Weighted Blankets: How to Really Compare Them!

Weighted Blankets: How to Really Compare Them!

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Disclaimer: The information contained within this blog post does not constitute medical advice and is for informational purposes only. While I have a PhD, I am not a licensed medical professional. Any questions you have regarding your health should be discussed with your treating physician.

Introduction

For those of you that have been regularly following my blog and social media feeds (epecially Twitter), you know that I regularly struggle with panic disorder with agoraphobia and also insomnia. I have trouble getting to sleep and staying asleep. One of the items being advertised as an antidote for panic disorder and insomnia, along with many other health conditions, is a weighted blanket. A few weeks ago I asked for people’s opinions on Twitter regarding their experiences with weighted blankets, and I heard mostly positive reviews. I am looking for a medicine-free way to achieve better sleep (which in turn, helps my panic disorder a little bit, and my mood), and this is the last thing to try on my list. Weighted blankets have a wide range in cost from <$100 all the way up to a few hundred dollars for those made with organic fabrics and glass beads. In the midst of my discussion on weighted blankets on Twitter, someone had made a comment that they bought a twin size weighted blanket for a king size bed because it is easier to move around. Just that comment prompted me to ask the following question: why are weighted blankets marketed by weight instead of the pressure they exert on your body? The force per square inch, which is known as pressure, is really what’s important here. And of course the weighted blankets come in an infinite number of combinations of weight and sizes, making it very hard to compare between them. Well, I’m going to let you in on a little secret that will make selection MUCH easier. In this post I will show you how to successfully navigate through making a purchasing decision, and what you need to be calculating in order to find the right weighted blanket.

Is Weight the Best Comparison Metric?

The way in which weighted blankets are currently being marketed is scientifically inaccurate. Let’s look at an example to see why.

Imagine two beds, a twin size and a king size. There is a large size difference between the two, in terms of the surface area of the top part of the mattress. Now, imagine both beds have a 15 pound weighted blanket with the same width and length as the bed itself. The pressure that you would feel from the blanket on the twin sized bed is larger than the pressure you would feel from the blanket on the king size bed. Why?

The pressure of the blanket on your body is simply the force or the weight of the blanket divided by the area of the blanket. The area of the blanket is calculated by multiplying the width and the length. So in the example above, the weight of the blanket is the same for both bed sizes. But because the twin-size blanket is smaller than the king-size blanket, this leads to a larger pressure. In layman’s terms, you have the same blanket weight as the king-size, but it’s spread out over a smaller area, leading to a higher pressure.

But why is this important? Let’s look at a purchasing decision I had to make to understand why.

Real-Life Example

Let’s look at a real-life example with actual numbers, based on my weighted blanket buying experience. The general guideline is to choose a blanket that is 10% of your body weight. I weigh 140 pounds, which means I should start with a 14 pound blanket. Thinking this would be too heavy, I opted for a 12 pound blanket instead. The size was 60 inches wide by 70 inches long, an area of 4200 square inches. The pressure, which can be calculated from dividing the weight by the area, is 0.00286 pounds/(square inch). I received it in the mail, tried it out, and it was too heavy for me. So I went back to the store website and found a 10 pound blanket that was 50 inches wide by 60 inches long, for an area of 3000 square inches. I thought this would work better, but thought I’d better double check the math. The pressure of this blanket was (10 pounds)/(3000 square inches) = 0.00333 pounds/(square inch)! It’s more than the 12 pound blanket! As consumers, this is really confusing and something to be aware of when deciding which blanket to buy. So how do you reliably pick out a blanket then?

How to Pick a Weighted Blanket

While finding the right weighted blanket will still involve some trial and error even with my method, it’s a much more targeted approach now that you know which metric to look at and compare them with. I’m using the following approach to find the right blanket:

  1. As a starting point, select the weight based on the 10% rule and make sure the size matches the dimensions of your bed. If your weight doesn’t match a blanket that’s being sold, round down. Common weights include 6, 8, 10, 12, 15, 18, and 20 pounds. For example, my number was 14 pounds, so I rounded down to 12 pounds.
  2. Order your blanket from somewhere that has a generous return policy. So somewhere like Amazon, Walmart, Kohl’s, Target, etc. Make sure you double check the fine print.
  3. Try out the blanket for a few nights. If you’re lucky enough to get it right on the first try, then you are done! If your blanket feels too heavy, then continue on.
  4. Calculate the pressure of your blanket by first multiplying the width and the length to get the area, then divide the weight of the blanket by the area to get the pressure. Write this down.
  5. Again, stick with a retailer with a generous return policy. Look through the options, and calculate the pressure for each blanket you are interested in. So in my example above, my current blanket is 0.00286 pounds/(square inch). Other blankets that I am considering have pressures of 0.00213 and 0.0025. 0.0025 is likely going to feel the same as what I already have, so I will likely need to go with the one with 0.00213 pounds/(square inch). If you are needing to move below 10 pound weighted blankets, you are likely going to have to start looking on Etsy for handmade blankets. The return policies are usually a lot less generous, so be careful here.
  6. Purchase your next blanket and if financially feasible, hold onto your previous one for comparison. Try it out and see how you like it. If it’s better than the previous, then send the previous one back.
  7. If your next blanket is better than the previous, but still not quite right, then repeat steps 5 and 6 until you are satisfied.

Conclusion

Calculating the pressure of the blanket is the only metric that can be used to consistently and confidently compare between different blankets. I am not sure if manufacturers did this on purpose or not, but I haven’t seen this issue discussed anywhere (or maybe no one has thought of this?). Once you purchase a weighted blanket and calculate its pressure, you can then make a fully informed decision from there if your first blanket doesn’t work out.

Have you purchased a weighted blanket? Did you have difficulty in finding one that felt comfortable? Share your experiences in the comments below!



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