Once a popular item for adults seeking a better night’s sleep, weighted sleeping blankets have recently been shown to be extremely beneficial for little ones as well, especially those with ADD, ADHD, and autism. If weighted blankets sound like they warrant further investigation, here’s some weighty information.
As the name would imply, a weighted sleep blanket is a blanket with weight added to it. Usually, this weight comes in the form of plastic pellets.
Blanket weights range between 4 and 25 pounds, the heaviness you pick depends on your own weight. While there is no exact science to which weight to pick, most companies recommend that you select one that is about 10% of your body weight.
For weighted sleep blankets for kids, its 10% of body weight plus one or two pounds.
Simply put, using a weighted sleep blanket – otherwise known as gravity blanket or anxiety blanket-makes you feel like you’re getting a hug. If it seems only natural to you that the added sense of security is conducive to sleep, you already know most of what you need to about how one works.
More scientifically, however, that “hug’ feeling comes from deep touch pressure (DTP). Through applying gentle pressure, a weighted sleep blanket triggers the brain to release serotonin and dopamine, which naturally improve the body’s sense of tranquility.
The serotonin converts to melatonin, which helps to induce sleep. DTP also lowers the body’s cortisol (stress hormone) levels.
Some of the earliest research on the subject of DTP was produced by autism spokesperson Temple Grandin describing her own experiences with the disorder.
Temple recollects that as a child, she would “crawl under sofa cushions and have her sister sit on them” as a way of grounding herself.
At the age of 18, Temple created the hug-machine or squeezebox, a device that applied DTP on its users to promote relaxation. The use of this contraption led to the discovery that DTP had a calming effect on children.
Now, with weighted sleep blankets for kids, coming into the mainstream, one might say Temple’s out of the box thinking has truly come out of the box. Here are some of the benefits a weighted blanket for kids offer children who have trouble achieving that perfect zen.
When kids have trouble sleeping, a lot of it has to do with an inability to get their bodies and brains to “turn off.” A good deal of gear shifting has to go on for children to reach the physical state where they begin to drift into that magical land of Nod.
The difficulty with the winding down process has to do with sensory processing. Children who don’t process sensory information as well as others experience low levels of melatonin, the hormone that tells the body it’s time for bed. When the melatonin doesn’t kick in, erratic sleep schedules and ongoing sleep issues result.
The deep touch pressure exerted by a weighted sleep blanket for kids helps to release melatonin naturally, making them an effective physical aid for many children.
Elevates Mood and Produces Sense of Calm
Serotonin is the precursor to melatonin. As you might imagine, children lacking in melatonin lack in serotonin as well. Otherwise known as the “happy hormone” serotonin helps to calm the nervous system, promoting relaxation and mood improvement.
Low serotonin can make it difficult for a child to get to calm down, especially at night. Here’s where a sleep blanket works to increase serotonin, soothing the child with its gentle pressure.
Helps Children to Transition Between Activities
No one wants to be the one to end the party, but if you’re a parent, it comes with the territory. Children are notorious for having difficulty transitioning from one activity to another, specifically the activities that go from a high to a low energy level. For children with developmental delays, it can be challenging to focus in a classroom environment, especially after an energetic bout of recess.
While weighted blankets may not seem practical in school settings, many parents and teachers have found the use of a weighted lap pad or vest beneficial for helping children transition from playground mayhem to a focused classroom environment.
This study shows that weighted vests improved the attention spans and behaviors of children with ADHD in a classroom context.
Sensory processing disorders occur when the brain has trouble organizing information coming in from the senses. It is common for children with developmental delays to experience under or overreaction to stimuli in at least one of the five senses. As a result, children with SPDs often crave extra sensory input, such as hugs, lights, and fidget tools.
Weighted sleep blankets provide tactile and proprioceptive input that calms the body’s “fight or flight” responses. The soothing effect makes your child feel secure, calming their overly stimulated senses.
Where do weighted sleep blankets come from?
Most conveniently, from Amazon. One of our favorites from the e-commerce giant is the birdyboutique.com Weighted Blanket Kids Planet Solar System with plush Minky glass beads.
These heavyweight blankets are designed to mimic the feeling of being held closely with five distinctive functioning layers, specifically designed for the even weight distribution and no shifting of beads.
And did we mention that these blankets are absolutely adorable? Check them out at birdyboutique.com with code STILLSUMMER for 20% off or order here on Amazon and get your little cosmonaut properly grounded.
In the words of Raj Dasgupta, MD, weighted blankets are like “having the best hug for a long period of time” (source) and we couldn’t have said it better ourselves.” For the hugs that keep giving, consult with your child’s OT today, and see if your child can benefit from a weighted sleep blanket for kids.