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I’m no stranger to sleep woes, as I’ve already documented in detail. I’ve tried pretty much everything there is to try when it comes to falling asleep. So when weighted blankets rose in popularity, the idea became more and more appealing. I wasn't without doubts, though: “Wouldn’t that make me feel suffocated?” and “will my weak, weak arms be able to pull that over my body?” chief among them.
That was then.
After a few months of having tried a weighted blanket on my bed and couch, I’ve grown to really like them—although my initial concerns still factor in. I only want the weighted blanket on me when I’m completely settled in—no going back to the fridge for more apple juice once I’m inside my cocoon—and yep, my weak, weak arms have trouble pulling it back up over me if it slips off my bed. On the bright side, I’ve found that when I’m inside my little weighted nest, I do experience a dip in fidgeting and mind-wandering, bringing on both quicker and deeper sleep.
My experiences notwithstanding, I reached out to Mollie McGlocklin, creator of Sleep Is A Skill—a resource for the sleep-deprived—for a slightly more scientific perspective on the matter. Through her own sleep struggles and her experience with clients, Mollie sheds some light on the benefits of weighted blankets, and how best to approach one for the first time.
What is a Weighted Blanket, Exactly?
“They’re distinct from traditional comforters,” Mollie says, “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.”
What’s the Science Behind It?
“Weighted blankets were primarily an unknown concept for the vast majority of the population until only a few years ago,” Mollie points out, and “previously they were used with children and adults dealing with a sensory-processing disorder, autism, anxiety, PTSD, or other mental health conditions.” They’ve steadily risen in popularity over the past few years, and become one of the most-gifted things this past holiday season.
The idea behind lying under about 20 lbs of pressure is to create something called deep pressure touch, which presumably releases feel-good hormones like serotonin, leading to a promotion of the release of melatonin. But, like many homeopathic sleep remedies, it’s been difficult to point to specific scientific findings. While Mollie says “most studies currently available are either tested on a small sample size or have a conflict of interest in the funding,” she’s eager to see what progress will be made on this front, as weighted blankets continue to trend in the sleep world. In the meantime, though, the testimonials from any one of your friends or family members will likely prompt you to do some digging, so Mollie recommends reading further about this independent study , and this commissioned study by blanket retailer, Somna.
What's the recommended weight for a beginner?
Mollie has been asked this question a lot, so she refers her clients to the mantra “when in doubt, leave some out.”
By that she means, “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.” Additionally, she says, “an established rule of thumb is typically not to exceed 10 percent of your body weight,” and factor in whether or not you tend to run hot or cold at night when considering the breathability of certain materials. “For instance,” Mollie says, “some of my smaller-frame clients with sensitive joints found that the 20+ weights put a bit too much pressure, but the lighter one was just right. It’s kind of a Goldilocks effect.”
Are weighted blankets recommended for children to use?
While different experts point to different acceptable start ages (ranging from 5 to early teens), since this concept came as a method for calming children and adults alike, Mollie says “there’s room to experiment with a lighter weighted blanket as a calming method during the day for children (far past the toddler age).” Of course, with children, it’s recommended to talk to a doctor beforehand.
What about sharing a weighted blanket with a partner?
Many weighted blankets are sized individually, presumably so that the effect mimics that of a cocoon. However, Mollie points out that “in many European countries, the independent comforter method is the norm, so don’t be afraid to experiment with those tired conventions until you find what works best for the two of you.” She particularly finds her single clients gravitating towards weighted blankets, because they’re the equivalent of a warm cuddle in an empty bed.
Ready to try one out yourself? Below are ours and Mollie’s favorite weighted blankets for beginners:
Baloo Living Cool Cotton Weighted Blanket, from $149
Bearaby Napper, from $249
Gravity Blanket, from $189
Casper Weighted Blanket, from $179
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