Why a Custom Weighted Blanket may be the Secret to Your Best Sleep Ever

Photo: Steven Dewall

Photo: Steven Dewall


Weighted blankets were the must-have holiday gift of 2018. You couldn't scroll through Instagram without being bombarded with ads for these sensory aids. But weighted blankets aren't exactly new, in fact, interior designer Sarah Barnard has been creating custom versions for years.

As a child, she came across a roll of peacock blue mohair fabric in her family's garage that she used to complete a patchwork quilt she was sewing. Little did she know that her father intended to use the luxurious fabric as the upholstery for a 1949 Chevrolet he was restoring.

Although her father was furious, she was ultimately allowed to keep the blanket, which weighed close to 20 pounds. "I found the tremendous weight and enveloping warmth encouraged my body to sleep more peacefully and longer," explains Barnard.

Photos: Scott Van Dyke

Photos: Scott Van Dyke

These days, she's still creating natural, custom bedding for her clients using designer textiles and stitching techniques taught to her by her father. This expertise allows Barnard to deliver better-designed therapeutic blankets with endless customization options in terms of fullness and weight.

A custom design allows the client to choose the fabric, color, interlining material, and weight. Barnard's team of trusted artisans, handmakes each calm blanket locally and sustainably. Recently, Barnard designed a biophilic master bedroom suite for a couple who prefer blankets in different weights. Her solution? One large duvet cover with two blanket inserts tucked inside, providing a seamless look that caters to individual needs.

Photo: Chas Metivier

Photo: Chas Metivier

One of Barnard's clients explained that she had been having trouble sleeping for some time and tried sleep aids, teas, and melatonin. She never felt fully rested using these remedies, but when used together with a customized weighted blanket, she experienced notable improvement. 

Photo: Charlie Daniels

Photo: Charlie Daniels

Children especially may benefit from the use of a sensory blanket. A study from 2011 published in the Nordic Journal of Psychiatry found that children with ADHD fell asleep faster and awoke fewer times during the night when covered with a weighted blanket. Barnard enjoys designing colorful, custom blankets for the children of her clients. "Involving the child in the selection of the textiles allows them to personalize their environment and surround themselves with things that comfort them the most," she notes.

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Barnard's weighted blanket, which she made herself, is fabricated of two heavyweight Schumacher fabrics sewn together sans lining. Even without a traditional interlining, it weighs in at 13 pounds. When the blanket is not in use, it adds contrast and texture to the room — quite unlike the characterless models one can purchase online.

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The textiles Barnard used were prewashed and preshrunk to remove any allergens or dust. She chooses to wash her weighted blanket regularly in the washing machine despite the fabric's dry clean only warning. "I accept a rough and tumbled appearance in trade for the ease of maintaining my everyday life," she says. Barnard points out that this is a common request among her clients. "Families want to be able to launder their weighted blankets, so we test each sample to see how it survives the washing machine," she adds.

As mass-produced weighted blankets have risen in popularity, their quality has suffered immensely. Most ready-made options are filled with plastic poly pellets or glass beads. Custom made blankets are most often filled with organic cotton interlining or organic cotton batting in varying lofts to reach the desired weight. Organic wool and organic hemp interlinings are also available. For homeowners who want organic textiles and a natural lifestyle, being able to identify where the materials come from, and how they are made help us to sleep easier at night. 

A wellness-minded interior designer can help create a custom weighted blanket that suits your health needs, and personal style to ensure an even better night's sleep.

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Sarah Barnard designs healthy, happy, personalized spaces that are deeply connected to nature and art. With a contemporary approach that employs traditional vocabulary, Barnard’s range of style is innovative yet time-honored. The ideas most essential to her practice and design process are wellness, historic preservation, and the infinite ways in which design can enhance life.