The first time I heard about weighted blankets, I had an instant “Ah-Ha!” moment. As a child I used to love to climb under the blankets on my parents’ bed. I still love a cool, heavy blanket. The pressure, weight and comfort create a calm secure feeling. Weighted blankets have received accolades for providing benefits to children with special needs, particularly those with sensory processing disorder, autism and ADHD. But, the benefits are not limited to children. Adults and seniors with dementia or Alzheimer’s have been known to benefit from the calming pressure of a weighed blanket.
Why and how do weighted blankets help?
Our joints contain receptors called Golgi tendon organs. For most of us, these efficiently communicate with our nervous system to keep us informed of the whereabouts of our joints in space. For example, if I close my eyes and raise my right arm, I can tell you approximately where my arm is, how high, its location and so forth. For those who are not in tune with their bodies, for whatever reason, a weight can stimulate the Golgi tendon organs and improve awareness.
In addition, weight creates a sense of calm as the skin receptors are stimulated. The sensory receptors located just at the skin surface respond well to weight and pressure. Of course material can make a difference and, though most of us prefer a soft material, weighted blankets are made from a variety of textures. Now that you know why someone may benefit from using a weighted blanket, we thought you might like a few suggestions for using one.
- Rest time. Keep a full-size weighted blanket in your pre-school room or wherever rest time may occur for kids who need the extra pressure and weight to calm down. Just a few minutes of weight works wonders. And, you can fold the blanket in half or quarters to get a more intense impact.
- Sometimes a twin or regular weighted blanket on top of your preferred bedding can be just the trick for a great nights sleep. Be sure to monitor rest time using the weighted blanket first to make sure your child can move easily as well as remove it as needed.
- On the Road or in the Air. Use the Mega Weighted Lap Pad or Calming Comforter Weighted Blanket, folded or unfolded, for long car trips or airplane rides. Some extra weight and pressure can make travel time less stressful and more peaceful for everyone.
- Roll your child up like a burrito or hot dog in the Lycra Sleeping Bag using the blanket for the bun and your child as the meat or stuffing. The extra pressure and weight can be just the sensory break they need to make it through the next few hours of a hectic day, or as a warm up before camp or school.
- Send a lycra or weighted sleeping bag blanket to grandma’s or a friend’s house to use as a calm-me-down for a sleepover. The other kids may just want to use it as well.
- Lap Pad. Fold your weighted blanket up into quarters and use as a lap pad for learning, doing homework or sitting down to focus.
Most blankets can be washed in the machine, but be sure you check the label. Some blankets can be used with a soft slipcover to make cleaning them easy as well. Choosing the correct weight for a weighted blanket is a personal preference that should be discussed with your therapist. Some therapists recommend 5% of body weight but most parents tell us that their children prefer more as the weight of a blanket is distributed. Last but not least, monitor the use of a weighted blanket and check with your child to see if it’s the right amount of weight and time of use.