Weighted Blankets for Children – Benefits, Usage and Warnings
- What Is a Weighted Blanket?
- Are Weighted Blankets Safe for Kids?
- How Can a Weighted Blanket Help a Child?
- How Do They Work?
- Recommended Weight of Weighted Blankets
- Types of Weighted Blankets
- How to Choose the Right Weighted Blanket
- How to Use a Weighted Blanket
- How to Know If the Child Is Responding to the Blanket
- Warnings and Precautions
Weighted blankets have gained popularity with families that have children or adult members who have difficulty getting a good night’s rest. A healthy sleep routine is critical for our well being but conditions in children such as ADHD, anxiety or other sensory processing disorders make it very difficult for them to go to sleep and get a full night’s rest. Weighted blankets have been in use for their therapeutic effects to treat children and even adults who have a hard time falling asleep. This article covers all you need know about weighted blanks, how they work and whether you need to get one.
What Is a Weighted Blanket?
A weighted blanket, or ‘gravity blanket’, is a type of heavy blanket that is made out of two layers of sheets filled with beads. The beads are made out of materials such as food-grade plastic, glass, metal and even rice. They fill up the space between the two fabric that form the blanket and are woven into place uniformly to make it evenly heavy. The blankets themselves are made of soft material for an extra tactile sensation that is soothing and adds pressure over the skin when pulled over the body. The idea behind using the blanket is deep pressure stimulation which has a calming effect on children with anxiety and sensory processing disorders.
Are Weighted Blankets Safe for Kids?
Weighted blankets are best tried under the supervision of a pediatrician or a therapist in children who exhibit sensory-based disorders. If you still wish to try weighted blankets for toddlers or older children, the manufacturer recommendation is that it should be used on children under two years of age. This is because babies who are under two years may not be able to untangle themselves during sleep and risk suffocation. For older children, weighted blankets are generally safe as long as you stick within the weight and size limit for the age.
How Can a Weighted Blanket Help a Child?
There are many reasons why parents choose these blankets for their children. Here are the weighted blanket for kids benefits:
1. Eases Anxiety and Promotes Sleep
The deep touch pressure applied on the body by the weighted blanket helps promote sleep in children who feel anxious at night or while going to bed or children who have to sleep in a new house or setting. Children suffering from insomnia will also sleep better as they feel secure under a weighted blanket.
2. Helps Children with Autism
Children who are diagnosed to be on the Autism Spectrum Disorder can have a tough time transitioning from one activity to the other due to their overexcitement. Parents and teachers use weighted blankets for autism in such instances to help them calm down and focus.
3. Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
ADHD affects millions of children around the world and it is even carried to adulthood by many. The behaviors characteristic of ADHD include impulsiveness, inattention, hyperactivity, etc. Weighted blankets help these children self-soothe in the night before going to sleep or during the day.
4. Helps Children with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
Some children also experience PTSD at a young age which hinders their ability to communicate with others. PTSD can trigger sudden anxiety or panic attacks in children which can be treated by using weighted blankets.
How Do They Work?
The working mechanism of weighted blankets is explained by something called Deep Touch Pressure (DTP) Therapy. DTP involves applying uniform but gentle pressure on the body in the form of hugging, squeezing or firm holding. The pressure acts on our body’s natural hormones giving a sensation of relaxation. For example, a long deep hug leads to the release of our body’s ‘happy hormone’ called serotonin. This hormone is responsible for a myriad of positive effects on the body one of which is busting stress. It’s the same reason why you would feel happy and secure when hugging a loved one, parent or a best friend.
Weighted blankets work similarly by giving the sensation of pressure on the body and soothe children when they are having an anxiety attack or are feeling too stimulated to go to bed. One effect of serotonin is that it converts into another sleep influencing hormone called melatonin. Children go to sleep faster when have this sleep hormone running in their system.
Recommended Weight of Weighted Blankets
As a rule of thumb, weighted blankets should be no higher than 10 per cent of the weight of the child plus one or two pounds. The margin allows you to choose blankets that come in standards weights such as three or five pounds. For example, a weighted blanket for a 3-year-old who weighs 30 pounds would be around three to five pounds in weight. A 110-pound teenager can do well with an 11 to a 13-pound blanket. More or less weight is determined by the individual preference of the child.
Types of Weighted Blankets
Here are the different types of gravity blankets for children available:
1. Infused Weighted Blanket
These blankets feature weight beads infused in between two layers of fabric and woven uniformly. They are easy to fold and have the weight distributed evenly.
2. Pocket Weighted Blankets
These blankets are made out of a series of small squares that carry a set of weights. They come in a number of colors and textures.
3. Wearable Weighted Blanket
As the name suggests, these blankets are wearable and your child can easily slip in and out of one and walk around. They are mostly used similar to a sleeping bag.
4. DIY Weighted Blankets
If you have some skills in stitching, making your own weighted blanket is not overly complicated. Since it is customizable along with being inexpensive, it is a great option for those who can make it.
How to Choose the Right Weighted Blanket
Choosing the right weighted blanket can make all the difference and it comes down to the smaller details such as:
Weighted blankets are available in different styles of fabric including soft cotton, flannel, satin-cotton blends and others. If your child tends to get hot in sleep, it’s ideal to choose a breathable fabric such as cotton over flannel.
Different filler materials have different densities and can give a unique feel to the blanket. Steel shots, glass beads, and plastic pellets are often used. Choose a type that your child would feel most comfortable in.
3. Weight Distribution
Weighted blankets work best when the pressure is distributed uniformly on the body. If the beads or weights shift and collect over side, your child might not feel even pressure all around. To fix this, choose blankets that contain weights in individually stitched pockets throughout the blanket.
For ease of maintenance, pick a blanket that can be washed easily in a washing machine.
5. Weight and Size
The weight of the blanket should be no more than 10 per cent of the child’s weight. The weighted blanket child size can vary based on how your child likes it. More area gives more comfort throughout the night while some children might prefer the blanket to be smaller.
How to Use a Weighted Blanket
Although a weighted blanket can help, introducing it to your child in the right way is critical.
- Never force your child to use the blanket. They might even cause an excessive sensory input by applying too much pressure. So their transition should be more natural and not forced.
- When you first present the blanket to your child, start from the legs. Lay it on their legs and gradually pull it over their body and ask how it feels.
- Try to use the weighted blanket at other times apart from bed time to help them calm down and get used to it. You could wrap them up when they sit o the couch or while playing board games, doing homework or reading.
- Make the blanket as part of a sensory tent where they can go sit wrapped in it during the day when the feel a sensory overload.
- Weighted blankets can also be used in your child’s classroom as part of the sensory diet.
How to Know If the Child Is Responding to the Blanket
There are signs that let you know that the weighted blanket is working for your child. Here are a few:
- The blanket provides comfort and relief when they are restless.
- They ask for it at sleep time and get a good night’s rest and wake up feeling refreshed.
- Your child is calmer and relaxed than before.
- It helps promote sleep even if your child has no special needs.
- It makes your child feel more secure and relieve anxiety.
- It reduces overstimulation, chronic pain and other sensory issues.
Warnings and Precautions
Weighted blankets come with their own set of challenges that requires you to exercise caution before using it. To begin with, it is ideal if the weighted blanket is recommended by your child’s pediatrician. This is especially important if your child has no diagnosed sensory disorders or is not under the care of any therapists. The blanket is also best used in short spans of time so they can remove when the positive effect diminishes.
Weighted blankets should never be used on babies who will find it hard to wriggle out if they feel trapped or suffocated. If you wish to allow the child to sleep in it, ensure that they are able to remove it without difficulty. The blanket’s size and weight should match your child’s age. Do not allow them to use adult, overweight or oversized blankets that could potentially get them tangled up.
Weighted blankets shouldn’t be your first step if you feel your child has mental health problems. They need to be taken to a mental health professional as delays in treatment can multiply over time.
Your child’s consent is priority before asking them to use a weighted blanket. If you try to force it on them, it could create more stress and anxiety with counterproductive results. The blankets should also never be used as a restraining device.
Weighted blankets work by deep touch pressure on your child which relaxes them and improves their mood. At night it promotes good sleep and reduces anxiety. It’s important to keep in mind that although weighted blankets can be tried on a child who has no formal diagnosis in any sensory processing disorders, it is best to consult their pediatrician before going ahead.