Why People Are Freaking Out About a Blanket on Kickstarter

May 9, 2017, 10:00 AM UTC

Quirky and random are traits often rewarded on Kickstarter. Successful past crowdfunding campaigns include a “potato salad party” (which raised $55,000), and a “fidget cube” (which collected more than $6.4 million).

Even against this backdrop, however, Kickstarter’s latest viral sensation is a bit of a head-scratcher. The campaign, which has raised more than $2.5 million with 21 days left to go, is selling…a blanket.

And not a particularly high-tech one at that. Called Gravity, the blanket’s selling point is its weight—there are 15, 20, and 25 pound options —which is meant to simulate “the feeling of being held or hugged.” And yet, the blanket’s stated goals are incredibly lofty. A section on its Kickstarter page is gravely titled: “The Solution to a Stressed Out Society.”

In short the blanket, via its weighted hugging sensation, claims to “increase serotonin and melatonin levels and decrease cortisol levels—improving your mood and promoting restful sleep at the same time.”

Well, maybe. The research on weighted blankets’ impact on the body is sparse, although a few small-scale studies do suggest they improve sleep for adults (a quick Google search, meanwhile, unearths claims that the blankets can ease symptoms of everything from Bipolar disorder to “dental anxiety.”)

Despite this lack of peer-reviewed evidence, it’s not hard to see why the blanket has taken off. An estimated 50 million to 70 million American adults have a sleep disorder; We’re a nation of insomniacs. Gravity’s pitch, to fix the problem with the “feeling of being held or hugged,” is intuitive and comforting.

With a retail price of $279, it’s also not cheap. But as the exploding sleep space indicates—a category that includes mattresses, goggles, wearables, bulbs, and high-tech pillows—consumers are willing to spend a lot of money, often on unproven products, in the pursuit of defeating insomnia.

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