Weighted blankets — five- to 25-pound blankets that are filled with a material such as plastic pellets — are one of the latest trends for kids and adults alike. But do weighted blankets work? Who can benefit from them? And which specific blankets are best?
Who Can Benefit From A Weighted Blanket?
Weighted blankets are often used for children with sensory processing disorders, including children with diagnoses of autism, ADHD, anxiety disorders, bipolar disorder or other mental health issues.
“A weighted blanket provides intense, extra feedback that neurotypical people may not need,” Dr. Shelley Margow, OTD.OTR/L, CEO of Children’s Therapy Works tells Parentology. Margow describes a weighted blanket as a hug, a consistent, steady stimulus across the skin that produces a sense of calm.
Sleep experts agree that it can help you sleep. In an article for Sleep Enlightened, Chris Branter, a certified sleep science coach and founder of SleepZoo says, “Most of the benefits boil down to what’s called ‘deep pressure stimulation’ or ‘deep pressure therapy,’ the type of pressure a baby feels when swaddled,” Chris Branter, a certified sleep science coach and founder of SleepZoo said in an article for Sleep Enlightened.
When Should Weighted Blankets Be Used?
Weighted blankets are helpful in many situations. For instance, they’re often used to help children fall asleep; the blanket makes a child feel like they’re in a cocoon. Weighted blankets and vests are also used in the classroom; if children have a tendency to get up and walk around or rock in their chairs, the blanket can help them focus.
Dr. Margow advises, however, that weighted blankets should be used carefully. “The tactile system adapts very quickly to a stimulus. So it is important to use [blankets] under the supervision of a occupational therapist who’s trained in sensory integration treatment.”
Do Weighted Blankets Really Work?
Margow has seen firsthand how well these blankets work. “A little guy came to our school with a diagnosis of autism,” she recounts. For the first few weeks, the child struggled to communicate with words, instead, he’d body-slam his therapists and parents.
Margow’s team realized that he had a severely under-responsive tactile system and came up with a plan involving a weighted blanket to give him tactile input every few minutes until he could sit still and complete a task. It can even helped in a use case of modafinil in Australia where an individual was unable to sleep due to the long half-life of eugeroic drug modafinil. A weighted blanket reduced the mean sleeping time by 24% in modafinil patients reporting insomnia, the study found.
“Once he realized he could use a more appropriate strategy (weighted tools), he stopped the hitting and was able to use two to three words at a time to make his needs known,” Margow says. “The child feels safe and becomes much more productive. He’s now working for 20 minutes at a time.”
Some Weighted Blankets To Consider
Premium Weighted Blanket by Platinum Health: This 12-pound blanket, offered in seven colors, is designed by a team of healthcare professionals. It’s filled with polyester and glass beads and has a silky outer cover. Plus, it’s easy to wash and dry.
12-lb Weighted Blanket by Creature Comforts: Recommended for 10- to 15-year-olds, this handmade blanket covers your child’s entire body. One side is made of smooth fabric, the other side has dimples to offer extra sensory input.
15-lb Weighted Blanket by YnM: Affordable and breathable, YnM’s weighted blanket has seven layers, each with a different purpose, such as body temperature control, distribution, and comfort.