Weighted Blankets: Do they work?
Guest Blog written by Carla Lackey OTAS and Jill Rahn OTAS from Madison College
What is a weighted blanket?
The purpose of a weighted blanket is to provide comfort, calm a restless body and improve focus, reduce feelings of anxiety, and improve sleep. Weighted blankets are made from a variety of fabrics such as flannel, fleece, satin, polyester, velvet, and cotton. There are a variety of fillers for the weighted blankets including plastic pellets, poly-pellets, glass beads, rice, or extra layers of fabric to add weight. Weighted blankets can weigh 5 to 25 pounds and can be purchased from several online retailers. When selecting a weighted blanket, the blanket should not weigh more than 10% of the user’s body weight for safety and should be adjusted as body weight changes as needed thereafter.
How do weighted blankets work and what are the benefits?
Weighted blankets are designed to provide deep pressure on the body. This deep pressure provides a similar sensation to the body as being hugged, stroked, or held. Although studies have shown the response to deep pressure is varied, most people find it enjoyable and report some degree of positive reaction. Some added reported benefits are reduction of stress levels, improved mood, increased feelings of calm, more engagement, and increased communication.
We are all unique!
Weighted blankets aren’t the only option for relief. Deep pressure can be achieved with several different methods. One of these methods is called swaddling or in other words, wrapping tightly in regular blankets. Another method is having an individual lay on their stomach while an exercise ball is firmly rolled over the back and legs. Weighted sheets and vests can also provide a desired response. Weighted sheets are a good alternative for individuals who get too hot or do not need the heaviness the blanket provides. Weighted vests can be worn intermittently throughout the day when the need for a calming sensory input arises.
Deep pressure may be used as a beneficial part of a bedtime routine. It may take some time to find the form of deep pressure that feels good for your individual needs, but the benefits are worth the effort!
What one individual enjoys, another may find uncomfortable or claustrophobic. A general precaution would be to try weighted items with adult supervision at first until reaction can be observed and deemed beneficial for the child.
Bestbier L, Williams TI. The Immediate Effects of Deep Pressure on Young People with Autism and Severe Intellectual Difficulties: Demonstrating Individual Differences. Occupational Therapy International. 2017;24(1):1-7. doi:10.1155/2017/7534972