A weighted blanket offers “the feeling of hugging someone … without all the annoying hassles of having to be with a person,” comedian Whitney Cummings has said. Companies that sell weighted blankets claim that they are a scientifically proven way to help you calm down. We looked into medical studies and tested three top contenders to check those claims.
So, are weighted blankets truly useful? Sort of.
Blankets stuffed with added weight, typically in the form of small beads, have long served as a therapeutic intervention for people in psychiatric care, and for kids with autism. Therapists sometimes offer them with other calming aids such as drawing materials and indoor tunnels. The authors of one paper (PDF) refer to a room set up with these items as “Chillville.”
While weighted blankets can ease anxiety in adults, claims made about them can be misleading. They’re not a substitute for therapy or medication. And they are quite expensive for a thing that can be difficult to return. Our favorite from testing, the SensaCalm Custom Weighted Blanket, starts at $200 for adult sizes and comes with only a three-day return period for a full refund—though you can get 80 percent back within up to 30 days.
That being said, as an anxious person myself, I found the SensaCalm pleasant to have on my lap while working or lounging. You can’t easily tell if you would benefit from one without trying one for yourself, but if you enjoy the sensation of wearing a lead smock while getting X-rays, you’ll likely enjoy having a weighted blanket around.
Though there are few studies examining the effects of weighted blankets specifically, science backs up the notion that they can be calming—sometimes. In one small study (see the PDF version for details), over two-thirds of the participants (mostly college-age folks) said they felt less anxious after lying beneath a weighted blanket for five minutes in a lab compared with lying there for five minutes without one. When the researchers looked at a physiological measure of anxiety, namely skin conductance (read: palm sweat), they found that only a third of participants were significantly calmed by the blanket. Take these results with a grain of salt: This study involved only 32 people who didn’t necessarily have anxiety, and it had no control group.
It wasn’t, in fact, a very thorough study, though it is one of a few cited by Gravity, a company that sells weighted blankets for adults. A STAT News article published last year concluded as I did: Despite claims from Gravity that weighted blankets are a “prescription-free solution,” there’s no science supporting tossing your meds for a heavy comforter. That language is a toned-down version of the company’s prior claim that its blankets could treat conditions (Kickstarter asked Gravity to remove that assertion). Another rundown of the research from Live Science similarly found the evidence for weighted blankets to be a little light, especially for use with adults outside crisis centers.
Still, there’s enough evidence to suggest that weighted blankets can be calming—for some people, in some cases—that we wanted to give them a try.
Companies usually recommend choosing a blanket that is approximately 10 percent of your body weight, though both that small study and our own testing experience suggest that slightly more weight is comfortable. A weighted blanket should definitely not be too heavy to get out from under quickly and easily. (Parents and caretakers should be especially careful when using blankets with kids.)
We ordered blankets from three companies that had good customer reviews and offered blankets in adult sizes: SensaCalm, Mosaic Weighted Blankets, and Weighted Blankets Plus.1 At the time I was placing orders, Gravity’s blankets were available only for preorder. Plus, used Gravity blankets cannot be returned—we don’t like those terms for such an expensive item that you may not find effective.
Straight out of the box, the blanket from SensaCalm was fluffy; it looked like a normal comforter except heavy. The other two were flat, like giant smushed bean bags.
First, I put the SensaCalm and Weighted Blankets Plus models on the bed, one for me and one for my boyfriend. They’re sized so they fit over exactly one person—you can order them bigger, but then they could slip off the bed or annoy a partner, and they’re expensive enough as it is.
When my boyfriend crawled in bed, I related to him the Whitney Cummings quip about it being like a hug. We lay side by side beneath our own personal inanimate embraces. After five minutes or so, he asked, “Okay, but how long do you want a hug to go on for?”
We tried them the whole night. While companies advertise these things as being helpful for insomnia, I woke up anyway. Though I liked the sensation overall, I didn’t like it enough to try sleeping a full night with a weighted blanket again: I toss and turn, and doing that beneath a 15-pound weight was a burden, not a relief.
I continued to rotate through the three blankets for shorter stints, however. I also brought the blankets to a Wirecutter office (where, naturally, we have a full living room and bedroom setup) to get the opinions of my co-workers.
If you would like to try one, we recommend SensaCalm’s custom-made blankets (these ship after a week; the company has a few ready to ship immediately, but the stock is spotty). They start at about $200 for adult sizes and weights, though you can easily go much higher with extras. The SensaCalm blanket we tested was fluffy and comforter-like, though you have the option to order a flatter version if you sleep hot. These blankets are available in more fabric choices than the competition. Unlike the other two blankets we tried, the SensaCalm didn’t wrinkle easily or strike our testers as looking homemade.
We like that SensaCalm has an acceptable return policy: If you send an unused blanket back within three days, you’ll get a full refund. If you return a used blanket within 30 days, you’ll get 80 percent of your money back. It’s not as good as the Weighted Blankets Plus policy, which gives customers three months to request a full refund or a full year for store credit (a 12 percent restocking fee applies to both scenarios). But it’s much better than that of Mosaic Blankets, which will not accept used blankets back at all.
SensaCalm also sells duvet covers to fit its blankets; since they are smaller than your average comforter, you can’t just put a normal duvet on them, though you could modify one fairly quickly if you’re sewing-machine savvy. A custom duvet adds about $100 to the cost of the blanket, but if you’ll be using the blanket regularly, the cover will make it easier to keep clean. We tried the “cuddle fabric” duvet (fleece, basically), which felt comfy and luxurious—a nice feature for an item that exists to make you feel good.
At $200, the SensaCalm blanket is far north of affordable. But throughout testing, I found that the blankets were a nice addition to my personal “Chillville” repertoire of regular running, plentiful bath bombs, and doctor-prescribed medication—which, to me, is no less “natural” than seeking comfort from an object. It was pleasant to work with one splayed across my lap. It felt sort of like a lap dog, except it didn’t need to be fed or walked and there was nothing to pick up after. If this sounds relatable, then you will likely enjoy having one as well.