Modern Australian

Weighted Blankets: Do They Work?



The number of people with sleep problems in Australia has increased considerably in recent years.

What Are Weighted Blankets? A weighted blanket is a heavy blanket typically filled with a material like plastic pellets to add weight. To be considered a weighted blanket, it typically needs to be 7 kilograms or more. The light pressure of a weighted blanket can help children and adults relax.  Weighted blankets can help reduce stress and anxiety as well as sensory processing disorders.

How Do They Work?

Weighted blankets use something called "pressure therapy." In this technique, deep pressure is used to lower the heart rate, which leads to feelings of calmness. Occupational therapist experts often use pressure therapy for children and adults who have anxiety, sleep problems, or sensory processing disorders.

Because your heart beats quickly when you are stressed, lowering the heart rate with pressure akin to a warm blanket, hug, or strong embrace can invoke feelings of calmness and relaxation. There isn't a one size fits all blanket either. There are different types and weights of blankets available, depending on what the person needs.

Typically, weighted products are used as part of a sensory diet, i.e. an organised routine of daily input of sensory information structured to provide the body with enough sensory input to be calm and in the optimum state of arousal necessary for learning.

Also, typically the 10% of your body weight isn’t enough, a great fact with sensory input is ‘less is more' – but more frequent.

What Conditions Can They Treat?

Weighted blankets can be used for both children and adults for many different disorders. However, they must be used properly. There have been instances where they are used inappropriately with children and they should never be used with babies. Some of the conditions they can treat include: 

1. Sleep Disorders

Just like babies fall asleep easier when swaddled, children and adults can sleep easier with a weighted blanket.

If you or your child tosses and turns and has trouble falling asleep because the brain is racing with anxious thoughts, a weighted blanket can help slow the heart rate and regulate breathing to lower anxiety levels, allowing you to relax enough to fall asleep.

2. ADHD

Kids who have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) often have difficulty with sitting still and paying attention, particularly when they are distracted with things going on around them. A weighted blanket in a sensory corner, for example, could help calm them.

You can also get a weighted vest which a child could wear in school. These work similarly to weighted blankets. 

3. Anxiety

Anxiety causes physical reactions, such as a racing heart, quick breathing, sweating, and problems with digestion. Many times, anxiety is the result of something in the future or something we have little or no control over. Anxiety often fuels the fight or flight response, causing the physical changes described above.

Weighted blankets can help reduce anxiety and calm you during a panic attack or particularly anxious time. The pressure can slow your breathing and your heart rate.

Alternatives to weighted blankets

You may not want to use a standard weighted blanket you can also opt for other weighted product ideas:

*  1 kg ankle weights

*  Weighted Vests

*  Squeeze or pressure vests, or small back packs with 1-2kgs of rice in them.

*  Lycra bed sheets are also a great addition to bedtime routine.

*  A weighted blanket is not the only option for weighted equipment.

Implementing weighted blankets will do wonders if done right. Have a chat to your local Occupational therapist on when and where they can be successful.

Weighted Blankets Work

If used properly and with the guidance of an occupational therapist, weighted blankets could greatly benefit you or your child if you suffer anxiety or sleep disorders. Weighted blankets can help calm anyone experiencing stress and anxiety.

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