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Basics of Cooling Blankets

Cooling blankets can sound like an oxymoron at first – blankets are supposed to keep you warm, if you want to be cool you simply don’t use a blanket right? Is there a blanket that keeps you cool, however?

Cooling blankets have been around for almost 40 years and as most good things they were first developed by NASA in the 1980s to be used in space. As for how do cooling blankets work, there are several different ways a cooling blanket can work to keep you cool at night.

Reactive cooling via thermoregulation fabrics

There are many different fabrics with what’s called “moisture-wicking properties”. Fabrics such as cotton, polyester, wool, fleece, bamboo, and acrylic have this characteristic that allows them to “pick up” our sweat and pull it away from us without the fabrics getting wet themselves.

In this simple way, cooling blankets made from such fabrics can help cool our bodies down when we start sweating.

Proactive cooling via different scientific technologies

While reactive cooling blankets have been used for quite some time, in recent years various scientific leaps have been made to create even more effective and proactive cooling blanket methods.

  • Phase Change Materials (PCM) blankets. Such materials excel at passively monitoring and controlling our body temperature. When our temperature increases, PCM blankets absorb the heat coming off of our bodies before it has even become sweat and store it in the microcapsules inside the blankets. This process is similar to using ice cubes to keep food cool.
  • Air cooling blankets. These blankets are electric blankets which use air pockets that mimick air conditioners. They are often used in hospitals to keep patients alive and well as this video shows. These electric blankets use pumps to fill their air pockets with cool air but can also be used to warm you up. They are great for couples as you can set half the blanket to be warm and the other half – to be cold.
  • Gel or water cooling blankets. These blankets are fairly simple as they function as pads filled with cool water or gel. Gel-based blankets are usually much more efficient and effective and they are also often used in hospitals as well as in residential homes because of how low-cost they are.
  • Weighted cooling blankets. You may also see them called “gravity cooling blankets”, these models have different products inside the fabric such as rice, glass beads, plastic pellets, or beans. These products make the blankets heavier but also increase their thermal conductivity. The weight of the blanket isn’t just a side-effect, however, it’s also a feature. It’s meant to help people prone to anxiety attacks and stress at night as the heavier weight creates the so-called deep touch pressure stimulation which helps calm people down and stimulates the production of serotonin.

In short, cooling blankets can come in different shapes and sizes so you have a wide choice of what would fit your needs best. All of them are great are keeping you cool at night, however, especially if you don’t want to lower the overall room temperature because of your partner’s needs or some other reason.

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