If you talk to people who use them, or read online reviews, you already know many swear by them. When my husband was struggling with insomnia, I bought him one. He says it's a bit more difficult to roll over or get in and of bed, but he's falling asleep faster and sleeping through the night better now than before.
Research backs up the praise. These quilt-style blankets are filled with tiny beads and usually weigh between 10 and 20 pounds. Their structure creates deep pressure stimulation, which has long been known to calm people and animals. It works by activating the parasympathetic nervous system, which switches you from fight-or-flight to rest-and-digest mode.
One of the best-known examples of deep pressure stimulation is the "squeeze machine" invented by the autistic entrepreneur Temple Grandin, after observing a similar device kept cattle calm while waiting for the vet. It was the firm, even pressure that produced a calming effect.
Considering a weighted blanket? Here's what you need to know.
1. Pick the right size and weight.
Look for one that's 10 percent of your body weight, but lean toward slightly heavier rather than lighter. In other words, if you weigh 125 pounds, pick a 15-pound blanket instead of a 10-pound one.
The blanket's measurements also make a difference, since a 15-pound twin-size blanket exerts more pressure per square inch than a 15-pound queen-size blanket. And make sure it's small enough not to hang over the edge of the bed, since the blanket's weight could drag it to the floor.
Some manufacturers recommend using a lighter blanket, if you sleep on your side. You may need to experiment to find the right weight for you.
2. Pick the right materials.
If you tend to get hot at night, like my husband, opt for a cooling material like bamboo. If, like me, you're almost always cold, find a blanket in a plushy material.
The inside is filled with either glass beads or plastic pellets. The glass beads have the consistency of fine sand, and it takes a lot less of them to achieve the desired weight, so it's less bulky. Plastic pellets can give blankets a "bean bag" feel. Here's a comparison of different weighted blankets.
3. Who shouldn't use one?
Anyone who has trouble rolling over or getting out from under the blanket shouldn't use one. For children, some experts recommend a stretchy Lycra sleeping bag instead, which is also more portable. And don't leave an infant alone with one, though, because of suffocation risk.
You also shouldn't use a weighted blanket if you have sleep apnea, asthma, or other respiratory issues. If you have chronic health issues, check with your doctor first. For everyone else, if you have trouble sleeping, a weighted blanket could be a very worthwhile investment.