shoulders down to your toes. But why would you want one? And would people who sleep hot or have claustrophobia enjoy one?
Before you commit to a weighted blanket, and they can be pricey, we’ll go over the basics, including how to choose the correct weight for your body type.
What is a weighted blanket, and what do they do?
Weighted blankets look like an average blanket. It’s not until you pick it up that you realize you’re dealing with something a little different. They come in various weights ranging from 5 to 30 pounds. Most weighted blankets are available in the following weights (in pounds):
Don’t worry—the weight doesn’t hit your body all in one spot. It’s spread evenly across the blanket so that when you lie underneath it, your whole body feels light compression. That compression is what makes weighted blankets so beneficial for sleep.
These heavy blankets provide what’s called deep pressure stimulation, also called deep touch pressure. Your body has a “fight or flight” mode that’s activated by the sympathetic nervous system. It’s designed to keep you safe from danger. Unfortunately, stress, anxiety, and some common disorders and conditions can keep you in this survival mode, feeling constantly wound up instead of relaxed.
A weighted blanket’s compression and pressure help your body switch from engaging the sympathetic nervous system to the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS). The PNS turns on your relaxation response, characterized by a slowing of the heart rate and the release of feel-good endorphins. In short, your body calms down.
People with autism deficit disorder, anxiety disorders, and high-stress levels often use a weighted blanket to calm themselves before bed. In a small study, 63 percent of participants felt less anxiety after using a 30-pound weighted blanket, and 78 percent preferred it as a way to calm themselves. While that calming effect can be helpful at any time of day, for many people, it means better sleep.
Types of Weighted Blankets
Weighted blankets are not all the same; there are many different types and designs. The different designs have their pros and cons, and certain types are more expensive than others.
Standard Fill Weighted Blanket
The standard fill weighted blanket is stitched with baffles (squares) that are then filled with glass or plastic beads or pellets. The baffles keep the beads from pooling in one area, so the blanket’s weight stays evenly distributed across the blanket.
Some higher-end weighted blankets take this design a step further by having two or three beads in a small hexagonal baffle. There’s no chance for pooling with this type of blanket, and you’re guaranteed even weight distribution. Many blankets of this type are hand wash or spot clean only, whereas the baffled type are often machine washable.
A side note: many weighted blankets are machine washable, but the manufacturers still recommend hand washing or spot cleaning. The weight of a wet weighted blanket can potentially damage your washing machine. Some can be used in a standard dryer while others are air dry only. It can take a long time for these heavyweights to dry completely, so spot cleaning might be easier in the long run.
Knitted Weighted Blankets
An alternative to the baffle and fill design is knitted weighted blankets. These blankets are made of thick heavy yarn that, when knitted, creates a 15 to 25-pound weighted blanket. The yarn itself adds the weight. There are no fillers, baffles, or stitching. Knitted blankets have some stretch to them, which allows you to get a tight fit. That also means you can’t hang them to dry because they will stretch out of shape.
If you’re looking for a weighted blanket that’s aesthetically pleasing, these are the blankets for you. They’re heavy enough that you can fold them up and use them for a footrest, too.
Cooling Weighted Blankets
The extra weight of a weighted blanket can also bring extra heat along with it. For hot sleepers or warm summer months, that’s not always ideal. Cooling weighted blankets can either have a standard fill or be knitted. They have natural fiber covers like cotton, bamboo, or eucalyptus that are inherently breathable and moisture-wicking. Some may also have blended synthetic fibers to improve moisture evaporation.
However, it’s important to remember that a blanket is still a blanket. You’ll be warmer than you would be if you slept without one at all.
If you want something to cover your bed but don’t want the extra heat of a comforter and a weighted blanket, you may want a weighted comforter.
These comforters are designed to fit standard bed sizes rather than just covering an individual like a typical weighted blanket does. Some weighted blankets come in sizes that could cover your bed, but a weighted comforter will look like a comforter rather than a blanket.
Duvet covers can make a big difference in how a weighted blanket feels. Cooling covers prevent overheating while soft, Minky fabrics add luxurious texture and warmth. Duvet covers also make it easier to keep the blanket clean. Instead of throwing a heavy blanket into your washing machine, you can wash the duvet cover instead.
A heavy weighted blanket can easily shift within the cover. When buying a cover, first, make sure the weighted blanket has tabs onto which you can tie a duvet cover. Then, look for a duvet cover with plenty of ties. Four is the bare minimum, but eight will more securely hold the blanket, and many blankets come with extra tabs.
Breathable fabrics like cotton and bamboo will be cooler than insulating fabrics like Minky. You may want to buy a couple of covers, so you can still use the blanket while one is getting washed. Or, you can buy a cooling cover for the summer and a warmer cover for the winter.
Weighted Blanket Sizes and Colors
Sizes range from child-friendly lap blankets to full queen-size models, although not all brands offer blankets in all sizes. Common sizes include:
- 36” x 48”
- 41” x 60”
- 48” x 72”
- 60” 80”
- 80” x 87”
Most of the time, the smaller the blanket, the less it weighs, although blankets of a particular size often come in several weights.
Most weighted blankets have at least one or two neutral colors like gray and off-white. Other models come in other colors and prints. Blankets that can be covered with a duvet cover give you a chance to change the look and feel of your blanket to fit your mood or need.
Weighted Blanket Budget
Weighted blankets can be surprisingly expensive, costing over $200. However, you can find affordable models from $30 to $50. The blankets at the low end of the price range are small in size and typically weight 5 to 15 pounds. These blankets may not come with a duvet cover, in which case you’d still need to invest another $10 to $20. These inexpensive blankets will probably be filled with plastic beads. Some may have cotton or bamboo duvet covers to add some breathability.
In the $50 to $100 price range, you’ll find a wider size and weight selection. Many of these blankets don’t come with a duvet cover, so you may need to buy one separately. However, blanket fabrics tend to be softer and of higher quality, so you may be able to get away without a duvet cover. These models are more likely to have glass bead fillers than plastic beads.
The weighted blankets in the $100 to $200 category bring a few extra perks. Cooling weighted blankets with wicking fabrics are much more common at this price. These models often have smaller baffles, which more evenly distribute the blanket’s weight.
Blankets that cost over $200 come in the same sizes and weights as less expensive models. However, they may be made with specialized cooling fabrics and certified organic fillers and fibers. Knitted weighted blankets, which almost always fall in this price range, typically cost over $200. Those made of all-natural, organic fibers, which will be cooler, maybe closer to $250 to $300.
Who needs a weighted blanket?
If stress or anxiety keep you up at night, a weighted blanket could help bring your stress levels down. However, the over-stressed aren’t the only ones who benefit from weighted blankets.
Autism spectrum disorder, anxiety disorders, and restless leg syndrome are only a few of the other conditions for which using a weighted blanket can be helpful. Many people with sensory issues find that weighted blankets help calm both mind and body for better sleep.
Even highly active children who don’t have any disorders can benefit from the calming effect of a weighted blanket. Really, they’re for anyone who could use some help calming themselves close to bedtime.
How heavy should my weighted blanket be?
Weighted blankets weigh anywhere from 5 to 30 pounds, with most being made in increments of 5. However, there are 12 and 17-pound blankets too. You’ll want a blanket that weighs ten percent of your body weight plus one pound. Some people and manufacturers recommended getting a blanket that’s ten percent of your body weight.
The correct weight should be heavy but never uncomfortable. A blanket that’s too heavy may make it difficult for you to move. If it weighs enough, it may even make you feel like you can’t fully fill your lungs. People with certain health conditions may find that a weighted blanket puts too much pressure on their joints or other painful areas. If that’s you, a lighter blanket might be a better option.
Kids and Weighted Blankets
Weighted blankets are popular for children with an autism spectrum disorder, attention deficit disorder, and similar disorders that involve sensory issues. The activation of the parasympathetic nervous system helps these children calm down and fall asleep easier.
The blanket should weigh ten percent of your child’s body weight plus one pound. Since the lightest weighted blanket weighs five pounds, your child should weigh at least 50 pounds before using a weighted blanket. Some kids will hit the weight limit by the time they are four or five years old, while others will still be underweight when they’re nine or ten.
Weighted blankets should not be used for children who weigh under 50 pounds, as it can restrict their movement and potentially their breathing. Toddlers and infants should never use weighted blankets as they pose a suffocation hazard.
Weighted Blankets: The Bottom Line
- A weighted blanket that restricts your movements or makes it hard to breathe is too heavy. The blanket should feel heavy, like a hug, but not constricting.
- Weighted blankets provide deep pressure stimulation that activates the PNS. That can bring down your heart rate and trigger the release of relaxation hormones.
- Weighted blankets come in five sizes, though not all models come in all sizes. The most common weights are 5, 7, 12, 15, 17, 20, 22, 25, and 30 pounds. However, the majority of blankets come in weights that go in increments of five.
It can be a challenge to get good sleep. Certain disorders or mental health issues can complicate the sleep process. And, sometimes, it’s stress that keeps you awake at night. Weighted blankets aim to help with all of those problems. You’ll need one that’s the right weight and size, but once you’ve tried one, you may never go back to regular blankets again.
This article is for informational purposes and should not replace advice from your doctor or other medical professional.