At the higher end of the scale, weighted blankets that are approximately 20% of your body weight and 56 x 76 inches (I’ve seen bigger sizes being sold though) are safe to use. Yup. 20%. –Even though many people (including some professionals) will say to use 5-10% (+ 1 or 2 lbs) of your body weight.
That doesn’t sound right …
- So where did people get this 5-10% figure from? A. Safety guidelines for backpacks. Backpacks. –I kid you not.
Weighted blankets weighing up to 20% of your body weight has been proven to be safe. So, bring out that scale; it’s time to get ‘weighted’!
No, why did you have to bring my weight into it?
Relax, relax. -This time, it’s a good thing. You see, there are general safety guidelines for how much “wearable” weight a person should carry. In the case of backpacks, it’s about 5-10% of your own body weight. As weighted blankets became popular, many persons just generalized those safety guidelines to weighted blankets as well. –But it’s a bit unsubstantiated.
Here’s the thing: Backpacks …are generally used while standing/walking. –With their weight concentrated across the shoulders. That translates to more weight on a limited portion of your body; so, the heavier it is, the more your shoulders feel the pressure. In the case of weighted blankets, you use them lying down with the weight distributed over almost your entire body. –You can take more weight.
How to choose the right weight and size for your weighted blanket comes down to your own body weight. –And that’s a good thing.
Why 20%? That seems high …
It’s not actually. It only looks high on paper. In 2008 a study was done with 30lb weighted blankets. Oh yeah. 30. Pounds.
The average participant was 165 lbs, so it was almost 20% of their body weight. The lightest person weighed in at 112 lbs, which means it was a whopping 26% of their body weight. –And get this …they ALL had normal vital signs. Quite safe. 63% of the users reported lower anxiety, and 78% preferred it as a calming modality.
Considering that weighted blankets typically range from 5-25 lbs, that extra 5 lbs doesn’t seem so bad after-all.
Okay …but does the 20% rule apply to everybody?
Of course not. It’s not one-body-weight-percent-fits-all. Pffft.
As a general rule of thumb, it should be heavy enough to release stress/anxiety (read: at least comfortable), but light enough that you can remove it by yourself (without much effort). –But generally, many people preferentially seek out closer to 20% of their body weight. It comes down to preference.
However, you should be cautious and maybe start out with the 5-10% rule if:
- You’re not the “huggy-feely” type. What? Weighted blankets are a type of deep pressure stimulation (DPS) item that mimics the feeling of being hugged. –Firmly. Or being swaddled or massaged. If you don’t like being hugged, go for a lighter weight.
- You’re younger than 3 years old. (In which case, you’re a genius to be able to read this). Actually, don’t use weighted blankets with kids younger than 3 years old. Not a good idea.
- You’re elderly. Things just feel heavier now. At this stage in life, less is more.
- The size of the blanket (at 20% body weight) hangs over the bed. This is especially important for smaller children, and persons with sensory and/or movement issues/disorders. Gravity is no less forgiving just because you’re sleeping.
Wait …size matters?
The rule of thumb here: don’t let it hang over your bed. Otherwise, it should fit your needs.
Say for instance someone, Steve, has sensory issues in his legs; Steve’s weighted blanket wouldn’t need to cover more than his legs. [Fun fact: the lower half of your body (legs downward) makes up ~15% of your body weight].
So what does he do? Check that the weight is 10-20% of the weight of his lower half and see if the dimensions will cover his legs.
Here’s the thing though: Steve is 5’ 8” or 68” tall and weighs 180 lbs. His legs weigh ~27 lbs so his weighted blanket should weigh around 3-5lbs. Cool. But Steve’s legs are around 36” tall (he has a short torso), and weighted blankets in that weight range typically have dimensions of 36 x 56”. That may be a little big for Steve, so a lap pad, mini blanket, or large toddler-sized weighted blanket may be more appropriate for him.
Pro Tip: Check the weight when determining what size to get. If the size is right but the weight is too heavy or light, it won’t be as effective. Try going up or down a size for a closer match. (Or ask for a customized one).
Weighted blankets typically range from 36 x 42”– 65 x 80”, and you can buy the sizes according to body weight, or by bed size.
Select a size: – based on your body or your bed
It’s best to use your body (weight) for this kind of product. It will give you greater accuracy in determining what weight will be more comfortable for you, especially if you’re only using it under specific conditions like a long plane ride, or a body part, like Steve’s legs. –Well, your legs.
But if you insist on using your bed, here are some things to look out for:
- Measure your bed. If it doesn’t have standard dimensions, it’s less likely the blanket will fit it neatly.
- Make sure it doesn’t hang over the side of the bed. –No, I can’t say it often enough. Again, especially for smaller children and those who have issues with sensory processing and movement disorders. Besides, no one likes a hang-er.
- If you move around a lot while you sleep, consider getting a slightly bigger size (within the same weight bracket) to accommodate your movements.
- If you plan to share it with your bedmate, consider getting the next size up so you both have space to move freely.
But wait! There’s more!
No matter what your body or bed size, there are other considerations which will affect the weight and size of your new-found blankey. For instance, how heavy do you think it will be when it gets wet …?
Some fabrics just simply absorb way more water than others. Think about your poor washer. Make sure the fabric is heavy enough to hold in the weights, but light enough that it won’t absorb a ton of water.
It also needs to be breathable. –Especially if you’re one to cover up from head to toe. For example, fleece in a warmer climate or season is not going to work out too well for you. Unless you love using the air conditioner. –And paying higher electricity bills. In that case, carry on.
Also check that non-toxic, BPA-free plastic is used for the weights. –Unless they use glass. Glass may bring its own safety concerns, especially if the threading isn’t appropriate. (Glass beads tend to be really small, so if the threading isn’t just right, they may eventually slip through the covers. And we don’t want that.
You still need a duvet cover
No, they’re not duvet covers. Actual duvet covers are a Godsend for saving on the extra weight of an already-heavy wet blanket. Just take off the duvet cover, wash that, and save your back. And arms. And washer. The poor washer.
With duvet covers, snaps work a little better than ties, as the ties tend to pull at the threading more easily and won’t last as long. Trust me, the added investment of a duvet cover with snaps will save you money in the long run.
Allow for your child’s growth
Kids grow up way too fast. And they grow more quickly when they’re younger. Yikes! This can be a nightmare when making an investment in a weighted blanket. Talk to your pediatrician about weight and sizing for your child. A size up in the same weight class, or a customized one may be in order.
Make sure that the blanket doesn’t go over the sides of the bed. (Yea, yea, yea). Perhaps you can add short (pediatrician-approved) rails to prevent the blanket from drawing them to the depths of the floor.
When all is said and done, there are certain things to be careful of when using your weighted blanket:
- It’s not a tent. Don’t let kids use it like that.
- It’s not a punishment tool. Don’t use it as a restraint.
- Never leave toddlers unattended with it.
- If a person is unable to freely remove the blanket from themselves, don’t let them use it. This includes children, the elderly, and persons with movement/sensory-related disorders.
A weighted blanket can be a miracle for people who have difficulty sleeping, anxiety or stress-related disorders, autism and even ADHD. It is often used as a Deep Pressure Stimulation (think firm hug or massage) tool, which is known for its therapeutic results.
To choose the right weight and size for your weighted blanket, the blanket should be around 10-20% of your body weight, should not go over the sides of your bed (rolls eyes back at you), and should fit your specific needs. It’s yours after all.
Now, go forth and buy your sweet dream cover.