Therapists realize that light touch can be overstimulating for individuals with sensory processing dysfunction. The deep weight given by a heavy therapy blanket can have a quieting and calming impact.
It is like swaddling a newborn child. The firm, cozy embrace of the blanket folded over a sleeping newborn child encourages the baby to relax and drift off to sleep. This sensation and its impact is replicated with a weighted blanket and is the reason for sensory weighted blanket therapy.
Who Benefits from Sensory Weighted Blanket Therapy?
People with autism or sensory processing dysfunctions experience issues with sensory modulation and regulation. This can manifest as an oversensitivity to certain stimuli. Weighted blankets are like weighted vests in that they offer proprioceptive or deep touch pressure (DTP) to the body. We realize that proprioceptive, deep touch pressure releases serotonin, a neurotransmitter that helps controls sleep cycles, weighted therapy blankets are used to help with sensory modulation and regulation.
These sensory-based interventions that have a DTP segment have appeared to have a quieting, calming effect on one's sensory system.
About Weighted Therapy Blankets
In a 2008 study published in Occupational Therapy in Mental Health, use of a 30-lb weighted blanket resulted in adult participants reporting lower anxiety (63%), lower physiological data (blood pressure, pulse rate, pulse oximetry), and positive calming effects (78%). Weighted blanket use in mental health settings, proactively and in crisis situations, had a calming effect that was reported to lower stress and provide a coping strategy in times of anxiety.
The use of weighted blankets has been extended to incorporate individuals with mental health diagnoses like post-traumatic stress disorder, ADHD, anxiety, and obsessive-compulsive disorder. Study participants reported feeling safe, calm and grounded following weighted blanket use.
A recent report distributed in the Journal of Medical and Biological Engineering found the physiological impacts of Deep Touch Pressure (medical data like pulse, blood pressure, and so on) corresponded with the participants’ reportedly lower anxiety levels following weighted blanket use. The study’s data validated a change in nervous system activity after deep touch pressure (weighted blanket) was introduced.
Since we realize that individuals who face sensory overstimulation encounter genuine physiological side effects, this examination supports that deep touch pressure can help manage those medical changes.
Another research found that weighted blankets help individuals who encounter insomnia. The examination demonstrated that the participants' sleep time expanded, and movements during sleep diminished, with weighted blanket use. Subjective data in this study was overwhelmingly positive, with subjects reporting they enjoyed using the weighted blanket during sleep.
Benefits of Weighted Therapy Blankets
- reducing anxiety
- lowering physiological indicators of stress (blood pressure, pulse rate)
- positive calming effects
- positive impact on sleep time and behavior.
Choosing a Weighted Therapy Blanket
While selecting a weighted therapy blanket, it is critical to think about two primary features: weight and fabric. A general guideline when deciding on your blanket's weight factor is to multiply your child's body weight by 10% and add 1-2 lbs. depending on preference. So a 50 lb child would be given a 5 lb weighted blanket on the low end and a 7 lb. the blanket on the high end.
You want the weight to be heavy enough to provide deep touch pressure, but not so heavy that it poses a safety risk during sleep. The type of weight and style of the blanket will differ on how the weight is distributed, and the design may impact washability, so take a close look at how the blanket is weighted. The style of texture you pick will depend upon a few components. Your child's sensory preferences are critical, so choose the texture, color, and pattern accordingly.
Using the Weighted Therapy Blanket
Weighted blankets can be used over a child resting or draped over them when sitting/standing. Each child has different sensory needs and inclinations, so let your child discover the way that works the best for him/her. Wrap them in the blanket like a burrito, drape it over their shoulders, or lay it flat over them when they're laying in bed for the night. Whenever, however, wherever your child needs the deep touch pressure input, the weighted blanket can be used to meet his needs.
Because sensory-based interventions, like the use of weighted blankets, differ in the observable effects for each person, it is important to note any changes that may occur after introducing a weighted blanket.
You can feel confident in trying a weighted blanket, knowing that it offers the possibility of self-regulation assistance with virtually no side effects, unlike some medical interventions. As you may know, the weighted blanket can be used during reading or for focus at school or to overcome anxiety. One parent says that she wraps the blanket around her child's shoulders to quiet him, and lays it on his lap if he needs to sit and focus.
Weighted Blanket Benefits for Sensory Integration
First, give yourself a chance to experience how weighted blankets can calm anxiety as it hugs you. Lie under a weighted blanket with its evenly distributed pressure. As you feel the deep hug and comfort, imagine the soothing effect on a sensory seeker who craves input, or the over responder who is anxious. The proprioceptive input stimulates the body's pressure points for mood and sleep and has therapeutic benefits for anxiety, autism, and sensory processing disorder.
How Does a Weighted Blanket Work?
Next, let’s explore why a weighted blanket is effective. Our joints contain receptors called Golgi tendon organs. For most of us, they work efficiently, communicating with our nervous system, keeping us informed of the whereabouts of our joints in space. For instance, if you close your eyes and lift your right arm up, you can tell exactly where your arm is, how high, and its position.
Now you can understand why individuals with sensory integration disorder, autism or sensory challenges can benefit from weighted blankets. The weight stimulates the Golgi tendon organs and improves awareness of our body in space. In addition, weight creates a sense of calm as the skin receptors are stimulated.
Weighted Blanket Benefits for Resting Or Reading
Despite the fact that blankets are regularly connected with sleep, weighted blankets are likewise perfect for calming during daily activities in school and at home. When your child is reading or concentrating on a task, wrap a flexible, soft weighted blanket around the shoulders. Or rest the folded blanket on the lap to support calm and focus.
Weighted Blanket Benefits for Bed Time
When it is sleep time, put a weighted blanket over your preferred bedding. What's more, use the weighted blanket to unwind and relax before turning out the lights. Additionally, make sure that your child can move effectively under the blanket and remove it comfortably if needed as well.
On The Road Or In The Air
Traveling? Fold up your blanket and use it as a lap pad for long car trips or airplane rides. This extra weight and pressure can reduce the stress of travel time and make the journey more peaceful for everyone. One mom writes that they took the heavy weighted sleeping bag for her son when they went camping, "He slept so soundly throughout the night! Looking forward to using it when he needs just a little nudge to help him fall asleep." Another parent, Kimberly, says she took the huge sleeping bag on vacation, and her 5-year-old with ASD used it on the plane as well.
A Weighted Blanket Is a Great Tool During Playtime
Roll your child up like a burrito, hot dog or rocket ship! Or use an LED blanket. The rotating colors provide additional sensory input to calm and engage. Most of all, the multi-sensory experience is satisfying for a range of needs.
Size and Care of Your Weighted Blanket
Choosing the correct weight for a weighted blanket is a personal preference. Some therapists recommend 10% body weight, and it ranges higher with older children and adults. Most parents tell us their children prefer more weight, especially when using the larger size blankets since the increased weight is evenly distributed. Always monitor the use of a weighted blanket to ensure the right amount of weight and time.
Most blankets are machine wash, but be sure to check the care label for detailed instructions. Washable slipcovers can make cleaning easier, and add a soft tactile touch.
In effect, children and adults describe the weighted blanket sensation as “a hug.” To experience this warm and relaxing feeling buy the Magic Weighted Blanket for a deep and calm sleep every night.