At a time of unprecedented anxiety in the United States, many Americans are looking for ways to reduce stress and sleep better. For some, help can come in the form of a weighted blanket, which can alleviate anxiety and help relaxation. The weighted blanket market is expected to double to more than $1.2 billion in the next six years. And Kathrin Hamm, who founded sleep startup Bearaby, wants to create the most eco-friendly version out there.
Bearaby‘s best known product, the Napper, is a knit blanket that weights between 15 and 25 pounds and is made entirely from sustainably sourced organic cotton and wood pulp. “It’s clear that weighted blankets are effective, but my goal was to ensure they weren’t adding to pollution on the planet,” she says. “Once our blankets reach the end of [their] life cycle, they naturally biodegrade.” The Napper is the winner of the Home category in Fast Company’s 2020 Innovation by Design Awards.
Hamm first fell in love with weighted blankets five years ago when she was working as a development economist in India and experienced a terrible bout of insomnia. She tried many sleep aids, but nothing worked until she ordered a weighted blanket: When it arrived, she fell asleep for six hours straight and became an instant devotee. At the time, however, most weighted blankets on the market were synthetic duvets filled with plastic pellets. Hamm found this design flawed, because it tended to trap heat and contributed to plastic pollution. So in 2018, she decided to quit her job and create her own blanket.
Hamm was inspired by the knitted blankets her mother and grandmother made when she was growing up. She developed a patented manufacturing process that layers fabrics to create enormous bolts of yarn that are knitted together on proprietary machines in China and India. The final blankets are designed to weigh 10% of a person’s body weight, which doctors say reduces the stress hormone cortisol while also boosting serotonin, the body’s pain-reducing hormone. Thanks to their loose weave, they’re highly breathable, which makes them useful even when it’s warm.
Nappers are available in a wide range of colors and textures, and Bearaby frequently collaborates with other companies, including velvet blankets with West Elm and popsicle colored hues with ice pop startup Hyppo. In April 2020, to celebrate Earth Day, it collaborated with the Ocean Conservancy on a blue ombré pattern to evoke waves and draw attention to plastic pollution in the oceans.
See more honorees from the 2020 Innovation by Design Awards here.