I Tried a Bearaby Weighted Blanket for Better Sleep—Here’s My Review
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A weighted blanket can provide anxiety relief and a good night's sleep. Here's what happened when I used two different blankets for two months.
Sleep products to feel better
To get through the seemingly never-ending days, weeks, and months of 2020, I found myself obsessively searching for self-care, sleep, and fitness products that would make me feel better.
Some of the experiments ended up being a fail—like the resistance bands I’ve used maybe three times.
My goal was to alleviate anxiety and get better sleep.
Here’s how it went. (If you’re curious, here are the best weighted blankets on Amazon.)
What is a weighted blanket?
Weighted blankets are essentially regular blankets with added weight through elements like glass beads or very heavy natural fibers.
I don’t have serious sleep or mental health issues, but I do get a little anxious from time to time. At the start of the pandemic, I was living alone and pretty stressed out. I was sleeping fitfully, and waking up throughout the night.
One of my friends got a weighted blanket and he only had positive things to say about how comforting it felt. I figured a weighted blanket was worth a try.
I did a little online research and ordered a synthetic version of a 15-pound Zonli weighted blanket (more on synthetic vs. natural weighted blankets later).
Do weighted blankets actually work?
To find out the science behind weighted blankets and sleep, I reached out to Lynelle Schneeberg, a pediatric sleep psychologist and director of the behavioral sleep program at Connecticut Children’s Medical Center in Fairfield.
“There is not a large body of research proving that weighted blankets actually improve sleep. The best types of studies are those that have a control group and that are replicable (meaning that other scientists who do the same study will have similar findings) and studies like these do not exist for weighted blankets,” says Schneeberg, who’s also an assistant professor of clinical psychiatry at Yale School of Medicine in New Haven.
But, that doesn’t mean weighted blankets don’t feel good and produce relaxation that can lead to sleep and alleviated anxiety. “Most people find a little bit of heavy input relaxing. Proprioception is how things feel on your body,” Schneeberg explains. “When you get a strong massage, you’re getting proprioceptive input. It’s a sense of pressure on your body that feels relaxing and comforting.”
The added weight on your body might stimulate the production of serotonin (the happy hormone) and reduce cortisol (the stress hormone). If, like me, you usually sleep pretty well but find comfort in strong massages and tight hugs, a weighted blanket will likely feel good. Dr. Schneeberg agrees. She says, “Sometimes I use one myself. They feel great.”
(Here are easy ways to sleep better.)
How I chose a weighted blanket
For my first weighted blanket, I ordered the Zonli weighted blanket on Amazon. It was the right price point at $70, and I wanted a black one since I didn’t want to have to wash it that often. The company recommends hand washing or washing just a cover (sold separately), although machine washing is possible for blankets less than 12 pounds. (Here’s how to wash a weighted blanket.)
The Zonli is weighted with glass beads that are sewn inside quilted squares, and this is key. Cheaper synthetic weighted blankets might not have even weight distribution, so you’ll end up with all the weight falling to end of the blanket—making it essentially worthless.
How to choose the right weighted blanket weight? Well, the rule of thumb is about 10 percent of your bodyweight. However, my friend had ordered a 10-pound blanket and told me he wished he’d gone heavier, so I weighted up to the 15-pound version. Of course, the heavier you go, the more expensive the blanket is.
The Zonli arrived in a heavy box and I had to strain a bit to pull it out. That’s one drawback to weighted blankets—they’re heavy! But as soon as I put it on my lap, I was in love. The feeling of the weight spread over my legs made me feel secure and safe. I felt instantly relaxed.
The same happened when I put it on at night to sleep. I was worried I’d feel claustrophobic, but I really didn’t. Another thing to remember is that though the blanket is 15 pounds, the weight is evenly distributed so it’s not all on your body at once.
Whether it was a placebo effect, good timing, or a relaxed state from the weighted blanket—I slept soundly through the entire night. I don’t have scientific proof to back it up, but I feel like I get a deeper sleep with a weighted blanket. (Find out if you really need eight hours of sleep a night.)
I was hooked. And now that I knew weighted blankets alleviated my anxiety and helped me sleep, I was ready for an upgrade. Enter: the Bearaby weighted blanket I’d seen all over Instagram. The company reached out to see if I was interested in trying one of their weighted blankets at home, and I agreed.
What are the benefits of Bearaby weighted blankets?
First off, the Bearaby weighted blanket cotton napper doesn’t look like a weighted blanket. It looks like a chunky knit throw. It resembles the kind you see in home interior magazines and at five-star beachside hotels. Synthetic blankets usually need to go inside a duvet cover, but the Bearaby weighted blanket was made with style in mind.
The Bearaby weighted blanket cotton napper is handmade from long-staple GOTS-certified organic cotton. GOTS stands for global organic textile standard, which certifies that each product meets ecological and social standards. It’s naturally breathable so you won’t get as heated under the natural fibers as you do with the synthetic weighted blankets.
I asked Schneeberg about natural fiber weighted blankets. She said, “In the world of sleep, we do love natural fibers because they are breathable.”
Another pro? Bearaby weighted blankets are washable. Now, I wouldn’t throw mine in the wash every week as I do with my bed sheets, but a few times a year it can be washed on the gentle cycle and tumble dried on low. Avoid hanging the blanket, as the weight will stretch out the cotton loops.
Yes, the Bearaby weighted blanket is more expensive than a synthetic weighted blanket. (The cost is $249 to $279, although an 8-pound version for kids is $149.) But, in terms of quality and craftsmanship, it does seem like you’re getting what you pay for.
Who should not use a weighted blanket?
If you’re experiencing true insomnia (and not just occasional restlessness), Schneeberg recommends cognitive-behavioral therapy for insomnia (CBT-I) as a scientifically proven method of relief.
She also suggests that anyone with respiratory, circulatory, or temperature regulation problems avoid sleeping under weighted blankets. (Here are the different types of insomnia.)
Did the Bearaby weighted blanket help me feel better?
Without hesitation: yes. I know having two weighted blankets is a little extra, but hear me out.
I like to use the 15-pound Zonli weighted blanket on my lap or around my shoulders while I read, watch TV, or even work on my laptop. (Yes, I take it off for Zoom calls.) The weight helps me feel relaxed and grounded—especially during anxious times.
If I’m going to sleep, either for a nap or for the night, I have to have my 20-pound Bearaby weighted blanket. At this point, it’s what Schneeberg would call a sleep crutch. As in, something I now strongly associate with falling asleep to the point where I might need it to actually fall asleep.
I love that the material is organic cotton, and the loose weave means it isn’t hot. It still delivers on the weight front, at a comfortably heavy 20 pounds. And I have to say, it’s absolutely gorgeous draped over the end of my bed.
I don’t have plans to go anywhere overnight soon, but when I do, I’m going to have to figure out how to take my Bearaby weighted blanket with me.
Next, here’s how you can improve your sleep habits in one day.
- Lynelle Schneeberg, PsyD, assistant professor of clinical psychiatry, Yale School of Medicine, New Haven, Connecticut