Most people turn to blankets to keep them warm. But what about the reverse – cooling blankets? How do cooling blankets work?
Ever since their initial use in the 1980s by NASA to keep the astronaut’s body temperature under control when passing through extremely high-temperature zones, cooling blankets are now multi-purpose.
In this article, we will discuss the various techniques that manufacturers utilize to produce the best cooling blankets for a hot summer night sleep.
The Basics Of Cooling Blankets
Cooling blankets are essentially heat regulating blankets. These blankets regulate body heat by either:
- Using special fabrics
- Using advanced technology
Below we will outline more about these two different ways of regulating heat. What is really breaks down to us whether or not a blanket works by simply utilizing the qualities of a fabric, or by using more high-end, advanced technology?
Thermoregulation Fabrics – The Reactive Technique
These are fabrics that have moisture wicking properties. When the microclimate around the human body increases, our bodies react to this by releasing moisture in the form of sweat.
This sweat carries with it the excessive heat, leaving the body cool. The thermoregulation fabrics pick up the sweat and pull it away from the body without getting damp or soaked.
Commonly used thermoregulation fabrics include cotton, polyester, bamboo, wool, fleece, and acrylic. Cooling blankets made of such fabrics are lightweight and highly breathable.
Organic fabrics such as cotton absorb perspiration instead of repelling it. The fabrics used in cooling blankets have a thread count of between 300 to 500 ranges. This thread count has many air pockets that allow air in, thereby drying out the dampness.
In addition to the inherent moisture wicking properties, these special fabrics used in cooling blankets are constructed using a knit pattern as opposed to a weave pattern.
A knit pattern stretches in all directions, increasing the fabric’s breathability. Most of these fabrics use a limiting construction method including a box construction and channel construction.
These designs limit hot air from getting back to the cooled microclimate of the sleeper.
The Scientific Techniques – The Proactive Method
How do cooling blankets work scientifically? Manufacturers employ various technologies to make cooling blankets, pillows, pads, and mattresses. These technologies use thermal conduction in regulating body heat.
To understand thermal conduction, imagine two objects colliding, one is hot and the other one is cold.
Heat energy transfers from the hot object to the cold object when these two objects come into contact. This is because of the higher kinetic energy the hot object possesses.
How do cooling blankets work using Outlast Technology? Imagine how ice cubes keep food cool in a cooler.
This is how Outlast technology works. Instead of ice, these cooling blankets use the Phase Change Materials (PCM), a material that passively controls body temperature.
Here, the material takes up excessive heat (not sweat) around the body, storing it in its microcapsules and later disperses the heat away from the body.
It further uses a polymer shell to maintain the cooler temperatures for as long as one is in contact with the blanket. So, your body never gets to the point where you need to sweat to release the excess body heat.
Due to this feature, products made using Outlast technology prevent sweating. This is the initial technology that NASA used to design space suits with cooling properties.
Today, more than 96 major brands use Outlast technology to make their thermo-adaptive products.
Air Cooling Blankets
Air cooling blankets are electric blankets that are built with numerous air pockets to mimic an air conditioner. These blankets use a machine to pump cool air into the air pockets, replacing the warmed air that accumulated while you slept.
Due to the nature of the construction of the air circuits, couples can share an air-cooling blanket that is warm on one side and cool on the other.
Curewrap™ by MTRE, Kool-Kit® by Yavne, Israel with Blanketrol III, and Sub-Zero by Cincinnati are some of the known brands using air circuits in their cooling blankets.
Weighted Cooling Blankets
Also called gravity cooling blankets, weighted cooling blankets use both special fabric and technologies to keep the sleeper cool.
Additionally, they fill these blankets with products such as rice, beans, plastic pellets, or glass beads to make them feel heavier while increasing the blanket’s thermal conductivity.
Anxiety and stress are some of the factors known to increase body metabolism level. Increased body temperature, therefore, occurs as a byproduct of these two factors.
The blankets additional weight (ranging between 5 lbs. and 25 lbs.) induces deep touch pressure stimulation (DTPS) that mimics a massage.
By so doing, they activate all the pressure points and eventually, your body releases serotonin hormone. As a result, the blanket initiates a relaxation that brings your body temperature back to normal.
Water Or Gel Based Cooling Blankets
Water filled cooling blankets are essentially pads filled with cool water. Gel-based cooling blankets, on the other hand, have gel infused into the fabric. This gel absorbs any excessive body heat, achieving very high cooling rates.
Because of the efficiency of gel-based cooling blankets, such blankets are largely used in a hospital setting as a low-cost option for cooling blankets without automated temperature settings.
Cooling Blankets for Medical Purposes
How do cooling blankets work when precise temperature control is vital? Cooling blanket’s temperature changes in response to the sensor data received from the patient’s skin.
Nowadays, manufacturers infuse the temperature regulating technology directly into the thermo-regulating fabrics in order to achieve optimal performance of the cooling blankets.
Because of this, different brands customize their cooling blankets’ fabric pattern and construction to suit the needs of their target market.
The increased demand for cooling blankets from the population has triggered further advancements in the technology behind these bedding. So how do cooling blankets work?
After reading this article, we hope you have a pretty good idea on exactly how cooling blankets work, and which might be best for you and your own specific needs. If you have any experience with cooling blankets, feel free to leave a comment below.