Are weighted blankets for seniors safe and are they really helpful for conditions such as insomnia?
Restless sleepers know that the struggle they experience every night is not only real but also extremely frustrating. Keep in mind that the use of weighted blankets and different kinds of pillows are only two of various options to address your sleep struggles, so it is always best to first check in with your physician. This comparative review presents popular options on the market for seniors.
What are Weighted Blankets?
Wikipedia describes a weighted blanket as a blanket filled with heavy pellets. These pellets may be beads, glass, grain (rice or buckwheat). To ensure even distribution, manufacturers sew these weights and other materials into specialized pockets within the blankets.
These blankets are claimed to reduce anxiety and allowing the user to fall asleep more quickly. How?
There is some limited evidence that the gentle pressure these blankets exert on the body appear to trigger the production of serotonin (a feel-good chemical) giving the “warm fuzzy feeling of hugging or swaddling” which many claim to help relieve the symptoms of certain conditions (Shortsleeve 2019).
Cast your mind back to being tightly tucked into bed as a child….Remember the feeling of warmth and security? Same idea.
Previously, they were used to treat people with special needs – occupational therapy for managing autistic children, but they have become extremely popular with adults for assistance with both insomnia and anxiety.
Many people are also unaware that weighting is the reasoning used to create the “Thundershirts” marketed to help keep dogs less fretful during anxiety creating events like thunderstorms.
NOTE: Weighted blankets are MUCH SMALLER THAN NORMAL BLANKETS AND WILL NOT COVER THE ENTIRE BED OR HANG OFF THE EDGE OF THE BED.
Getting used to a weighted blanket typically takes 2 – 7 days, so don’t get frustrated after your first night of use!
Are Weighted Blankets Safe?
As with any blanket used by seniors, weighted blankets are generally safe as long as the blanket is not pulled over the face (Mullen et al 2008). The reason for this is obvious.
Because the blanket is weighted and heavy, it is usually not easy to pull over the face. Feeble seniors and the elderly should, however, use the lightest weighted blanket to avoid becoming trapped underneath the blanket, or injured if they are unable to remove the blanket in a situation where they may feel too hot and uncomfortable.
Positive Effects of the Use of Weighted Blankets For Seniors
Insomnia is a common occurrence and can have a negative effect physiological, psychological and social well-being. It can also be a recipe for falls in seniors and the elderly (refer to a previous article – Arthritis and insomnia – A recipe for falls.
Weighted blankets have been used to provide benefits for people with insomnia and anxiety, but the research is scarce (Harvard Women’s Health Watch 2019)
In one study, weighted blankets and vests were found to provide a beneficial calming effect, especially in clinical disorders. Ackerley et al 2015 found that the length of sleep time increased with a corresponding decrease in restless movements of participants in a study using weighted blankets.
Some additional benefits that may occur include:
- Reducing depression and anxiety
- Increasing sleep quality
- Reducing stress
- Reducing symptoms of certain conditions such as arthritis, dementia, Alzheimer’s, and Parkinson’s disease
What to Look for When Buying Weighted Blankets For Seniors
Consider the following when shopping for your weighted blanket.
Find a blanket made from a material that you find comfortable – lightweight, cotton, bamboo, hypoallergenic, or soft and plush.
Note that blankets made with natural materials are recommended over blankets made with synthetic fibers. Natural materials are more breathable, and synthetic fibers tend to be much hotter, which can make sleep uncomfortable.
The manufacturers recommend that you buy a weighted blanket that weighs approximately 10% of your body weight. So, if you weigh 100-lbs, then a 10-lb blanket is ideal.
Do not fret if your calculation is not as exact as this example. Within a 7-12% range is acceptable. You do not want the blanket being too heavy to make it uncomfortable. If you are unsure, start off with a lighter weight.
If you plan on sharing your blanket with a partner, you do not want to be in a constant tug-of-war contest. Why? Some blankets are poorly constructed and may cause the pellets to pool to one side of the bed.
Look for a blanket that is between 20 and 30 lbs. In this case, it is might be preferable to use two smaller individual sized blankets to avoid the reduced pressure which may occur in a single King or Queen blanket. Moreover, these bigger sized blankets are generally not easy to move anyway – speaking from experience!
Do not purchase oversize blankets which hang over the side of your bed (for twin or double size) for the following reasons:
- The larger size means that the weight is more spread out and the pressure you will feel will be reduced
- The weight can cause the blanket to fall off the bed during the night
The price of the blankets is largely based on the size and weight you select to buy. Various sizes are available. It is preferable that you take measurements of your bed BEFORE ordering. This will ensure that you order the correct size and that you do not have to deal with lugging this heavy blanket back to the post office for a return!
Most weighted blankets are not sold with an accompanying duvet cover. You will have to purchase it separately. A previous article Duvet Covers for Weighted Blankets – Selection Tips provides you with all you need to know about buying a duvet cover for your weighted blanket.
A Quick Comparison of Popular Weighted Blankets For Seniors
There are literally hundreds of weighted blankets and duvet covers being marketed to consumers. It can be overwhelming to wade through all of their specifications and consumer comments to find the one which suits you best.
LUNA AND YnM BRANDS
A quick comparison of the more popular 15lb 60″x80″Queen size or the 20lb 80″x 87″Queen/ King size weighted blankets on the market is presented below. Click on the dollar sign ($) to review other sizes and weights. Remember to keep your “wants” in mind as you review them. Also, check for more detailed reviews of select brands under the Review category of this website.
Luna Adult Weighted Cooling Blanket
- Lots of color and pattern options
- Hypoallergenic, soft breathable layers
- Oeko-Tex certification: Contains no toxic chemicals and is safe for animals
- Eight ties for secure fastening to duvet covet
- Hand wash or machine wash cold on gentle setting
- Not suitable for sensitive joints or back pain
- Does not come with a washable duvet cover. Need to purchase separately
- Only King size is good for sharing
- Because of its popularity, stock is quickly sold out
YnM Weighted Blanket (Cotton or Bamboo)
- Come in cotton and pure bamboo breathable outer shells
- Lots of size, color, and pattern (25) options
- Glass bead fill and additional fiberfill and fabric layers have pocketed quilts for even distribution and also prevent leaking
- Tight weaving of outer shell prevents soaking through of accidental spills
- Ties to hold duvet cover in place are sturdy
- Machine washable
- Does not come with a washable duvet cover. Need to purchase separately
- Only the King size is good for sharing on Queen or King beds
COMHO, HYPNOSER AND WEIGHTED IDEA BRANDS – Weighted Blankets For Seniors
COMHO Weighted Blankets – Cooling OR Cooling & Warming
- Sold as cooling or premium (cooling and warming versions)
- Cooling version is 100% cotton, soft and breathable
- Nano-ceramic beads can reduce the noise created by movement when you toss and turn in bed
- No bead leakage: glass beads are evenly distributed across the blanket
- Limited stock – Only 5lbs and 20lb are available for the cooling version
- Only Premium comes in 15lb as the cooling and warming version
- No removable washable duvet cover in the cooling version. Must be purchased separately
- Weighted blanket comes in a single color – grey
- Confusing care instructions are provided by the manufacturer
HYPNOSER Weighted Blanket
- Soft cotton is breathable
- Has small square pockets which are used to distribute weights evenly
- Tight stitching ensures no leakage of weight pellets
- Single dark grey color
- Machine wash
- No removable washable duvet cover. Need to purchase seperately
- Cannot be dry-cleaned
- Needs more loops and ties inside the cover to keep the blanket and cover together
WEIGHTED IDEA Blanket
- 100% Cotton
- Machine washable on gentle setting and “air dry”
- Blanket has many pockets to distribute weight evenly
- Comes in 6 color styles, different sizes and weight to meet different needs
- No removable, washable duvet cover. Purchase separately
- Few complaints about some bead dust leakage
- Queen size is too small for two people. Require a King size
- Blanket attracts pet fur
Other Popular Weighted Blankets For Seniors
FUZZY AND MOONSTONE BRANDS
Fuzzy Weighted Blanket – Dual Season (Summer and Winter)
- Has 2 removable, washable duvet covers – summer and winter options: both are easy to change and wash well
- Blanket distributes weight evenly
- Nano beads are quiet – make no noise
- 5 colors
- Machine washable: weights come out for washing so you do not destroy the washing machine
- Sizing runs small; Couples, require a King and not a Queen size
- Not for sufferers of back pain
Moonstone Weighted Blanket with Removable Cover for Compression Therapy
- 100% Cotton with removable minky layer
- Provides cooling and warming for summer and winter options
- Non-toxic hypoallergenic glass beads
- Glass beads are secured in polyester pockets for even distribution across the blanket
- Removing the minky cover creates a cooler blanket which allows hot sleepers to stay drier and cooler in the summer
- Has 8 tie-downs to keep the 2 layers together throughout the night and keep weight distribution even
- Ideal for anxiety, stress and insomnia
- Only one color combination: Grey and blue
ZON LI AND BUZIO BRANDS – Weighted Blankets For Seniors
Zon Li Cooling Weighted Blanket
- 100% natural breathable natural cotton
- Filling is non-glue polyester padding and hypoallergenic, non-toxic, odorless glass beads
- Blanket distributes weight evenly
- Appears helpful for chronic back pain and eliminates tossing and turning
- Fabric material is not soft to the skin and needs purchase of a separate duvet cover
- Weight size sometimes not heavy enough for recommended 10% of body weight
- Size tends to run small. Order larger size so the feet can also get coverage
- Tends to attract fluff in the air and is difficult to dry clean
BUZIO Weighted Blanket with Flannel and Premium Ceramic Beads
- Reversible – super soft fleece top and plush Sherpa reverse
- Anti-static, anti pill
- Hypoallergenic non-toxic, odorless glass beads
- Extra fabric layers – Sherpa layer wraps 2 extra polyester layers to avoid leakage of the beads with no noise coming from shuffling of the beads during movement
- Comes in 8 different colors
- Directions provided for cleaning and care are confusing – Instruction insert state machine wash, but tag says dry-clean and spot clean.
- Very good for winter but can sometimes feel too hot in the summer
Weighted blankets for seniors and elderly use is safe, however, they are not for everyone. While they may provide relief for insomnia, anxiety, stress and other conditions, some people cannot tolerate a heavy blanket pressing them down. Older and more feeble adults are generally encouraged to start with a lighter weight until they get used to it.
Most weighted blankets are not sold with duvet covers. Duvet covers are removeable for easy washing will protect your weighted blanket so that it lasts for several years. A good starting point is a previous article: Duvet Covers for Weighted Blankets – Selection Tips. Check it out!
1.Ackerley, R., Badre, G., & Olausson, H. (2015). Positive Effects of a Weighted Blanket on Insomnia. J. Sleep Medicine and Disorders 2(3): 1022
2. Harvard Women’s Health Watch 2019 Anxiety and stress weighing heavily at night? A new blanket might help. Harvard Health Publishing
3. Mullen B et al (2008). Exploring the safety and therapeutic effects of Deep Pressure Stimulation Using a Weighted Blanket. Occup.Therapy in Mental Health 24(10: 65-89 https://tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1300/J004v24n01-05
4. Shortsleeve, C (2019). Trouble Sleeping? Try a Weighted Blanket. https://saatva.com/blog/do-weighted-blankets-work-sleep-experts-weigh-in