Weighted blankets are not a new phenomenon but they are certainly gaining in popularity. They are not some new fad or cult for people with secret handshakes. Though if you are able to get consistent good sleep, have more energy and feel less tired than everyone else, you will be asked what your “secret” is for sure.
The truth is weighted blankets have become more well known over the last couple of years. They started as a super useful tool in the special needs communities. Weighted blankets have been heavily researched and found to be incredibly useful in people with Autism, Aspergers, ADHD, PTSD and anxiety.
Weighted blankets can help reduce meltdowns, help reduce stress and anxiety, help provide a sense of security, help settle overactive kids before bed and help both children and adults stay asleep longer.
Recently weighted blankets have gone mainstream and they are appearing widely in bedrooms across the country.
All sorts of people from every walk of life are using weighted blankets to help reduce stress and improve quality of sleep. In the world of optimising performance of highly paid athletes, high flying CEO’s and super charged tech start ups, anything that can provide more calm, reduce stress and improve sleep quality is a hugely beneficial tool.
And weighted blankets tick these boxes beautifully.
And even better, they do not involve drugs and medication.
It can be a heart breaking choice to be advised to give drugs to try to help your over energised child who can’t get to sleep or cant concentrate at school. If something like a weighted blanket can be just as effective, it is so much better without the side effects.
What Exactly Are Weighted Blankets?
Weighted blankets are heavy blankets or duvets that are filled with either plastic poly pellets or finely ground glass beads to increase their weight. There is a lot of research suggesting that deep pressure therapy helps calm the nervous system thereby reducing meltdowns, panic attacks and aiding better sleep.
There are different types of weighted products now that work for people during the day and not just in bed at night including weighted vests, weighted laps pads, weighted shoulder wraps.
Who Should Use Weighted Blankets?
Weighted blankets started in the mental health and special needs communities to help calm over anxious patients, and those having melt downs. Due to over stimulated sensory system, research shows that most people on the autism spectrum have trouble going to sleep (Ballester et al, Oct, 2018).
Weighted blankets also are a marvellous tool in people with PTSD whether they are returning military veterans or suffering from a terrible accident or trauma.
These people suffer huge mental stress, anxiety and night terrors and the weighted blankets can ease this trauma and help them get to sleep and stay asleep.
Lets face it, we all get stressed and anxious at times.
Some more than others.
When we can’t sleep, everything becomes ten times worse.
It becomes harder to cope and harder to keep things in perspective.
Then we get anxious that we won’t be able to sleep so the anxiety/insomnia cycle gets worse and worse.
Weighted Blankets For Kids
Kids love weighted blankets. Be sure to get them the size and weight that is suitable for them. It is imperative from a safety perspective that they are able to move the blanket off themselves if they wish to.
Many kids are being medicated these days for poor concentration, acting out in class, being hyper active, having temper tantrums and meltdowns.
Parents can struggle to get their kids to go to bed, struggle to get them to sleep and stay asleep.
Weighted blankets have been shown to help kids relax before bed and get to sleep faster. Anecdotal testimonials from many parents report that using weighted blankets allowed their child to sleep through the night for the first time ever.
What a blessing!
Whether your child has ADHD, Autism, Asperger’s or is simply hyperactive and struggles to go to sleep, weighted blankets are worth trying for sure.
Also tools like weighted lap pads or weighted vests may help them concentrate better in school or at home doing homework.
Weighted Blankets For Autism
Weighted blankets have been used widely in the autism spectrum disorder community with great effect.
They are used in the home environment, the school environment and the clinical environment.
Lindsey Biel has written an amazing book Sensory Processing Challenges: Effective Clinical Work With Kids and Teens which discusses how sensory overload can cause emotional and behavioral difficulties such as physical and verbal aggression, frustration, agitation, inattention, and moodiness.
A child who is overwhelmed by too much sensory stimulation can easily become frustrated at school or on a day out and start acting out and becoming aggressive. But the truth is that the child’s sensory system is overstimulated.
These kids respond well to weighted blankets which gives them a sense of peace, security. It can be so effective that some schools are now offering a “chill out” room with dimmed lighting, weighted blankets and other sensory products that kids can go to during the day to calm themselves down and restore their balance if they feel overwhelm or panic starting to occur.
Weighted Blankets For Insomnia
While weighted blankets started in the special needs communities for patients with autism and mental health issues, they are now widely being used for anyone suffering stress, anxiety and insomnia.
Most of us these days tend to be over stimulated, stressed and pressured. Insomnia is hugely common and it is estimated that 25% of the population has trouble getting to sleep at any one time.
A recent study from the Institute of Neuroscience and Physiology (2015) found that weighted blankets increased sleep time and decreased tossing and turning during the night leading to better quality sleep.
Deep pressure therapy produced from the extra weight of the weighted blanket raises levels of serotonin in the body.
It feels like a big hug. Seratonin increases calm, helps improve mood and helps to settle an overwrought nervous system.
Some studies have shown that weighted blankets also help release melatonin. Melatonin helps tell us when its time for bed. This hormone can get disrupted by poor sleep cycles, travel or unnatural lights/computers/devices in the evening which tells your body it is day time instead of night time.
The extra weight of the blankets also provide a feeling of safety and security. It helps reduce tossing and turning during the night, and also helps patients with restless leg syndrome.
If a child or adult struggles to get to sleep, life can be rendered unbearable and it makes temper tantrums, a moodiness and poor concentration even worse.
Improved sleep can make managing with symptoms or overwhelm more bearable.
How Do Weighted Blankets Work?
Weighted blankets applies deep pressure therapy all over your body.
This produces a large sensory input causing the brain to calm down.
If you are on the autism spectrum or suffer sensory processing disorder, you may become overwhelmed by excessive sensory stimulation like sounds, lights, busy situations which may trigger a meltdown or a panic attack.
Deep pressure therapy helps the release of serotonin and dopamine which may help increase a sense of calm and feeling of security. This tends to reduce the need to lash out with physical or verbal aggression.
Many people who use weighted blankets report they feel like it provides a big hug, Hugs are widely known to release oxytoxin which decreases stress and increases feelings of bonding and well being.
How To Choose The Right Weighted Blanket For You
There is no magic formula but a good starting point is 10%-15% of your body weight.
So for a 60lb child, a 6lb-7lb blanket would be a good start.
For a 40-50lb child, a 5lb blanket would be a good start.
Personal preference is also an important factor.
Some adults prefer much heavier weight than this guideline.
So a 150lb adult may prefer a 15lb-20lb blanket.
If you are an adult make your own choice, but be careful and more conservative with younger kids.
Always make sure that a child or vulnerable adult can remove the blanket by themselves if they want to.
How To Wash A Weighted Blanket
Weighted blankets are not a cheap item. After all you are investing in something that can change your body’s chemistry- it makes sense to look after it.
The first thing is to make sure you also buy a duvet cover to go with it. The duvet cover can be washed regularly and help protect the weighted blanket.
Generally duvet covers are machine washable on cold wash to low heat..
Some weighted blankets come with special covers that have ties to make sure the blanket stays in place within the duvet cover. Some weighted blanket duvet cover also come with minky dots –fabric that provides extra sensory stimulation which kids (and adults) love.
The weighted blanket itself can be machine washed. You probably only need to wash the heavy blanket twice a year. They are generally machine washable on cold wash.
If you have a smaller blanket for a child you can easily do this yourself at home. However if you have a large heavy blanket and a small washing machine, you may wish to take it to a professional cleaner to put in their industrial size washing machine on a gentle cycle.
Weighted blankets have a significant body of research behind them and more research is being done each week. If you or your child who rarely sleeps is now sleeping through the night, it can change your life for the better. Its amazing how good you feel when you can sleep!