What is a weighted blanket?

In its simplest form, a weighted blanket are two pieces of fabric sewn together with a heavy filling inside.  The filling is sewn into squares to give even weight distribution.  From that simple method, a new generation of weighted blanket makers have grown up, a whole industry built around this “new” concept of weight on the body.

Many liken a weighted blanket to the feeling of  the lead vest at the dentist’s office.  This special weighted blanket can give that same feeling, but better because the blanket is pliable to give a feeling of an overall big hug, something like a calming blanket. The material which is added to provide the blanket’s weight, offers conforming comfort to the user.

Think about weighted blankets differently than you would a regular blanket.  They are not about keeping warm, rather, about the weight on the body. While most weighted blankets on the market aren’t designed for warmth, some blankets have batting in them to give warmth as a comforter would.

There’s nothing better than a warm, snuggly bed to help you relax, you’ve got your pillows, you got your sheets and you got that big old blanket to keep you warm no matter how cold it is outside. Winter is coming. But some say if you really want to let go all your stress, you should try a heavier blanket like 13 and a half kilograms heavier. That’s because a lot of people swear by weighted blankets as a way to reduce anxiety, self soothe, or just sleep better and the research today does kind of support their use, but it’s not clear if these blankets do something specific or just act as a placebo.

As the name implies, a weighted blanket refers to a blanket that’s been specifically made heavier. Usually with beads or chains sewn evenly through the fabric, adding a dozen kilograms or so to your covers might sound smothering. But according to safety studies, it doesn’t pose a significant health risk to adults. That said, it’s worth noting that this sort of extra weight isn’t suitable for everyone, especially unsafe provides children and there’s no real consensus on what wait to use either. Any say around 10% of your body weight is the sweet spot but how heavy you go is up to you. Some people like their blanket a little heavier, some a little lighter, different people are different. These weighted blankets are often suggested in mental health communities, particularly for people with anxiety.

They’re also commonly used by people with autism to soothe people with dementia or by people who have trouble sleeping and with so many uses across diverse conditions. That kind of sound too good to be true. What research suggests there may actually be something to that there are several studies that show subjectively at least that sleeping with a weighted blanket helps people feel less anxious. For example, in a 2008 study involving 32 adults 63% of them reported reduced anxiety on a standardized questionnaire after sleeping with a 13.6 kilogram blanket and 78% of them said they felt more relaxed with it. Other anxiety studies have had similar results.

And even in studies that don’t look at anxiety specifically a pretty large portion of patients isn’t bits seemed to just like the experience for what it is, for example, 31 participants with chronic insomnia and in 2016 study reported feeling safer and more comfortable when they slept with a weighted blanket. They also believed they slept better and they were right sleep quality data revealed that they tossed and turned a whole lot less under the heavy blanket they also stayed asleep for longer intervals. Similarly, both the children and their parents and a 2014 study involving 67 kids with autism reported liking the weighted blanket better The only thing is in that study, it didn’t actually seem to help them sleep longer. In fact, when it comes to improving sleep, the research is a pretty mixed bag.

Same with they’re used by people with autism. Sometimes they seem to help with things like anxiety or behavioral symptoms. Sometimes they don’t, there is some evidence that a weighted blanket can help you relax during a stressful situation. 2016 study monitored 60 patients heart rates while they were getting their wisdom teeth removed, with 30 of them receiving a weighted blanket halfway through the data suggested that while everyone found the procedure stress for those that didn’t receive a heavy blanket spent more time in fight or flight mode. Basically, they were freaking out while others were able to somewhat calm down.

But not all scientists think the heart rate measures used are reliable indicators of nervous system activity. And no one really knows how weighted blankets could trigger a more relaxed state. Some scientists think they provide deep pressure stimulation a type of pressure that is thought to trigger your nervous systems chill mode. But even if that’s true, there’s a bit of a gap with regards to how that works. It could be a cognitive thing that pressure makes you feel like you’re being held or hugged. And that feeling is just super reassuring. Something we’ve evolved to find relaxing or something about the weight itself could trigger changes to the cells that nudge the nervous system towards relaxation, or any benefits could be a placebo effect. People feel relaxed or sleep better when wrapped in these heavy blankets simply because they believe that’s what should happen. In order to really figure out how weighted blankets work when they do we need a study with the placebo control.

But you can’t really make it not heavy blanket that people think is heavy. That means a true placebo controlled trial where people aren’t sure if they’re getting a weighted blanket or not. It’s not possible and that makes it a lot harder to tease out whether the positive effects people report are because of their expectations that it will work or because of the actual blanket and the end. Some would say it doesn’t matter why they work just that they do for many weighted blankets are a source of relief for some pretty unpleasant symptoms. And that’s great. I like blanket hugs, so they definitely don’t work for others and scientists can’t really say why. In the end, it all comes down to individual preferences. I think I said it earlier different people are different. So ultimately, it’s up to you if you want to give this snuggly coping technique and try also to your bank account. I don’t think they’re cheap.

What Are The Advantages Of These Special Blankets And Their Functions?

We conducted a survey of over 300 occupational therapists.  They reported that patients with the following conditions had improvement with the use of weighted blankets.

  • Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD)
  • Autism 
  • Stress/Anxiety 
  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
  • Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) 
  • Chronic pain 
  • Major mental illness
  • Insomnia
  • Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS)
  • Alzheimer’s/Dementia
  • Chemotherapy
  • Post-Surgery
  • Motor Agitation
  • ADHD
  • Cerebral Palsy
  • Substance/Alcohol Detoxing
  • Rhett Syndrome
  • Multiple Sclerosis
  • Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS)
  • Apraxia
  • Fibromyalgia

How are weighted blankets used in medical settings?

Weighted blankets are so effective, hospitals are using them.  They are used in post-surgery, geriatric, pediatric, mental health and other units.  They are most often used on behavioral health (mental health) units.  Staff use them with patients who are dealing with extreme anxiety.

Hospital staff report that the blankets help the patients feel calmer, and they sleep better. When a patient is experiencing extreme symptoms, they will use the blanket at the first sign of agitation.  They also use the blankets to avoid using restraint or seclusion. With my former weighted blanket business, We did training for hospitals and individual consumer education.

Pediatric occupational therapist, Cara Koscinski, MOT, OTR/L, is an author of numerous books on occupational therapy and autism, a frequent magazine contributor, and a national speaker.  She has successfully founded two pediatric therapy clinics and has created CDs for children with autism and auditory sensitivity.   Her two children have autism, so she knows how much their weighted blankets help them.

Eileen Parker has autism and sensory processing disorder. She first tried a weighted blanket at occupational therapy, which led to owning a weighted blanket company for six years.  In this book, she will give her personal experiences and her knowledge learned through her business.  She sleeps with a thirty-four-pound queen size on her bed. 

With  Cara Koscinski, MOT, OTR/L, she wrote a book on weighted blankets,The Weighted Blanket Guide: Everything You Need to Know about Weighted Blankets and Deep Pressure for Autism, Chronic Pain, and Other Conditions which is available HERE

Weighted Blankets for Children – Autism Blanket – ADHD Blanket

You may or may not have heard of Weighted Blankets – if however, you have endless issues with sleeplessness or interrupted nights with children with Autism or similar disorders, it may very well be the best thing you have ever heard of.

As a young girl (too many years ago) I spent most of my nights wondering the house without a thought of sleep. As I grew my sleep difficulties came along for the ride. The impact of these sleepless nights was not something I understood for a very long time. Now in my forties I am well and truly understanding what going without sleep can do to not only your energy but also the impact it can have all around our daily lives. As I said, I am now in my 40’s and these issues are still a problem for me, however recently there are bigger issues that led me to my appreciation of using Weighted Blankets for sleep.

In late 2010 my two very young sons were diagnosed with Autism. Both of these boys are on the spectrum but are very different in many ways. The one way that they did not differ was that neither of them “Just slept “. Having other members in the family and my own age, made it difficult to deal with the seemingly endless nights of constant battles to obtain sleep. It seemed most nights that we would finally settle one child and the next would step in to take his place, meaning that total sleep for us consisted of maybe a couple of uninterrupted hours and even then it would be either on the floor beside their beds or in our bed with both boys stretched out and pushing against us in the middle of the bed.

Melatonin

Once diagnosed we attempted sleep with the chemist made version of Melatonin. It took a few drops and for the first time both my boys were asleep within 30 minutes. Melatonin was great…. and so it went, however it started to take a few more drops to put them to sleep then it lasted a little less time (wakening at 3am) and then we started to realise how much of this chemist supply we were going through with two children using it. The cost for Melatonin varies but we never found it for less than about $55 per bottle (very small bottle) We were using more and more with less and varied results. This was about the time that I had the opportunity to try a sensory blanket for autism.

Advantages Of Weighted Blankets for Children

I had heard of them before but I remembered that I dismissed the idea because my boys never would leave a sheet or blanket on, so I assumed that they would not leave the blanket on either. Then also there was the cost. Too much I thought to take the risk that they did not use it. — I could not have been more wrong and I’m very happy that I was, my older son (now 5) took to the autism blanket quite well and started to sleep better in under a week. Jayden who was then still 2 (almost 3) did not like the idea of his legs being covered and also likes his arms free, for him we placed the autism blanket across the core of his body and left his legs and arms free. – During that week our last bottle of Melatonin ran out and we have not had to buy one since.

Now I am not saying that life is perfect, that is a bit much to ask from a blanket, however we will never do without these special blankets again.

The big question – How do these calming blanket work?

I could make it complicated and talk about “Deep pressure therapy” and ” Spatial Awareness” but to keep it simple I will explain it this way. The Melatonin that was produced by my local chemist can just as easily be produced by our own bodies. A simple example is that when we receive a hug, our bodies’ natural response is to release a chemical called Serotonin. This is what makes us feel good. Serotonin is our natural relaxant, but it is also much more.

When the sun goes down and it is time for sleep, the Serotonin in our body changes. Melatonin is what is produced at night time and is necessary for sleep. Having the all over cuddle of a weighted blanket helps this Melatonin production and therefore helps with natural calming sleep.

Around April last year I started to stock and sell resources for families in our area with children who have ADHD. The first thing we put out to show families were these ADHD blanket. We now stock not only these special blankets but weighted wraps sized for car travel or school. Both my sons have one of these smaller lap blankets in their bags in the classroom.

They use them not for sleep but for calming when pressures in the classroom get too much. We also use affordable weighted blankets for their laps while travelling in the car. It keeps them calmer and allows me to concentrate on driving safely rather than dealing with meltdown. If you are dealing with sleepless children, do not wait. Make one or buy one or if you are lucky enough to find someone who will part with it borrow one. You may also get one of these brand new discount weighted blanket HERE. Of of the best weighted blanket is the WEIGHTED BLANKETS PLUS which you can read about it here. But one way or another give these special blankets a try. It took a week for my boys so be prepared that it may not happen the first night, but it may very well be the best investment for yours and you child’s health that you ever make.

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Advantages Of Using Weighted Blanket At the Dentist

Pressure on the body from a weighted blanket can relieve anxiety at the dentist office. For years, many people have enjoyed the weight from the heavy vest worn while getting x-rays at the dentist office as commonly known from a multitude of subjective accounts. Now they can get that relaxing feeling by wearing a weighted blanket.

A media release about a new study to be published in the Journal of Pediatrics says that a relaxing environment, including weight on the body, significantly relieves stress at the dentist office. Dr. Michele Shapiro of the Issie Shapiro Educational Center and colleagues from Hebrew University in Israel studied the effects of the sensory environment on a children’ anxiety levels during two separate routine cleaning visits to the dentist.

The release reads, 
For many children, a trip to the doctor or dentist is a stressful experience. The sensory environment (i.e., the sounds, smells, and lights associated with the clinical setting) can cause a child’s anxiety levels to rise. This is especially true in children with developmental disabilities who may have difficulty understanding the unfamiliar clinical environment.
This reaction is similar to Sensory Processing Disorder. SPD is a neurological disorder involving smell, hearing, pain, body position, taste, visual, temperature, and the body position and movement. The brain receives all this stimuli but can’t make sense of it so it can react normally.

The release continues,

The first trip included the typical sensory experiences of a dental office, including fluorescent lighting and the use of an overhead dental lamp. During the second trip, however, the researchers created a sensory adapted environment that modified the experience of the children. No overhead lighting was used, a slow moving repetitive color lamp was added, and the dental hygienist wore a special LED headlamp that directed the light into the child’s mouth. The children listened to soothing music and were wrapped in a heavy vest that created a hugging effect.

The hugging effect is a type of sensory calming called proprioceptive input, which is pressure on the muscles and joints. Proprioceptive input sends signals to the brain that cause serotonin to be released, which is the neurotransmitter in the brain that makes people feel happy. An increase in serotonin causes natural melatonin to be released in the brain giving even more of a feeling of calm.
A more comfortable way to induce the hugging effect is by using a soft and pliable weighted blanket. Parents and dentists can use a weighted blanket on the child to soothe the anxiety from dental procedures. One of the best weighted blanket can be found here.

How to Choose a Weighted Blanket Size

In order for you to know how much weight for a weighted blanket that you require, please refer to the Weighted Blanket Size Chart below: –



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Sensory Integration Therapy

Perhaps one of the most important kinds of treatment for kids diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome, a form of high functioning autism, is sensory integration therapy. What is sensory integration therapy? Well, kids with autism have a lot of sensory processing issues. This means that every kind of stimuli seems too extreme for them. While most people have some kind of filtering system, kids and adults with Asperger’s syndrome have a very hard time filtering out extraneous sensory information.

What does a sensory overload look like?

Your child may not want to put on the clothes you laid out for him because they are too scratchy or there’s a tag in the back. He may refuse to go into many public places because they are too noisy, or the lights are too bright. He may suddenly have a tantrum because the smell of someone’s perfume is overwhelming him.

A Child Who Is Under-Sensitivity To His Surroundings May Also Have Problems

Conversely, there are also kids who are under-sensitive to sensory stimuli and are constantly seeking and craving it. They are the kids who will be tearing around your house, crashing into things and generally on the move all the time. They want to touch everything and experience everything, and can never seem to sit still.

What both of these categories have in common are deficits in the sensory processing system. And there are ways to treat them.

1. Auditory Integration Therapy

An occupational therapist who is trained in helping kids with sensory issues will have a number of tricks up their sleeve. One is auditory integration therapy (AIT). Studies have shown that listening to special CDs of music that have certain frequencies and pitches can actually change the way that the brain processes information. With this therapy, it’s changing the way sounds are processed.

The person who is getting AIT listens to a CD made for them for two sessions of 30 minutes each per day, using headphones. Over a period of time, the music can actually change the way the brain hears the music, and make a person less over-reactive to loud noises, and more able to process sounds and language effectively.

2. The Wilbarger Brushing Protocol

The Wilbarger Brushing Protocol is a treatment for Asperger’s syndrome when kids have tactile sensitivity issues. In other words, they have problems with touch. Kids with this problem often can’t stand the feel of their clothes, can’t stand to play outside because they might touch something weird, or jump if someone accidentally touches them.

This method of treatment involves using a surgical brush to brush the person’s skin in a very specific way. This is done several times a day at preset intervals. It needs to be done with a trained therapist’s supervision. When it is done correctly, it can reduce sensitivity to tactile stimuli.

3. Other Methods

There are many different tools that occupational therapists will use to help a child with Asperger’s syndrome who has sensory issues. Many of these will be different for each child. A lot of them may look like playing, but it actually has specific goals and focuses on specific sensory systems in the body to change the way that system processes information.

Here are a few other techniques:

Weighted blankets: People with Asperger’s often crave deep pressure, as it is calming to them. Weighted blankets or calming blanket provide this. This increases their ability to focus. Trampolines, swing sets, and rocking toys: These can stimulate the vestibular system in a person with Asperger’s. This can help either calm them down or stimulate them, depending on their sensitivities. Any activities involving movement can be helpful in this case.

Joint compression: This is a treatment an occupational therapist can teach you that can regulate a person’s nervous system. It involves manipulating and pulling on joints in a certain way that acts to kind of reset the sensory system.

Sensory fidget bag: A sensory fidget bag can be useful to keep on hand. This should include anything that you can find to fill a bag with that your child can fidget with. Some examples are stress balls, koosh balls, feathers, slinkys, and so on. These sensations will give the child something to focus on, thus also having a calming effect.

As you can see, there are many ways that sensory integration issues can be treated. Sensory integration therapy can be a very useful treatment for children who exhibit specific symptoms of Asperger’s syndrome.

Hopefully these tips can make life a little easier especially for children with Asperger’s and their parents. In addition to these methods, there are many other tips and suggestions that can help your loved one live a fulfilling and happy life. A great site to find information to help children with Asperger’s syndrome is the web site www.AspergersSociety.org.