Here is a blanket statement to get the ball rolling (no pun intend; "A blanket is just a blanket".
The problem with this statement is that there are many different types of blankets, and each one is perfectly made for its intended purpose.
A blanket is not just a blanket. Each type of blanket serves a different purpose, and some even play multi-purpose roles in our lives. The primary function of a blanket is to keep us warm, but blankets also form a big part of home décor, both in the bedroom and in other living areas of the home. Besides being a bed covering, they are draped over couches and chairs, hung on walls, used as seating mats, worn as garments, and even used over windows to keep the cold out.
Different types of blankets with their intricate, colourful designs and combinations of fabrics are woven in cultures worldwide and in some cultures are considered prized possessions. Every household will have a range of blankets that are interchanged between summers and winters. They are essential items that bring warmth and comfort to us all.
There is nothing more rewarding than a roof over your, food on your plate and a warm bed to sleep in.
Why are blankets important?
Blankets are mostly used to cover ourselves when we sleep.
Have you ever noticed that if you take a nap on the sofa without covering yourself, you will wake up feeling a little cold? This is because your circadian rhythm that regulates your core body temperature has switched to sleep mode. Body heat generation is reduced to conserve energy and to put you into a state of rest.
We have been using some form of covering (blanket) when we sleep from the beginning of our existence. Other mammals that are unable to cover themselves build dens, dig holes, and curl up as a means to retain body heat during sleep.
Blankets are a means to help regulate a comfortable sleeping temperature. If we get too cold or too hot, your sleep will be interrupted. The room we sleep in, as well as our bed, should maintain this sleep "goldilocks" temperature so we can get the maximum benefit of a good night's sleep. For this reason, it is important to know about the characteristics of the different types of blankets on the market.
The right type of blanket will moderate your sleep temperature, and you will be well-rested, thanks to your wise choices that meet the ever-changing dynamics of your sleep environment.
5 Types of blankets you'll want to know about
01. Wool Blankets
Wool blankets offer the most warmth out of all the natural materials that blankets are made of.
Besides the fact that wool is fire-resistant, it is also biodegradable and has antibacterial properties. Being antibacterial means that you do not have to wash wool blankets as often as other types of blankets.
Although wool is considered soft, wool blankets tend to feel rough and, at times, will feel scratchy against your skin. Wool naturally repels water but only slightly, and the blankets can be pricey depending on where you are in the world. Wool retains heat, but it is also porous, meaning it can breathe and doesn't retain odors. All around, if warmth is your main need, wool blankets are the perfect choice for you.
02. Cotton blankets
Many people suffer from allergies, and others have sensitive skin that can be very uncomfortable.
Cotton blankets are hypoallergenic and will reduce skin irritation and lessen the effect of allergies. They are great for warmer climates, but flammability raises concern, so using them in situations where there is an open fire should be done with caution. Cotton is easy to clean, but they retain water and take a long time to dry. The lightweight fabric regulates heat and prevents overheating, giving you uninterrupted sleep.
Flannel cotton is used in clothing as well as blankets. It is a combination of fabrics that include cotton, wool and synthetic fibres. Cotton tends to wrinkle and will also shrink when heat dried, so care must be taken to air dry cotton in minimum heat conditions.
Satin/cotton is a popular fabric combination because of its comfort, softness, and luxurious feel and appearance. Satin is a type of weave that is made from silk, but it is also made from synthetic fibres like polyester. Blankets made with silk are more expensive, whereas cotton/polyester blankets, which feel the same, are much more affordable.
Egyptian/cotton is used to manufacture weighted blankets and are long-lasting. Unfortunately, like all expensive commodities, there are knockoffs of Egyptian blankets and care should be taken to make sure that the blanket is authentic Egyptian cotton. These blankets are breathable, and they also absorb moisture but are not prone to the degree of shrinking as regular cotton.
03. Afghan blankets
Afghan blankets are not really used as blankets, but more as décor pieces
This has created some controversy about whether Afghans are actually blankets. They are mostly made from wool and are either knitted or crocheted, which would explain why they are not often used as blankets, yet they provide sufficient warmth and are comfortable as well. Other fabrics are also used in combinations to make Afghan blankets.
There is a lot of creativity that goes into making Afghan blankets, with the mile-a-minute blanket being made up of several strips joined together in the last stage of manufacture. You may recall patchwork quilts where a quilt or blanket is made from piecing knitted/crocheted blocks together; well, it's all part of the colourful and creative designs that make up Afghan blankets.
The one issue with Afghans is that they are not easy to clean and to preserve the look, it is best to hand wash, and air dry them. As a decorative item in your home, the use is minimized, extending the lifespan of the blanket.
04. Acrylic blankets
Acrylic or microfiber is a synthetic fiber that looks and feels like wool
Acrylic blankets are warm, soft, lightweight, durable, and affordable, making them a popular blanket choice in most homes. The beauty of Acrylic is that it is moth resistant and can be stored for long periods without worry. The downside is that they are not very breathable, but on the flip side, they are great at heat retention.
Mink fur is also used to make blankets, and Acrylic can mimic the feel and texture of mink. Many mink blankets are actually acrylic blankets that offer the softness and feel of mink.
Acrylic blankets are perfect for kids soft, warm and hypoallergenic
05. Weighted blankets
Weighted blankets are exactly what the name suggests.
These blankets are heavier than normal blankets and are recommended by Occupational therapists as a therapy for sensory issues like anxiety, stress, and ADHD. The blanket puts pressure on the body, which creates a sense of calm and is very effective as a therapy.
The blanket's added weight helps children to self-soothe and or self-regulate as it gives them a sense of security. However, there are risks to babies and toddlers, so consult your doctor or paediatrician before a weighted blanket is used for young children.
Weighted blankets are filled with glass beads or plastic pellets, and some have extra layers of fabric to increase the weight. This added weight releases serotonin in your brain which creates a feeling of calmness and helps children to wind down as they go to sleep. These blankets have become very popular among adults to alleviate stress from everyday life.
Care should be taken with weighted blankets because if a seam opens up and the glass beads or plastic pellets escape, they can cause a choking hazard for small children.
The added weight does not necessarily mean added warmth or heat because they must be able to be used in all climate conditions. The blankets are made from different fabrics and come in different weights as well. If you feel you could benefit from a weighted blanket, it will be advisable to discuss your needs with an occupational therapist or your doctor.
While not a traditional weighted blanket the Mali Mudcloth Blanket is perfect weight for someone looking for a heavy soft and beautiful blanket.
Blankets are caregivers
As people, we will all get to experience the wonders provided by blankets throughout our lives. Blankets are often taken for granted, and people don't realize just how important their function is in our lives.
I see blankets as primary caregivers. We use them to comfort ourselves, contain and subdue our emotions, and keep warm when we sleep.
The Mexicans who enjoy their siesta cut a hole in a blanket and called it a poncho. This was ingenious because wearing a blanket meant protection from the hot sun and warmth in the cold winter.
Whichever way we look at blankets, we have to recognize that they are designed and made to care for us, especially when we are at our most vulnerable. Doing research on types of blankets is always a good idea because you will know exactly which type of blanket will cater for your specific needs.