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How Wool Blankets Can Improve Sleep (+ Curated Picks)
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How Wool Blankets Can Improve Sleep (+ Curated Picks)

Part of our series on getting better sleep.

The wool blanket is the ultimate symbol of coziness and comfort. And that’s not without good reason. If you haven’t had the experience of snuggling up in a warm 100% wool blanket on a chilly winter night, you’re missing out.

Wool is quite different from cotton. While cotton is a plant-based textile, primarily made of cellulose, wool mostly consists of proteins.

This gives wool a different feel and many different properties that are advantageous for blankets. For example, it tends to be more insulating and doesn’t burn as easily.

Even more special traits can come from the animal that produced the wool.

  • Merino wool is a world-famous type of wool produced by Merino sheep. It’s known for its supreme softness.
  • Cashmere is the product of cashmere and pashmina goats. It’s another type of soft wool that’s been used to make clothing for centuries.

These highly-sought wools are softer because the actual fibers are finer. For comparison, even the thickest merino wool fiber is about a third as thick as a single strand of human hair.

Merino wool and cashmere aren’t the end-all solution for wool blankets. In addition to personal taste, different types of wool have different pros and cons.

For example, some people like the weighty snugness of a nice, chunky wool blanket. However, most grades of wool share a few basic traits.

If you look closely at a wool blanket, you can sometimes see its tiny wool fibers.

Wool Blanket Pros

1. Robustness

Wool is more resistant to wear and tear than many other textile materials.

Although blankets won’t be treated nearly as roughly as, say, jackets or sweaters, they can still benefit from the resilience of wool fabrics.

A nice, high-quality wool blanket can be passed down from generation to generation, provided it’s taken care of.

2. Elegance

The world of wool textiles is flush with beauty and creativity. Combine the diversity of different calibers of wool with the artistic imagination of artisans around the world, and you’ve got a whole lot of wooly designs to choose from.

Different grades of wool be woven together in different thicknesses and patterns. It can be dyed all sorts of different colors or left with its natural hue. It can be used to make a hefty waffle-pattern winter blanket or a plain, soft summer coverlet. You name it!

3. Warmth

Wool is an excellent heat insulator.

And it may seem obvious, but research has demonstrated that wool blankets are a great way to keep warm at night.1COMPARATIVE THERMOPHYSIOLOGICAL TESTS ON BLANKETS MADE FROM WOOL AND ACRYLIC-FIBRE–COTTON BLENDS It does a great job at thermal insulation, and wicks away moisture better than polyester materials.

Any wool can be a great option to stay warm during cold weather—whether that’s a merino wool blanket, alpaca wool blanket, or anything else.

Different types of wool blankets have different levels of heat insulation. As mentioned above, finer wools like Merino will have better heat insulation properties. Bear this in mind when deciding on the type of wool and thickness of your blanket.

Despite microscopic similarities, wool blankets can differ greatly in softness, thickness, color, and more.

Side Note: Don’t Sleep Too Warm!

When picking a wool blanket, you’ll probably want to bear the following information in mind.

Studies have shown that keeping cool at night helps to promote deeper sleep. Not only that, but being too warm at night can actually impair deep sleep phases.2Ambient temperature and human sleep3Effect of Continuous Heat Exposure on Sleep During Partial Sleep Deprivation

For example, the latter of the two linked studies found that even sleep deprived subjects weren’t able to maintain deep sleep very well when put in a warm environment.

A wool blanket can be a cost-efficient way to keep cool during the winter, but beware of the impact it can have on your sleep during the rest of the year. If you’re using too many blankets to keep warm, your sleep quality might suffer.

That’s not to say that people shouldn’t use wool blankets outside of the wintertime. Another study found that subjects wearing wool pajamas actually had increased sleep quality compared to wearing polyester pajamas.4The effects of fabric for sleepwear and bedding on sleep at ambient temperatures of 17°C and 22°C This is just a word of caution not to stay so warm that the body can’t maintain deep sleep.

With all that in mind, let’s take a look at different popular types of wool blankets.

There are lots of types of wool blankets, each with their own pros and cons.

100% Wool Blankets

What’s Special About 100% Wool?

As mentioned above, wool is a very insulating material. It does a good job of retaining body heat, which is great for staying warm in the winter.

However, most wool won’t stretch very much. This isn’t a big problem for most people, as they don’t really need stretchy blankets. But some people do like their blankets to have a bit of give, particularly if they like to wrap up during the day.

To answer this problem, some wool blankets are interwoven with nylon to give them a bit of a stretch. This can help the blanket have a good balance of insulation and comfort.

Note that some manufacturers will try to save money by adding more and more synthetic material to the wool. While a 90% wool, 10% nylon blend might be insulating enough, a blend with, say, 70% wool or less might start to feel a little less premium.

Some people simply prefer to stick with a 100% wool blanket so they know what they’re getting. No need to roll the dice on whether a certain blend will be perfectly balanced.

Here are a couple of 100% wool blanket options:

100% Wool Blankets

Merino Wool Blankets

What is Merino Wool?

Merino wool gets its name from the Merino sheep from which it’s harvested. It’s one of the softest and finest types of wool you can find, which makes it perfect for cozy blankets.

The finer the wool, the closer together the individual fibers can get, which many people prefer.

For one, it makes the wool much more soothing to the touch. It’s less likely to be itchy or prickly.

In addition to that, finer wool does a better job at insulating heat, so you can get away with using a thinner Merino wool blanket than you could with certain other options.

We should clarify, though, that Merino wool blankets are only more insulating if they’re tightly knit. A crocheted 100% Merino wool blanket, made with loose stitching and chunky yarn, would be a lot less insulating than a Merino wool military blanket, for example.

Of course, that wouldn’t make it a low-quality blanket—just a different style. In fact, most Merino blankets come in a cozy, chunky knit style.

Here are some good options for merino wool blankets:

Merino Wool Blankets

Military Wool Blankets

Why “Military?”

Most military bunkhouses aren’t decked out with queen-size beds fitted with linen sheets and fluffy duvets. Rather, each bed is usually covered by a single wool blanket.

The term “military blanket” has largely become a marketing term today, but it typically refers to a twin-size wool blanket—although they can be bigger. These blankets can be made with 100% wool or a cotton or synthetic blend.

As mentioned above, wool doesn’t burn as easily as many other fabrics.

Cotton blankets, for example, can actually burn quite well, depending on the blend. Synthetic materials have a tendency to melt and emit toxic fumes when burnt. But 100% wool blankets extinguish flames fairly well, typically smoldering out fairly quickly.

Military wool blankets are great for individual sleepers. They’re a good choice for keeping warm when out camping, whether that’s under a tent or in a hammock.

At home, a military blanket might be a little too small to cover an entire bed. Just make sure you check the size.

Here are some excellent military wool blanket picks:

Military Wool Blankets

Wool Throw Blankets

More than Décor

Blankets aren’t all function and no fun. If heat insulation and robustness were all that mattered, every wool blanket would be a flat, monotone rectangle.

Wool throw blankets, on the other hand, are a great way to splash a little creativity into your interior design.

Wool throw blankets often feature more adventurous design choices than your average blanket. Colorful patterns, creative textures, and tassels in endless variation are a great way to spice up the room.

And unlike more drab blankets, when summer arrives and the thermometer starts to climb, there’s no need store your wool throw blanket in the closet. Leave it out as a piece of eye candy!

Here are some great options:

Wool Throw Blankets

Luxury Throws

There are lots of inexpensive wool throw blankets, but there’s also a market for more artisanal choices. These blankets often feature more intricate designs and can be found in finer grades of wool, such as Merino.

A high-end wool throw blanket is a great way to add some refined taste to a room.

Here are some of our recommendations for more luxurious throw blankets:

Luxury Throw Blankets

Heavy Wool Blankets

What Makes a Wool Blanket Heavy?

As discussed in the introduction, wool is graded based on the thickness of its fibers.

Wools like Merino and cashmere are very fine, and produce a soft, smooth texture. Thicker fibers, on the other hand, result in a product that’s a bit coarser and heavier.

Heavy wool blankets are a great choice for coverlets to sit atop your comforter or duvet. Their extra thickness and chunkiness can be great for adding a little more insulation during the winter and a little more weight all year long. (Although weighted blankets are another great option for this.)

It’s not recommended that you use heavy wool under your comforter. Most people find the thicker wool to be a little scratchy and uncomfortable.

In the end, it all comes down to personal preference. Heavy wool blankets are comforting, warm, and look really stylish.

Here are a few of our recommendations:

Heavy Wool Blankets