Frequently asked questions
How to properly use an electric blanket
According to Dr. Neil Stanley, an independent sleep expert and author of how to sleep well, in order to get a good night’s sleep, you actually have to lower your body temperature. It falls throughout the night, being the lowest point between two and four in the morning.
“My advice is that you need a cool room and a warm bed. Your brain and body can perceive getting into a cold bed as a threat, which increases wakefulness.”
Dr. Stanley says that turning on an electric blanket about half an hour before bedtime should make you perfectly comfortable to climb into, allowing you to fall asleep naturally, but you should schedule it to turn off some time after you’ve fallen asleep. All the blankets I tried were able to warm the bed in 30 minutes or less, costing less than 3p at today’s prices.
What makes a good electric blanket
The best blankets have an elasticated edge, but cheaper models use straps, which can be tricky. More timing options and heat settings can also make a difference. The best electric blankets allow you to set different temperatures for your upper and lower body (as your feet tend to get cold). If you sleep with a partner, look for the double control function, which allows one side of the bed to be heated independently of the other.
Price-wise, you’re looking at around £40-50 for a basic option; £60-80 for something a bit more high-tech; and over £100 for the best blankets. All of the models tested here are for a double bed, though they come in other sizes, and each is machine washable. When it comes to safety, there’s very little to worry about, but keep an eye out for approval from the British Electrotechnical Approvals Board (BEAB).
This is what I found after several nights testing the best electric blankets, starting with my favorite. (And if she’s looking for other ways to improve her sleep this winter, you might consider upgrading her pillow next.)
How does an electric blanket work?
High-resistance cables, which these days are often made of carbon fiber, get hot when electrical current passes through them. The heat is transferred through a flame retardant plastic coating to the bedding itself. Your blanket will come with a plug (or two if it’s dual-control), which usually runs for about a meter or so. Attach it to your mattress via its straps or elasticated skirt, place your sheet over it, then make your bed as usual. Make sure your duvet completely covers the bed so you don’t dissipate heat.
Then, via the control panel (or your smartphone), you turn it on and choose between heat settings, and on the best models, select a time.
How safe is an electric blanket?
While old electric blankets were considered a fire hazard, newer models simply aren’t. Your blanket should have passed BEAB tests and have overheat or auto cut-off protection. Some can even be machine washed without damaging the product.
However, Page does offer some behavioral advice: “Be careful with fluids in bed, and if your pets sleep in bed with you, that’s a bit of a question mark, in case they chew on wires.”
Are there any health benefits?
While the health benefits should not be overstated, it is possible that if you suffer from a condition such as arthritis or poor circulation, an electric blanket may be able to relieve some of the pain.
“We get the heads of people with arthritis or back problems who say it alleviated those ailments,” says Page. Stanley agrees: “If you have circulation issues or medical issues where you feel cold, it could be beneficial.”