The search for a good night’s sleep has become something of a fixation for Americans. Maybe it’s because many of us always seem to go without.
According to the American Sleep Association, 50 to 70 million Americans suffer from a sleep disorder.
But before turning to sleep aids and medications, a weighted blanket might actually be the answer.
We break down the best way to help you select the perfect weighted blanket to try to correct a poor night’s sleep.
Who can benefit from weighted blankets?
Weighted blankets can be beneficial for sleep disorders of any kind. Though studies are limited, they may help with insomnia, falling asleep, and staying asleep.
"Weighted blankets have been quite the phenomenon over the last year or so," said Bill Fish, certified sleep science coach and co-founder of Tuck, an organization designed to improve sleep health and wellness. "People are beginning to understand the benefits of using a weighted blanket to set themselves up to get the recommended seven to nine hours of quality sleep on a nightly basis."
According to a 2015 study, “It has been suggested that weighted blankets and vests can provide a beneficial calming effect, especially in clinical disorders… A weighted blanket… may provide an innovative, non-pharmacological approach and complementary tool to improve sleep quality.”
Conditions that might benefit from weighted blankets include:
Why weighted blankets work
Laura LeMond, owner of Mosaic Weighted Blankets, believes that weighted blankets are increasingly popular because naturally you learn to relax under the weight, fall asleep more quickly, and begin to love your blanket so it becomes a natural, comforting sleep solution.
The 2015 study noted above showed that 31 participants who slept with weighted blankets had a calmer night's sleep, with less tossing and turning. The subjects believed that using the blanket provided them with a more comfortable, better quality, and more secure sleep.
How to pick the perfect weighted blanket for you
Weighted blankets weigh anywhere from five to 30 pounds. A wide range of weights are available, but how do you know which is right for you?
Your own weight will help you determine the right blanket weight.
The general guideline? 10 percent of your own body weight.
Both Fish and LeMond agree that the ideal weighted blanket is 10 percent of your ideal body weight so that it fits your frame. For children or older adults the formula is 10 percent of body weight plus one to two pounds.
That said, if you’re finding it difficult to roll over under the blanket and feel like you’re trapped, going lighter is better. Just remember that based on limited scientific studies done on weighted blankets, going lighter than 10 percent of your body weight may not have the same benefits.
“By utilizing a blanket that is roughly 10 percent of your body weight, you feel like the blanket is hugging your body, giving you a sense of calmness, which can reduce stress, as well as help you to stay asleep so your body can go through the necessary stages of sleep to allow you to wake up fully rested,” notes Fish.
What if I’m in between the standard sizes that weighted blankets come in?
While buying a blanket that’s 10 percent of your body weight is a good rule of thumb, selecting the right weighted blanket can be highly personalized.
For example, if you fall between standard weights of blankets (typically 10, 12, 15, 17, and 20 pounds) and are unsure of whether to go up or down in weight, experts typically recommend adding one to two pounds. But, ultimately, it's a matter of personal preference.
"If someone has a bit of a frail frame, I would go down for the weight," says Fish. "But if the next person spends their time in the gym, going up wouldn't be a bad thing."
Additionally, one small study conducted in 2006 using 30-pound blankets suggests that more than 10 percent of body weight can be both comfortable and calming.
Is my height a factor?
Blankets come in different dimensions as well. To choose your ideal dimensions, consider the size of your bed and also your height. Height is not as important as weight, but you do want to feel covered and comfortable. Buy a blanket that’s the same size or slightly larger than you.
Meagan Drillinger is a travel and wellness writer. Her focus is on making the most out of experiential travel while maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Her writing has appeared in Thrillist, Men’s Health, Travel Weekly, and Time Out New York, among others. Visit her blog or Instagram.