What Is a Weighted Blanket?
Occupational therapists have been prescribing weighted blankets to help manage sensory-related symptoms for decades – especially for children and adults on the Autism spectrum.
A weighted blanket is a specially made therapeutic blanket with some additional weight, generally weighing between 5 to 30 pounds. They come in different weights to accommodate the user’s size. The idea behind weighted blankets is to make them a little heavy so they can apply a firm pressure on the user’s body.
Depending on the manufacturer, these blankets are filled with different weighted materials, including barley, glass beads or even some kind of metal. Some of them are designed with covers to make washing them easy.
Who Needs a Weighted Blanket?
Weighted blankets can have a near magical effect on adults or children’s sleep. The consistent pressure makes for a relaxing feel, helping to transition the body into sleep. For adults or children who experience sleeping difficulties, the problem lies in their brain and body’s inability to calm down. As they struggle to ease themselves into a lower state of excitement, weighted blankets act as a physical aide to help them drift.
But weighted blankets are particularly beneficial for adults and children with special needs. Children and adults with Autism, for instance, do not process sensory information as well as others. So, while they crave this touch and pressure, they struggle to tolerate same touch from loved ones. Weighted blankets provide the calming touch those with special needs crave for, in the way they desire it.
Applies to wide section of society.
A weighted blanket is suitable for a variety of users, including helping to alleviate Insomnia, Restless leg syndrome, Anxiety, Post Natal recovery, ADHD, ADD, OCD, Panic disorders and many more issues that a person experiences during sleep. Another way weighted blankets can improve the sleep/wake cycle is through the production of serotonin. Often called “the happy hormone”, serotonin also produces melatonin, which is the chemical needed for sleep.
Increased levels of melatonin in the brain help ensure a good night’s sleep and also naturally restore the body’s circadian rhythm.
Other aspects to consider.
The weight of the blanket is important.
A general rule-of-thumb for weighted blankets is 10 percent of the person’s body weight.
The purpose of a weighted blanket is to provide comfort and, thereby, create body conditions conducive to sleep.
If someone is uncomfortable due to a blanket that is too heavy, the weighted blanket will have a counterproductive result.
While a weighted blanket should not be so heavy that it is unmanageable, it also should be heavy enough to apply the appropriate amount of pressure to the body’s deep touch pressure points.
Finding the perfect weight for one of these blankets can be a little tricky, but it is usually best to start at 10 percent of the person’s body weight and adjust the weight as needed from there.
Many manufacturers recommend using a weighted blanket that is 10 percent of the body’s weight for safety reasons, but many consumers report that adding an extra few pounds only enhances its benefits.
Safety note: children weighing less than 20 pounds should never use a weighted blanket of any kind. Children and infants under the age of two years-old should not use weighted blankets, even if their body weight exceeds 20 pounds.
Children under the age of two do not yet possess the fine motor skills to instinctively adjust heavy blankets. A child could easily become overheated or fail to pull the blanket away from his or her face to breathe.