What are Weighted Blankets

Over the past decade, both practitioners and patients have been looking into weighted blankets as a means of mitigating the symptoms of multiple disorders, ranging from Anxiety and Insomnia to Autism. But what are weighted blankets, how do they work, and what do you need to know before buying one? Here, we’ll answer all of those questions and more.

First, What is a Weighted Blanket?

Weighted blankets in terms of composition are exactly what they sound like. Often made of high quality fibers (as those who are touch sensitive may otherwise have a negative reaction) and safe weights (typically poly pellets like those you would find in beanie babies or small glass beads that feel like sand) added between layers of fiber to ensure an even spread of weight and a feeling similar to being hugged while under the blanket. Most weighted blankets are compartmentalized and include very heavy duty stitching to ensure that the blanket is durable.

These blankets can vary in size, shape and design. Most of these features revolve around the buyer; What may be okay for a 6’2” man with anxiety may not be the best choice for a 10 year old girl with autism. For this reason, taking a look at our Weighted Blanket Buying Guide may be a wise choice, but in short, keeping in mind desired textures and a weight that is 10% of the person plus 1 or 2 pounds is a good rule of thumb.

In terms of care, most weighted blankets are machine washable, though some of the larger ones might need to be sent to commercial washing facilities. For those that can be washed at home, hanging the blankets to dry is recommended as opposed to machine dried.

What are Weighted Blankets Good For?

For over a decade, Occupational therapists have been using weighted blankets as a way to help patients handle Sensory Processing disorders, anxiety, autism, insomnia, PTSD, Restless Leg Syndrome, generalized stress, and in some cases have even helped reduce withdrawal symptoms associated with drug addiction. More information can be gained by looking at our articles specific to certain disorders, or the article “Do Weighted Blankets Work”. In a quick summary though, a paper by Mullen et al, 2006, presents the fact that in experimentation, a full third of participants had a drop in electrodermal activity (a clinical indicator of a sympathetic nervous response, more commonly known as “fight or flight”), 63% reported lowered anxiety, and nearly 4 in 5 preferred it as a method for calming over any other method.

Should Anyone Not use a Weighted Blanket?

In some cases, weighted blankets are not recommended for the safety of the users. Such cases are those with severe breathing problems, blood pressure problems, circulation problems and diabetes. Each of these issues can be exacerbated by the added weight, and thus people with these issues and those above, alternatives should be sought. Likewise, those with active skin infections, and children under the age of 2 should not be given weighted blankets. Also, in terms of use, weighted blankets should be used as a calming blanket or sleep aide only. It is not to be used as a method of restraint, as this will cause a greater stress reaction and elicit panic at a much greater level (as most restraint methods tend to do).

What are the Benefits Given by Weighted Blankets?

As mentioned briefly in the section asking what weighted blankets are good for, weighted blankets are wonderful as coping or calming tools. Due to the reduction in sympathetic response, many children and adults can use the feeling of being held by it as a means of settling down after meltdowns (or in the case of PTSD, flashbacks). It can also increase focus when used as a lap blanket at work or school, as the lowering of stress can increase focus markedly.
The main benefit of weighted blankets though, is the ability to ensure more restful, complete sleep. Whether dealing with children who are prone to fear responses at night, inability to keep still, or adults who simply can’t turn off their brain for the night, weighted blankets can help ensure that the next morning is filled with positive energy and wakefulness.

If these benefits sound great to you, be sure to check out our website to see current sales on the premier weighted blanket, the SleepForce blanket.

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