Essentials Week spotlights unexpected items that make our daily lives just a little bit better.
Weighted blankets, also known as gravity or anxiety blankets, gained the attention of the self-care community late last year and have been picking up widespread (and emphatic) support ever since.
Purported to assist with stress and sleep, weighted blankets are exactly what they sound like — blankets with added weight, typically around 10% of the user’s body weight. As you slide under the heavy, comforter-like fabric, you will likely experience a therapeutic sensation, one that I would compare to that extra sip of wine taking you from conversationally relaxed to full-blown tipsy.
Weighted clothing and blankets aren’t new in the world of therapy, but a hugely successful Kickstarter campaign by Gravity Blanket in 2017 helped to expand the established concept for more general use within the wellness community.
While I tend to be wary of self-care products (nothing about those oils is essential, by the way) and the shifty science behind their marketing, I’m surprisingly all-in on this craze. After my boyfriend gave me a gravity blanket for my birthday last year, I saw genuine improvement in my mornings, nights, and occasionally afternoons. (Plus, Tiffany Haddish loves hers, and if there’s one thing I love in this world, it’s anything Tiffany Haddish even remotely likes.)
Here’s a rundown on the pros and cons of these blankets, at least as my very sleepy ass sees it.
Pro: Each use feels like a massive hug.
A distinctly less awkward alternative to the boyfriend pillow, weighted blankets are excellent for an emergency snuggle session.
Living in New York City, far away from my traditional cuddle cohorts (shout out to my long-distance boyfriend, my mom, and my college roommates), I relied heavily on my gravity blanket to get me through last winter. On particularly tough or gloomy days, I would rush home to my cozy apartment, sip a hot cup of tea, and spend some quality time with my blanket buddy. It was, as you might imagine, delightful.
90% sure I will be receiving a weighted blanket for Christmas, so now my need for another human being is going to be at an all time low.
— Kas (@KasHartt) December 14, 2018
Con: That’s one expensive hug.
Beginning at $125, weighted blankets typically cost a few hundred dollars. Like regular bedding, that price will fluctuate depending on the size and quality of the item. Whatever you decide, financially speaking, it’s a big bucket of “ouch.”
That being said, while I can’t speak to their effectiveness, some DIY experts claim to have created their own weighted blankets with reasonable success. So, if you’re on a budget and feeling crafty, you could follow along with one of these tutorials.
Pro: It can help you fall asleep.
Research on the relationship between weighted blankets and insomnia is fairly lacking. However, some basic logic explains why so many of the blanket’s fans are falling asleep quickly.
It’s sort of like swaddling a newborn. Users of weighted blankets experience “deep pressure stimulation.” The feelings of peace and calm associated with physical touch are known to most people, so it makes sense that even a simulated version of that experience would send you toward snoozeville.
I find that the weighted blanket cuts my falling asleep time in half. If I’m already tired, my typical 20-minute wind-down is reduced to 10. If I’m wide awake, the 45 minutes it usually takes me to force unconsciousness is shortened to somewhere between 25 and 35. Of course, your mileage may vary.
My weighted blanket came. Will it solve my anxiety? No. Will it cover it up until I have to get out of bed? YUP!
— KT (@kittenmagee) December 11, 2018
Con: They’re heavy and consequently annoying to move.
My (very kind) significant other dragging my gravity blanket birthday present up five flights of stairs to my apartment remains one of the grandest romantic gestures I have ever witnessed.
These suckers aren’t total back breakers, but they are inconveniently heavy. Whether it’s folding it up to change the sheets or trying to lug it out to your car, you will likely find moving your newfound sleep accessory pretty annoying.
Pro: It can help you stay asleep.
Between my rowdy cat and generalized stress, I have a remarkably hard time sleeping through the night. But my weighted blanket can typically keep me from becoming fully awake.
Picture this: Your eyes flutter open. Your thoughts dance through typical drowsy logic. “Where am I? What’s going on? What time is it?”
Then your trusted blanket pal uses her pleasant weight to say, “Shhhhhhhh, you’re all good, sweetie. Nothin’ going on here. Go back to dreaming about those waffles playing tennis.” And just like that, you’re back to dreaming about those waffles playing tennis. Magic.
i want my new gravity blanket to choke me in my sleep
— jaysen (@jaysenhoein) November 28, 2018
Con: You’ll need some time to get adjusted.
The flip side of that last pro is that weighted blankets can really freak you out upon first use.
Most people aren’t used to having a large, heavy piece of fabric pin them to their mattress. As such, when you wake up in the dark to find yourself accosted by your linens, you might become a bit startled.
When I first tried my weighted blanket, I had an all out Ryan Reynolds in Buried dream and considered never using it again. The second time I used it, the blanket’s heaviness combined with my apartment’s steam heating, and I was so boiling hot I considered throwing it out.
However, I assure you that with time you will get used to having a weighted blanket as part of your sleep setup. It may take a little practice and finessing to figure out how it makes you most comfortable — but you’ll land on something that maximizes the blanket’s benefits as well as meeting your personal needs. (In my case that meant avoiding scary movies, opening all of my windows, and pointing a tabletop fan directly at my head. Steam heat or no steam heat, I was keeping that blanket.)
Pro: It’s a helpful option to have at your disposal in moments of panic, stress, or anxiety.
Not all panic is created equal. Sometimes your brain says, “You need to walk around the block six times.” Other times, it recommends a dozen deep breaths and a pint of Halo Top. And while weighted blankets are not a be-all end-all vehicle for calming down, having one as an option may prove useful for you at some point.
Gravity Blanket’s original assertions that its product could “treat” an array of sleep and anxiety disorders were farfetched, and they had to retract some of their marketing statements when the FDA came around. From personal experience, however, I can say that it does help with my overall wellbeing. Placebo effect or no, the blanket is a useful tool that I have added to my repertoire of self-care techniques.
Why buy a weighted blanket for my anxiety when I can just sleep under all the unfolded laundry piled up on my bed?
— Megan Harley (@LastMegalodon) December 11, 2018
If you’re thinking about hopping on the weighted blanket train, make sure to do plenty of research beforehand. Select the right weight, find the right price point, and get ready to nap, my friend. Some extremely weighty z’s are headed your way.
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