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What is in Weighted Blankets?

A man sleeping soundly on the bed with weighted blanket.

Weighted blankets can be an absolute life saver for kids and adults. The pressure they provide calms the nervous system and emotions. They can provide comfort, and even ease insomnia. 

Perhaps you know how helpful a weighted blanket can be, or maybe you are just considering getting one. It’s natural to wonder, what’s in a weighted blanket? 

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What’s in a Weighted Blanket?

A beautiful woman on the hospital with blanket.

You know weighted blankets are heavier than standard blankets, but why? What material is used to make them heavy? 

 It turns out that several materials can be used, and each has its benefits and downsides. Weighted blankets are commonly filled with microfiber beads, steel beads, glass beads, grains or beans, pebbles, and sand. 

Why Material Matters

It’s important to understand that weighted blankets come in different types, sizes, and weights. A child will require a much lighter and smaller weighted blanket than an adult.

Some materials weigh more than others, so which materials are appropriate will depend partially on the weight of the blanket. 

Some materials are more expensive than others, so blankets made with them will be more costly. 

Lastly, you should consider personal preference. Do you prefer organic materials? Are you looking for the most inexpensive option, or do you prefer a luxurious weighted blanket? 

Microfiber Beads

Microfiber beads with different colors.

Pros:

  • Inexpensive
  • Countours to body
  • Non-toxic

Cons:

  • Makes noise when moved
  • Can cause allergies in sensitive individuals 
  • Potential lumps or abrasiveness 

Microfiber beads, also known as poly pellets, are the most common material used to fill weighted blankets. They are made from 100% polypropylene plastic. You may not have head of microfiber beads, but you’ve probably seen them. 

They are used to stuff dolls and stuffed animals, with Beanie Babies being the most famous example. 

They work well because they are flexible, which allows them to easily contour to the body. 

They aren’t organic, but they are considered non-toxic. They are also washable, and relatively inexpensive. 

In addition to being common in manufactured weighted blankets, they are easily available in craft stores. 

They work well for most people. However, many people who benefit from weighted blankets also have sensory processing issues. They may be bothered by the noise the beads make, or the lumpy or abrasive feeling they can have if not well made. 

Cotton fill can prevent the beads from making noise. Soft materials, like flannel, can prevent them from feeling rough and disguise unevenness. 

Glass Beads

Pros:

  • Heavier than poly beads
  • Hypoallergenic
  • Smooth

Cons:

  • More expensive than poly beads

Glass beads are considered a higher quality material than poly pellets. They are a bit more expensive. However, they are also heavier, so less of them is needed. 

Like the poly beads, they can be found in manufactured blankets, as well as craft stores. 

Their heavier weight makes them ideal for medium weight blankets. This creates the correct weight, without making the blanket very bulky. A 20 pound blanket will require 2 to 3 times less glass beads than poly beads. 

Glass beads are smooth, so they don’t have the potential abrasiveness of poly beads. They don’t make noise when moving, either. 

Another important benefit of glass beads is that they are completely hypoallergenic. This is important for those with chemical sensitivities. 

They are perfect for cooling weighted blankets, because they don’t hold heat well. They typically remain cool to the touch. 

Steel Bead

Metal bearings and bead on a white background.

Pros:

  • Larger and heavier
  • Hypoallergenic
  • Durable

Cons:

  • Noisier than other fill options

Steel beads can also be used to fill weighted blankets. Steel beads are larger and heavier than poly or glass beads. They are completely smooth. 

Their larger size provides some benefits. They are less likely to slip through any gaps in stitching. Their larger size and weight means that fewer of them are required to provide the desired weight. 

They are hypoallergenic as well. Their size and smooth surface helps keep dirt and allergens from accumulating inside the blanket. 

Lastly, they are very durable. They are machine washable, and should last longer than the fabric of the blanket itself. 

The one downside of steel beads is that they are noisier than other options. This isn’t a problem for most people, but it can be an issue for those with auditory sensitivities. Like poly beads, the noise can be reduced by adding cotton fill. 

Pebbles

Pros:

  • Inexpensive or free
  • Easy to find
  • Organic

Cons:

  • Difficult to distribute weight
  • Not comfortable 

Pebbles are also used in weighted blankets, usually homemade. Pebbles are easy to find for free, which makes them inexpensive. They also have the advantage of being organic. 

However, it’s difficult to distribute the weight properly when using pebbles. Their potential to be different sizes and have pointy or rough edges are also issues. 

This type of blanket may not be the most comfortable option, but they are far from the worst potential filler for weighted blankets. 

Rice, Beans, and Grains 

Pros:

  • Inexpensive
  • Easy to find

Cons:

  • Not durable
  • Not washable

Rice, beans, and grains are organic materials. This can make them seem like a great option for a weighted blanket. However, these aren’t great choices. 

They can work well temporarily. However, they will degrade over time, which greatly limits the durability of the blanket. 

They aren’t used in manufactured weighted blankets, but are sometimes used in homemade blankets. This is usually because they are easily available and inexpensive. 

Washing blankets with these fillers is not recommended, because they will spoil or degrade quickly when exposed to water. 

Sand

Dessert sand on a white background.

Pros:

  • Inexpensive
  • Easy to find

Cons:

  • Lumps and uneven weight distribution
  • Difficult to wash and dry
  • More likely to leak through stitching

Sand is another material that is sometimes used in homemade weighted blankets. However, this material is problematic as well. 

Sand does provide good weight. Craft sand is typically used, which is semi-synthetic, and not organic. There are a few issues with using sand. 

First, it tends to clump inside the blanket. This creates areas where the weight is heavy, and areas with little to no weight at all, in addition to being lumpy. 

This is particularly a problem if sand gets wet. It will clump badly. For this reason, a weighted blanket made with sand is difficult to wash. It may not go back to its normal shape after washing. It should also be line dried, which can take a significant amount of time. 

How Weighted Blankets Work

A chubby woman sleeping comfortably sleeping.

Now that you know what’s in a weighted blanket, you may be wondering how they work. 

Weighted blankets use deep pressure stimulation. This means that the pressure of the blanket affects the nervous system and brain. This activates the parasympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for relaxation and sleep. 

It’s thought to increase the release of serotonin, which is one of the brain’s “happy chemicals”.  Oxytocin is also released, which is the love hormone. It also reduces cortisol, which is the body’s stress hormone. 

The Benefits of Weighted Blankets 

Science is just beginning to explore the benefits of weighted blankets, but so far there are several proven benefits. 

Proponents of weighted blankets state that they can reduce anxiety, promote restful sleep, and improve mood. There’s even evidence that it’s beneficial for specific conditions, including OCD and menopause. 

They provide a sense of security, and have a grounding effect. This can help those who dissociate due to stress or PTSD, by making them feel inside their body. 

Who Should Consider a Weighted Blanket?

Gloves and bonnet on the top of weighted blanket.

There’s no harm in trying a weighted blanket, and you may find it beneficial. However, there are indications that some people can benefit greatly from the blankets. 

Those with sensory processing disorder, or SPD, may find the blanket very beneficial. The condition makes the person highly sensitive to some senses, and less sensitive to others. They tend to crave some types of stimulation, and avoid others. The pressure from a weighted blanket can provide the sensory input they need. 

Weighted blankets have been shown to increase communication in children with autism. It’s commonly recommended by occupational therapists. 

It’s also a great help to anyone with anxiety, PTSD, or insomnia. The calming affects can reduce panic attacks, and help you get a restful night’s sleep.  

What’s in a Weighted Blanket FAQs

What weight blanket do I need? 

It’s recommended to choose a weight based on your body weight. It should be approximately 10% of your body weight. A 30 pound child would need a 3 pound blanket, while a 150 pound adult should choose a 15 pound weighted blanket. However, some people are more comfortable with a lighter or heavier blanket. 

Can a weighted blanket be too heavy? 

Yes, a weighted blanket can be too heavy. It can make it difficult for you to move, or cause anxiety. This is particularly common if the weight restricts your breathing by putting too much pressure on your chest. 

Can weighted blankets be washed? 

Store bought weighted blankets can be washed. However, you’ll need to check the care tag for specific instructions on washing and drying your blanket. 

Are weighted blankets worth it? 

Generally, yes. A weighted blanket can provide a lot of benefits, as mentioned above. This is particularly true if you struggle with autism, sensory processing disorder, or anxiety.