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Weighted blankets: How they work & the best ones to buy

Could a heavy blanket be the answer to your stress, insomnia and anxiety?

harkal

A weighted blanket from the brand Harkla.

Harkla

By now, I am sure you've heard of weighted blankets. Last year, they rose to new heights of popularity, thanks in large part to the $4 million Kickstarter campaign for Gravity.

Weighted blankets are hardly new. Companies have been making them for decades and they've long been used to help soothe children with autism spectrum disorder

These days though, the list of conditions that weighted blankets (and other weighted products, like vests) purportedly help purportedly help span from insomnia and restless leg syndrome to anxiety and ADHD.

Putting aside all of the hype, can weighted blankets help us all feel less stressed and sleep better? Read on to find out.

What is a weighted blanket?

Weighted blankets are similar to a duvet or comforter, but filled with glass beads or plastic pellets instead of down or fiberfill -- though some weighted blankets have both fiberfill and weights.

Most weighted blankets have many compartments full of beads or pellets to provide even weight throughout. Some come with a washable cover to make them easy to clean.

Why do weighted blankets work?

What is is about lying under a heavy blanket that makes us feel less stressed and more relaxed? It's all about deep pressure touch (also called deep pressure stimulation).

Deep pressure touch can take many forms, including swaddling (for babies), massage, hugs and pressure evenly applied to your body. It's been shown to reduce cortisol, the hormone our bodies release when stressed, and increase dopamine, serotonin and melatonin hormones that promote relaxation, regulate our mood and signal our brains that it's time to sleep.

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It is also said to trigger our parasympathetic nervous system, which puts our body into a state of relaxation. It's the exact opposite of the sympathetic nervous system, where our bodies go into the "fight or flight" state.

Since most of us cannot get massages every day, and it's not practical to be swaddled as an adult (unless you're in Japan), a weighted blanket provides deep pressure touch anytime you want to relax.

They are celebrated as a medication-free way to manage stress and anxiety, but they are not a replacement for medication and other therapies prescribed by your doctor or other medical professional.

Can weighted blankets help with anxiety, PTSD or insomnia?

As weighted blankets grew in popularity, so did claims that they can help treat certain mental health conditions. However, weighted blankets generally fall under the FDA's guidelines for low-risk wellness devices, which means they should not claim to treat or cure any medical condition. They should only be marketed to support the well-being of someone living with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), depression, anxiety and other mental health concerns.

gravity

The Gravity blanket

Gravity

That said, studies have shown that people who use weighted blankets report feeling less anxiety. One such study had participants use a 30-pound weighted blanket, and 68 percent reported feeling less anxious.

For anyone who struggles with easily falling asleep, or stay asleep, there is some evidence that a weighted blanket might help. One study showed that adults who slept with a weighted blanket spent more time asleep and didn't wake up as often when compared with sleeping with their usual bedding.

While there is little research that weighted blankets can help manage post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), they've been used in hospital psychiatric departments as a tool to help calm patients with a variety of mental health conditions. 

Do I need a weighted blanket?

Given that weighted blankets are pricey, they are not an obvious purchase for everyone.

Whether or not you should get one largely depends on your bank account and what you hope to get out of using one. They can be a soothing tool for helping to manage stress and encourage restful sleep, but they are not the end-all, be-all.

Personally, I like my blanket and use it to relax after a stressful day. It's easy to fall asleep under it, but I almost always push it off in the middle of the night. Do I need it? No, but it is one of many helpful tools I use to manage anxiety and stress.

How to buy a weighted blanket

Ready to buy? With so many weighted blankets out there, it can be hard to choose. Read on to get some key shopping tips and check out some of the best weighted blankets you can buy.

Weight options

The first step in buying a weighted blanket is determining the right weight for you. The general wisdom is to pick one that's 10 percent of your bodyweight. So if you weigh 150 pounds, you'd get a 15-pound blanket. If you are closer to 200 pounds, a 20-pound blanket is a good fit, and so on.

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Most adult weighted blankets are 10, 15, 20 or 25 pounds. If your weight is in between sizes -- for instance, you weigh 130 pounds -- I personally recommend sizing up. Last year, I purchased a 10-pound blanket and found that it didn't feel heavy enough to create a calming sensation. I swapped it for a 15-pound blanket, which is heavier than 10 percent of my bodyweight, but it ended up feeling just right.

Unfortunately, most weighted blankets are sold exclusively online, so it's hard to try before you buy. If you want to adhere to the 10 percent rule, check out the companies that offer a wider range of weight options. Start with SensaCalm, YnM and Harkla -- more on those below.

Beads and fill

When shopping, you'll see that most weighted blankets use plastic poly pellets or glass beads. Glass beads are usually the same size as grains of sand or smaller, and are heavier than plastic pellets. Since they are smaller, they take up less space in the blanket, making the finished blanket a bit thinner than those made with plastic pellets.

Plastic pellets are bigger, which means blankets made with them are a bit more bulky. Between glass beads and plastic pellets, there's no obvious winner. Some blanket companies simply opt to use plastic pellets because they are cheaper.

Some weighted blankets also include polyester fiberfill -- like a comforter -- which adds warmth. If you want a cooler, more breathable blanket, opt for one without fill.

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Harkla's blankets have a removable duvet you can wash.

Harkla

Removable cover

Weighted blankets can be tough to wash because they are so heavy. For blankets that are 10 pounds and above, you'll want to use a commercial washer and dryer.

If you're worried that your blanket will end up with stains or pet fur, look for one with a removable cover. Most covers are available in cotton or a soft minky fabric. Cotton is the coolest option, since it's so breathable, while minky is cozier and warmer. Some companies sell their weighted blankets with a cover included, while others offer it as an add-on.

Size

Weighted blankets should cover your body from the neck down, without a lot left over. For most people, that means getting a twin-size blanket. For kids, look for a child's weighted blanket, which usually comes in a smaller size and weight. 

It's important to note that if you plan to sleep under it, your weighted blanket shouldn't hang over the sides of your bed. That can cause the blanket to slide off the bed, on to the floor during the night.

Not sure what size to get? Try sizing down from your mattress. If you have a queen or full bed, get a twin-size weighted blanket. If you have a king mattress, you can get away with a full/queen blanket.

These products and services are independently chosen by our editors. CNET may get a share of the revenue if you buy anything featured on our site.

Weighted Blankets, Compared


Price Type of weights Removable cover Weight options in pounds Sizes in inches
Gravity $249 Glass beads Included 15, 20, 25 48" x 72"
YnM $69 and up Glass beads Sold separately 5, 7, 10, 12, 15, 17, 20, 22, 25 Multiple sizes*
Sensa Calm $89 and up Plastic beads with and without polyfill Sold separately 3-20 34" x 50", 38"x 62" & 38"x 72"
Bearaby $199 and up Glass beads or layered knitted fabric Sold separately 15, 20, 25 Multiple sizes
Harkla $119 and up Glass beads Included 5, 7, 10, 15, 20, 25 Multiple sizes
Baloo $169 and up Glass beads with polyester batting Sold separately 15 or 20 60" x 80"
Mosaic $79 and up Plastic beads Sold separately 5-25 Multiple sizes

*Multiple sizes include throw blanket, twin, queen and king options, plus other miscellaneous sizes.

Gravity Blanket

The Kickstarter darling

Gravity

Gravity is one of the better-known weighted blanket brands thanks in large part to its wildly successful Kickstarter campaign. Now, anyone can buy one of these blankets, which come in 15-, 20- and 25-pound options. Gravity uses glass beads as filler and has a plush, removable duvet cover for easy washing.

Gravity also recently launched a cooling version of its heavy blanket, which has a special cover that wicks away sweat and keeps your body cool while you sleep.

$249.00 at Amazon

YnM Weighted Blanket

Budget-friendly buy

YnM

YnM's weighted blanket is highly rated on Amazon and for good reason. It's sturdy, has seven breathable layers and comes in five different sizes and nine weight options from 5 to 25 pounds. Oh, and it starts around $60. I bought this weighted blanket for myself last fall and I love it. To be honest, I think it played a key role in helping me feel calm in the aftermath of a difficult breakup.

The blanket itself is well-made and filled with glass beads. The separate cover is not required, but it makes it far easier to keep the blanket clean. The cover is available in a variety of fabrics, including the soft gray plush one I have, and starts at $15.

$56.00 at Amazon

SensaCalm Weighted Blanket

Fully customizable

Sensa Calm

Want a custom weighted blanket? SensaCalm is your best bet. It allows you customize everything about your blanket, from the fabric to the weight. You pick if you want fiberfill or not, plus you can add snaps for a separate duvet cover and even monogram the finished blanket.

It even has waterproof fabrics, which are good for kids. Blankets start around $90 for kids' sizes and go up from there. 

$90.00 at Sensa Calm

Bearaby The Napper Blanket

A knitted option

Bearaby

Bearaby's The Napper weighted blanket is unlike any other I've seen. Instead of beads or pellets sandwiched between two layers of fabric, it's knitted. The company uses yarn made of layers of fabric to create a weighted throw blanket. It comes in three sizes and weights, with seven color options and it starts at $249.

Want a more traditional weighted blanket? It also has a weighted comforter for sleep.

$249.00 at Bearaby

Harkla Weighted Blanket

Kid-friendly

Harkla

Looking for a weighted blanket for your kid or grandkid? Check out Harkla. It makes weighted blankets, weighted vests and weighted lap pads, plus a sensory peapod and hanging swing for children with sensory processing issues. Its blankets come in vivid colors and have soft, plush textures.

Harkla also makes a weighted blanket for adults, starting at $179 (you can also get a Harkla blanket from Amazon for less). 

$133.00 at Amazon

Baloo Weighted Blanket

The luxury blanket

Baloo

Looking for a luxury weighted blanket? Baloo makes a premium-looking cotton weighted blanket and offers a separate french linen cover.

It comes only in one size -- it's big enough to cover the top of a queen mattress so that there is no overhang. There are two weight options: 15 pounds for $169 and 20 pounds for $189.

$169.00 at Amazon

Mosaic Weighted Blanket

For everyone in the family

Mosaic

Mosaic has been making weighted blankets in the US for 8 years. They have a lot of different options for adults, teens and kids, including antimicrobial blankets for use in hospitals.

Mosaic offers a broader selection of weights than other companies -- you can get a blanket in 1-pound increments from 5 to 25.

$139.00 at Amazon

The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.