With uncertainty comes stress, and with stress comes poor sleep. Few situations are as uncertain and stressful as a pandemic, and people worldwide are experiencing difficulty sleeping or “Covid-somnia”, as sleep neurologists call it.
One in four has suffered sleep problems during the pandemic compared with one in six pre-coronavirus, according to a study by the University of Southampton.
And the terms “sleep” and “insomnia” have been Googled more during the pandemic than at any time in the search engine’s history.
Sleep is vital for physical and mental health, so how can we ensure we are getting enough? Good sleep hygiene, such as establishing a solid routine and creating a restful environment in the bedroom, is a sound starting point.
Part of a serene setting is what you sleep on and the sheets and blankets atop your bed. Beyond a comfortable pillow that suits your sleep position and soft breathable bedding, could a weighted blanket be the fix for restless nights? Mattress and bedding company Simba thinks so.
The brand’s Orbit weighted blanket promises “better, deeper sleep” and points to science that suggests the deep pressure therapy offered by it “counters stress by helping the nervous system switch from fight or flight to rest and relax”.
We are not scientists, but we do like sleep and have experienced nights without peaceful slumber of late. So, we put Simba’s claim to the test to find out if tossing and turning can be a thing of the past with the Orbit. Here’s our verdict.
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Design and make
The Orbit is unmistakably a Simba product aesthetics wise. The cover and weighted blanket are simply dark grey, bar a turquoise brand tag. Grey is a smart choice for this blanket design because it is a colour that works with most interior schemes. Our tester has an all-white bedroom, with a few bamboo accessories and plenty of houseplants, so the addition of a grey cover fitted well.
Size wise, it measures a generous 135cm x 200cm, but we found that sleeping under it with another person is not the most comfortable experience. If you share a bed, the ideal situation is that you both have separate weighted blankets and try to keep yours on your side of the bed, but not too far off the edge or you risk it sliding off in the night.
The Orbit is clearly a well-made, high-quality blanket, and the cotton cover feels peachy soft on the skin. The weighted blanket itself features several turquoise ties along its sides and corners that fasten onto corresponding loops on the inside of the cover.
If secured correctly, this keeps the weighted blanket in place inside its cover, and we found that once tied, it stayed put until we wanted to remove the cover for washing. The cotton cover closes with a turquoise zip, which we like much more than traditional duvet poppers or buttons.
Within the weighted blanket are several layers designed for maximum comfort. Thousands of glass nano beads – the source of the weight – are held in quilted pockets at the very centre of the Orbit’s construction. Either side of this is a cushiony layer, which prevents you from feeling the beads, and this is contained inside the cotton outer of the weighted blanket as well as the removable cover.
We found the layers add a degree of warmth for cosiness on chilly winter nights, and it was often warm enough to sleep under without a duvet on top. In summer, we can see it being a case of sticking one foot out from under the cover to keep cool, but we have only trialled the Orbit during autumn and winter so far and could be proved wrong.
The general guidance for buying a weighted blanket is to go for one that is roughly 10 per cent of your body weight. The Orbit is available in two weights, 6.8kg and 9kg, and our tester tried the lighter one because it is closest to 10 per cent of their weight.
The box felt really quite heavy when we took delivery of it. The weight surprised us, but that could say more about the lack of lockdown gym sessions than we would care to disclose than the heaviness of the blanket. Speaking of exercise, we kid ourselves that we are getting something of an arm workout every morning when we shake out the Orbit to make the bed or carry it downstairs to use when watching TV on the sofa.
When lying in bed, the blanket’s weight is evenly distributed and not at all overwhelming. At first, it feels unusual simply because lying beneath a weighted blanket is radically different from sleeping under a synthetic duvet if you are not used to heavier feather versions. It is calming, though, and applies just enough pressure to feel comfortable when sleeping either on your back or side. We quickly became familiar with using the Orbit and now cannot sleep without it.
Caring for the Orbit is simple. The removable cotton cover is machine-washable on a 30C cycle and can be tumbled-dried on low, while the weighted blanket itself can be spot cleaned with a damp cloth. Our nightly use of the Orbit means we have already washed it several times. Each time, it comes out as new, and tumble-drying removes creases well.
As something that gets used daily, we would have liked it if it were possible to wash the weighted blanket on a low heat as you would a conventional duvet. But regularly washing the cover should help to keep the inner blanket fresh too.
Most importantly, sleep-inducing power
Has Simba made good on its promise? Does the Orbit induce “better, deeper” sleep? In short, yes. Our tester had suffered years of bouts of poor sleep and frequent waking in the night. Since using the Orbit, they have been nothing short of astonished by how much better they are sleeping. Waking in the night is little more than a distant memory – except on those occasions where they drank too much, too late. And drifting off in the first place is a more peaceful and quicker affair.
Even during a pandemic and with all the anxiety that causes, it has soothed us to sleep and helped us wake up brighter in the mornings, more ready to face what the day may bring. Our tester also found the unfavourable sleep patterns returning on nights without the blanket – that speaks volumes. The Orbit has become a night-time essential.
Buy now £169.00, Simbasleep.com
The verdict: Simba Orbit
While some scientific research on the benefits of weighted blankets exists, more is needed to provide conclusive evidence. However, our findings support claims about their potential for calming and relaxing the mind and body for good sleep.
At £169, the Orbit is not cheap, but the quality of the blanket and our positive experience with it leaves us feeling it is a worthwhile investment and one that could be a remedy to sleep problems.
If you’re still unsure, we’ve put the Simba Orbit head-to-head with other weighted blankets to find the best