Occupational therapists have used weighted blankets and vests for years to help soothe the anxiety of patients with various developmental and physical conditions and to calm children with sensory processing disorders. But over the past several years, weighted blankets have spread beyond the therapist’s office and into the home. How wonderful to have such a miracle help with children who have anxieties, temper tantrums, ADHD, or just find it hard to reach a calm state of being.
While there is not extensive research on weighted blankets, the assumption is that they work by providing deep pressure that stimulates the release of serotonin, a hormone that helps regulate mood. This leads to decreased anxiety, a feeling of calm, and an easier time falling asleep. It’s similar to the good feeling you get while hugging a loved one or the calming effects of swaddling a newborn.
Mothers find it easy to encourage their child to take a break and gather their blanket to hold onto. At this point the child knows about the comfort that awaits them as they listen to their parent's suggestion.
DID YOU KNOW?
Weighted blankets are not safe for babies or toddlers. Never use a heavy blanket on anyone who is not able to easily remove the blanket if they desire.
A weighted blanket should never be used as a restraint or punishment.
Keep your adult-weight blanket away from your kids.
If the blanket is for someone elderly or with limited strength, go with a lighter blanket, not the full 10% of their body weight.
If you are looking for relief from anxiety, you may find a blanket that’s a few pounds above the usual guideline helps you the most.
Sufferers of restless leg syndrome often find relief with a small weighted blanket covering their legs at night.
If you are seeking relief from anxiety or insomnia, you’ll want to spend the night under a blanket sized to fit your bed. If you are hoping for better focus or calm during the day, a small blanket that wraps around your shoulders might be all you need.
Many children with sensory disorders or ADHD find it easier to focus and sit still with a small weighted blanket across their lap.
While there isn’t a lot of research on the effects of weighted blankets, several small studies have shown a reduction in anxiety, stress, and insomnia with their use.
Q. Are weighted blankets safe for everyone? A.While the majority of people are perfectly safe with a weighted blanket, there are a few exceptions. Babies and toddlers under the age of two should never be given a weighted blanket. Avoid heavy blankets with anyone who has limited upper body strength or general weakness that would make it difficult to remove the blanket when desired. And if you have a respiratory illness, breathing difficulties, or diabetes, check with your doctor before buying a weighted blanket.
Q. Can I wash my weighted blanket in the washing machine? A.It depends. Some blankets are washer-and-dryer safe and some are not. The blanket maker will specify washing directions. If you want to buy a blanket that isn’t safe for the washing machine, consider purchasing a duvet cover to protect the blanket. That way, you simply wash the cover, not the blanket itself.
Q. For what conditions are weighted blankets helpful? A.Weighted blankets are helpful with a wide range of conditions, including anxiety, insomnia, PTSD, sensory processing disorders, autism spectrum disorders, restless leg syndrome, and chronic pain conditions such as fibromyalgia.