The weighted blanket, a tool that helps soothe people with anxiety and depression, is slowly establishing a more mainstream presence. But how come? What’s so special about this seemingly normal-looking piece of bedding? Aside from keeping us warm at night, blankets are associated with comfort, safety, and security. Early on, children can form strong emotional attachments with their blankets— and it seems this attachment is subconsciously carried over to adulthood.
But weighted blankets offer a deeper level of therapy. Read on to find what weighted blankets are, and who can benefit from them.
What Makes Weighted Blankets So Special?
Weighted blankets simulate the feeling of being given a tight, warm hug; it’s designed to distribute the entirety of its weight evenly on the person using it. There’s a variety of weights and sizes to choose from, as it is recommended that a blanket weigh 10% of the total body weight of the user. It can weigh as much as 40 lbs for an adult sized blanket or as little as 5 lbs for a kid-sized blanket.
As these blankets use the concept of “deep touch pressure”, the gentle weight it puts on the user causes a calming effect. Deep touch pressure is “a form of tactile sensory input which is often provided by firm holding, firm stroking, cuddling, hugging, and squeezing.” These forms of touch increase the endorphin levels while simultaneously decreasing heart rate and blood pressure. It also causes the release of serotonin and dopamine in the brain, calming down the nervous system.
How do weighted blankets work?
Weighted blankets work due to something called DPTS which stand for deep pressure touch stimulation. Pressure is exerted over the body which provides both physical and psychological benefits. It’s like a big hug!
We noticed whilst play fighting with our son how he liked us rolling on top of him. He would often play fight with his mom and if she got on top of him he would stop struggling so she stayed on top. When asked why he liked her on top, he said it was a comforting feeling it made him feel safe apparently.
Occupational therapists often use weighted blankets as a means to help children with sensory disorders, anxiety, stress, or issues related to autism, and research continues to support this practice.
DPTS- Deep touch pressure also causes the release of both serotonin and dopamine in the brain. These are “happy” neurotransmitters and produce a feeling of calm within our nervous system.
Depression, anxiety, aggression, OCD, PTSD, and bipolar disorder have all been linked to low serotonin levels in the brain and weighted blankets have been proven to increase serotonin levels.
Can anyone use a weighted blanket?
Yes, Everyone has Deep pressure sensory tissues and can benefit from the calming feeling of weighted blankets. Have you ever had a thick heavy duvet and climbed into it on a cold night and felt the weight on your body? It has a gentle calming feeling, right?
Weighted blankets offer the same sensation but even more enhanced.
This being said they have the most positive impact on Children and Adults with ADHD, Anxiety and other mental health conditions.
What size and weight should I buy?
Most weighted blankets come in different weights and the sizes increase with the weight. They are sold in multiples of 5lb so 5,10,15lb ETC
A general guideline for choosing the correct size and weight of a blanket is to buy one that’s 10% of the user’s total body weight. ie: A child that weighs 80lb’s should buy a 10lb weighted blanket. This is a general guideline and should be judged by the reaction from your child. Some will like heavier blankets and some less. There is no real way of knowing but start with the 10% rule and you won’t go wrong.
Who Can Benefit From Weighted Blankets?
Anyone at any age can benefit from the therapeutic effects of a weighted blanket. It is a safe and effective solution for sleep disorders and anxiety as it eliminates the need for drug therapy. Even when sitting upright and placing the weighted blanket on the legs or shoulders can induce the same relaxing effect as sleeping under it.
There are a vast amount of disorders that weighted blankets can help with. Here are just a few of them:
- Sensory Disorders
- Sleep Disorders
- ADD / ADHD Spectrum Disorder
- Restless Leg Syndrome
- Anxiety and Depression
- Perimenopause and Menopause
- Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s Disease
- Post-Traumatic Stress Disorders
What Are Weighted Blankets Made Of?
Weighted blankets are made of different materials to better suit the preference of its users. The material that gives it weight, however, mostly comes from plastic pellets. We’ve arranged the lightest, most breathable material to the most structured fabric options out there, so you can decide which type of weighted blanket would suit you most:
For people who are very particular about the feel and print of their blankets, Kona Cotton, in particular, makes for a great choice. Endless prints and colors can be printed on cotton fabrics and those who opt for a higher thread count can rely on this kind of material for that.
This material is a great option to experience the breathability of cotton, but at the same time offer more warmth. Flannel also comes in a wide array of prints and colors like cotton.
This type of material is suitable for those who enjoy the feel of satin but are sensitive to heat. Satin-cotton can be used by itself or paired with cotton on its other side. This combination is best for users who enjoy the feel of both fabrics.
This synthetic option is ideal for babies or children, as it feels extraordinarily soft, while still providing warmth.
For those looking for a more industrial-strength type of fabric, this material should suit you best. Blankets made from this fabric are sturdier and less prone to tears and stretch, although they do feel a bit itchy and are less soft.
Weighted blankets calm anxiety, according to science.
Blankets have been historically used in treatment for children with autism, but research shows their benefits extend to other disorders too. A small pilot study done in 2006 showed that more than three-quarters of them preferred the blanket as a method to calm down, and more than half—63 percent—reported having lower levels of anxiety after using the blanket. Another study published in 2015 found that a weighted blanket lengthened average sleep time and decreased disruptive movement of people suffering from insomnia. Study subjects also reported that they "liked sleeping with the blanket, found it easier to settle down to sleep and had an improved sleep, where they felt more refreshed in the morning." Here are some benefits of the weighted blanket.
1. It makes you think twice about moving and fidgeting.
This blanket is enormous and will cover an adult's entire body. Compared to models meant for autistic children, the weight was less concentrated and more spread out. It felt like five duvets compressed into one, sans the heat. There's a subtlety to it—it doesn't pin you down entirely but does make every movement feel more conscious and deliberate.
2. It melts the anxiety away.
Whenever you feel anxiety coming on, find a way to ground yourself. If you’re on the subway, take deep breaths. At work, it's a quick meditation. At home, from now on, reach for the blanket. Its pressure facilitates a feeling of relaxation. It helps simulate a womb-like or hug-like feel, a comfort so universal to humankind.
3. You fall asleep more quickly.
Some people insist on using a heavy comforter in the summer because they enjoy the weight of a hefty blanket. You will be shocked by how quickly you will fall asleep using the gravity blanket. You might already be a good sleeper and hardly take less time to sleep, but with the weighted been asleep in less than five minutes every night when using the blanket.
Bonus: One works well enough for two people in bed.
Technically speaking, it's made for one person, but I've found that draping it over the bed horizontally works well enough for my husband and me—our feet aren't fully covered, but it doesn't rob us of the benefits.
How To Make Your Own Weighted Blanket
Weighted blankets are surprisingly easy to make yourself. All you need to do is round up your choice of fabric and some plastic pellets, and with a few basic sewing skills, you can create your own weighted blanket in no time.
- Quality Plastic Pellets – take 1 pound of pellets for every 10 pounds of the user, then add an extra pound
- Your preferred fabric
- 5 yards of fabric in total – 2.5 yards for the top and 2.5 yards for the bottom of the blanket
- Measuring tape
- A small scale
- Sewing machine
- Decide on the size of your blanket. For the purpose of this how-to guide, assume that we are creating a blanket that fits in a twin bed (40” x 76”). Remember that if you intend to use the heavier type of fabric (e.g. linen-rayon blend), weigh it prior and add its weight to the total weight of the finished blanket.
- Determine the right side of the fabric and place them together.
- Measure and mark two inches towards the interior of two of the long sides of the fabric. Do the same for one of the shorter sides and leave the other side open for the pellets.
- Sew the lines together and then turn the fabric inside out. You can also iron the edges at this point if you prefer to keep a crisp and neat edge.
- Add the plastic pellets by following these steps:
- Create a uniform grid on the unstitched area of the blanket. Since a total of 4” were taken out to stitch together the sides to create an edge, the remaining area should be about 36” x 72”.
- Create even squares with the remaining area. With 6”x 6” square grids, there should be perfect six squares across and another 12 up.
- Weigh and divide pellets in unformed portions for every square.
- Sew along the grid lines to create channels that are six inches apart from each other. Pour the proper amount of pellets on the square.
- From the bottom seam, measure six inches, sew a line across to seal the line of the squares that are already filled with pellets.
- Repeat steps 6 and 7 until all the channels are filled and sealed.
- To finish, seal the remaining two inches of opening in the fabric by sewing them together. Now you can enjoy your very own homemade weighted blanket!
Instead of using plastic pellets, uncooked beans or rice also make great weight substitutes. But these need to be stored in ziplock bags before placed in the squares to prevent the formation of mold or decay.
What should you look out for when buying one?
The type of material and style will be one thing to consider. You son or Daughter still need to like the look and feel of the material, no matter how good they work. It still has to be comfy and attractive to the user.
Many children with Mental Health conditions often suffer from conditions like sensitive touch and hate the feel of some material. So this must be taken into account when buying a weighted blanket. You’ll also need to check if the blanket is machine or hand washable.So, are you making your own weighted blanket or buying one? No matter your choice, you are sure to feel more relaxed under the comforting warm embrace of a weighted blanket