As the name might suggest, weighted blankets are much heavier than the usual comforters, quilts or throws, weighing anything from 1.5kg to 9.5kg. The weight varies in accordance of the age, weight and size of the individual using the weighted blanket. The general recommendations are that the blanket should not exceed 10% of the body weight.
Weighted blanket are uniquely designed with integrated weights which provide sensory therapy for anyone seeking a solution of safe, and effective non-drug therapy for restless sleep pattern, relaxation, anxiety and focus.
Initially weighted blankets were mainly known and prescribed for individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder, Aspergers Syndrome, ADHD, PDD and other Sensory Processing Disorders. They are a practical addition for use in sensory rooms and classrooms, and can be implemented effectively in the everyday home environment. With this in mind, here are 5 important reasons why you should use a weighted blanket.
1. Promote and Improve Sleep
Most of us would struggle to function due to sleep deprivation. However, if this becomes a regular manifestation or develops into insomnia it can quickly lead to symptoms of anxiety and depression.
Weighted blankets have shown to increase serotonin in the body which is the most important chemical responsible for regulating mood and ease relaxation. Serotonin is also necessary for the body to produce Melatonin which in turn sends messages to the body when it’s time to sleep. The weights in the weighted blanket provided the benefits of Deep Pressure Touch (DPT) which can enable the individual fall asleep faster and stay sleep.
The nervous system responds very positively to the deep pressure a weighted blanket provides. It also helps to calm the nervous system under the weight of a heavy blanket, a major ally for those who can’t fall asleep due to anxiety. The weight of the blanket also helps restlessness during sleep.
2. Improving Focus in classrooms
Classroom anxiety is common for pupils and teachers alike. So can a weighted blanket help in this situation? A number of studies that have shown that using Deep Pressure Touch can help children and young adult’s improved classroom performance. The use of weighted lap pads which are a smaller version of the blankets improved the in-seat behaviour, attention and task completion, specifically in children with autism and ADHD. It has been reported that the DPT provided by the weighted blanket can reduce self stimulatory behaviour such as fidgeting and stimming induced by sensory overload.
Whether used in classroom or at home, the extra weight provided by the weighted blanket adds sensory input that allows the child or individual to feel their body – proprioception and vestibular senses. Also encouraging pupils to sit calmly for longer especially if the weighted blanket/lap pad is made of tactile fabric.
3. An Alternative to Medication
A distinct benefit of weighted blankets is that they’re often seen as an effective alternative to medication or more intensive therapy used in treating anxiety and stress, as well as autism related sensory issues. In high anxiety situations eg dentist or haircut it can cause psychological changes throughout the nervous system. Therefore the use of weighted blankets can help keep patients calmer and can be a good tool to have to hand.
Improved Serotonin production via the use of DPT of a weighted blanket can also help alleviate OCD , depression, aggression, PTSD and bipolar disorder related anxiety. Plus, medication does not suit all cases and every individual, but weighted blankets are do not harm physical health when implemented safely. They are readily available from specialist online retailers and can be easily added to an individual’s coping routine or part of their sensory diet as required.
4. Calming Meltdowns
Weighted blankets are a manageable way of dealing with bouts of anxiety, stress, and frequent autism-related challenges such as meltdowns, overstimulation, or having atypical sensory behaviours. If you are a parent or carer, a weighted blanket can be a very useful tool to help your child or individual to manage the symptoms of sensory overload due to its calming and grounding benefits.
There are many types of weighted blankets ranging from a mini lap pad, shoulder wrap, midi and large weighted blankets. Benefits of a weighted blanket is that it provide a “cozy” solution to symptoms of anxiety, stress and it also helps with falling asleep faster and staying asleep better as the deep touch pressure it provides when in use, mimics the secure sensation of a warm hug hence the feeling of grounding and security.
5. Making Transition Easier
Children and adult with Autism or autism related complexities have great need for structure and safety. Any sudden changes to routine and plans can be seen as threatening which can lead to behavioural problem and stress.
Teachers and parents alike are very familiar with this common theme of struggling to get the children to change from one activity to another. The use of weighted blanket can help make transition easier. Providing the safety of a quiet time in a tranquil corner eg sensory room with dimmed lights and added DPT provided by the weights of the blanket which has all the calming and grounding benefit.
Likewise this can and is increasingly being implemented at home when a child returns home from school, or inside from playing, or has just finished an activity and is over excited.
Since children with autism thrive on routines, a weighted blanket can be incorporated into their daily routine to let them know it’s time to transition.
A day in a life of an autistic child or adult can be full of separate incentives to help with transition.
About the Author
Anjanee is the founder of Sensory Direct, a business which was born out of need and necessity following their son, Ethan’s, diagnosis of Autism in 2003. With a strong desire to start a company that was aimed at helping others with similar difficulties, they design, manufacture and supply sensory products and toys, including weighted blankets, for those with Autism and special needs, to schools, the NHS, occupational therapists and countless parents since their origins in 2005.
Further info: www.sensorydirect.com