What Our Weighted Blankets Tell Us About Our Late-Capitalist Angst

Existential crisis + magical thinking + Amazon Prime = the Gravity Blanket

Summer Brennan
Forge
Published in
10 min readJan 10, 2020

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An illustration of a person sleeping on a bed with their arm dangling off the side. A weighted blanket covers their body.
Image: Malte Mueller/Getty Images

II first heard of the Gravity Blanket in a moment when the world outside my window seemed to be visibly falling apart. It was December 2019. I was living in Paris, which had ground to a halt amid the worst general strikes in decades. The news from my native United States was similarly anxiety-provoking. And things would only get worse in the coming month; from boiling tensions between the U.S. and Iran to the fires ravaging Australia, the state of the world was enough to make anyone want to dive under the covers.

Weighted blankets made it onto countless lists of popular gifts this past holiday season, and they dominate the top of Amazon’s most-gifted bedding list. You may well have found one under your own tree. Since they first started being mass-produced a few years ago, Americans have enthusiastically reached for the comfort and velvety heft of these $200–300 blankets. Because…well, science. Or Instagram. Or something.

The concept of the weighted blanket is refreshingly low tech. There are no sensors, no plug-ins, no apps to download. It’s just a quilted comforter filled with tiny pellets or glass beads, that rests on your body like a giant bean bag. Advocates say it can “recalibrate your nervous system” and maybe even cure your insomnia.

There are a number of different companies making these blankets, but most brands similarly describe the experience as a hug: “the blanket that hugs you back,” (Magic Blanket) or “a gentle, loving embrace” (Gravity Blanket). It’s a compelling, if somewhat unsettling bit of advertising, like a marketing version of the famous six-word story attributed to Hemingway: For sale, loving embrace, never worn.

Although TIME Magazine called weighted blankets one of the “best inventions of 2018,” they aren’t new. They’ve just been given a new image — one perfectly in tune with a worldwide upwelling of dread. Long used for calming children with autism or sensory processing disorders, the blankets have now gone mainstream as a cozy sleep aid for anyone. But what does it say about our general state of being that a product invented for therapeutic purposes has suddenly…

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Summer Brennan
Forge
Writer for

Summer Brennan is an award-winning investigative journalist and author of The Oyster War, High Heel, and The Parisian Sphinx (forthcoming from HMH).