In recent years, weighted blankets have become a home goods segment of their own. Differing from a heavy quilt or comforter designed to keep you warm, weighted blankets are legitimately heavy, sometimes clocking in at over 20 lbs. Their tremendous heft is essential because weighted blankets employ deep pressure stimulation to reduce stress and anxiety and help you sleep, as their gentle, hug-like pressure sends cues to your nervous system to calm down. But just what are these blankets filled with that causes them to be so comfortingly heavy?
Weighted Blanket Fillers
Just like when Blu-ray beat out HD DVD as the hi-def physical media standard (or, if you prefer, like when VHS topped Betamax in their ancient lo-def home video battle), glass beads seem to have won the war when it comes to weighted blanket fillers. Virtually every weighted blanket sold on the market today is filled with glass beads, particularly those that market themselves as a high-end product (including every one of our filled picks in our best weighted blankets guide).
So what’s so special about glass beads that they’ve mopped the floor with every other weighted blanket filling? Well, for starters they’re more environmentally friendly than many other options. They’re also tiny (resembling salt or sugar crystals), smooth and uniform in size, allowing a glass bead-filled weighted blanket to comfortably mold to your body. Glass beads are mostly silent, so you won’t hear a bunch of noise when adjusting your blanket, and they’re easier to care for than other options, in many cases even being machine washable and dryer-friendly. Really the only drawback to glass beads is that they’re more expensive than plastic competitors, but since they’re heavier, few of them are required to do the job.
Our pick for the best weighted blanket you can buy is filled with ultrafine glass beads and comes in weights as high as 35 lbs. Just a heads up, though: unlike some other glass-filled weighted blankets, the Gravity Blanket's weighted liner is hand-wash and air-dry only.
Plastic Poly Pellets
Inexpensive weighted blankets may use plastic poly pellets made from polypropylene, but you’re really more likely to encounter these pellets in a homemade weighted blanket, as standalone bags of these beads are far more common to come across than ready-made blankets filled with the stuff. The main advantage of plastic poly pellets is that they’re cheap, but that’s really the only advantage they hold. Any type of new plastic is bad for the environment, and since it’s a non-natural material, you may also have concerns about toxicity. Polypropylene is considered a safe material by the FDA, but considering how we’re constantly learning about new dangers associated with microplastics, you may still want to limit your exposure.
Plastic poly pellets are lighter than glass beads, so it takes more of them to achieve your desired weight. They’re also larger, so they don’t flow as nicely inside a weighted blanket, which can lead to unevenness in your fill. On the positive side, they are typically machine washable and dryable, and they’re the cheapest filling you can get.
If you're crafty and are looking for an economical way to make your own weighted blanket, Fairfield's non-toxic and hypoallergenic poly pellets are a solid option.
No, that’s not a misprint. Some weighted blankets forgo any filling and instead draw their weight from a very thick and heavy weave of fabric. The pros of this kind of setup should be pretty obvious: with no filling of any kind, you can care for and treat your weighted blanket just as you would any other blanket. You’ll never have to worry about ruining the filling, because there isn’t any, and there’s no concern over the weight inside your blanket shifting because it’s all distributed evenly, all the time.
The biggest drawback to this approach is that you’re pretty limited as far as how high your weights can go. Whereas obtaining a 30-lb glass bead-filled blanket is pretty easy to do, getting such a heavy blanket from fabric alone would require a blanket so huge that it would be fairly impractical to use. A heavy, non-filled blanket is also going to be much warmer than a weighted blanket filled with beads, to the point where it may be too hot to use comfortably.
Bearaby looks to solve one of the biggest problems with all-fabric weighted blankets — overheating — by crafting this blanket from Tencel Lyocell, which is naturally cool to the touch.
Less Common Fillings
There is a slew of other less common weighted blanket fillers out there that you’re probably only going to encounter in an old blanket or a homemade one. These include sand, pebbles, steel shot beads and grains like rice or beans. Frankly, none of them are great options. Sand can become lumpy, and you can’t get it wet, so these types of blankets are easily ruined with washing. Pebbles are noisy and not uniform in size, leading to uneven distribution. Grains are perishable food items with a literal shelf life, meaning they won’t last as long as other fillings (and you can’t get them wet, either).
Steel shot beads are easily your best bet out of this group, as they have some of the same pros as glass beads. They are the heaviest filling material you can get and they’re uniform in size. Their biggest con, and what makes them inferior to glass beads, is that steel shot beads are the noisiest type of filling you can get, so when you’re trying to destress, a bunch of clinking metal beads rolling around on top of you isn’t ideal.