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Weighted blankets for children have been gaining in popularity in recent years. But what are they? Are they safe? Do they really help people sleep better? And how on earth do you choose the right one? The answers to these questions get even more complicated when we start asking about children and weighted blankets.
As a pediatric occupational therapist, I have been using weighted blankets and other weighted objects such as weighted toys with my clients for over 20 years. I believe weighted items and weighted blankets have a place, but they also come with decisions and precautions.
While weighted blankets have many benefits, there are also some things to consider before buying one. In this blog post, we'll cover everything you need to know so that you can make an informed decision about whether or not they're right for you.
What is a Weighted Blanket?
A weighted blanket is a blanket that has been filled with materials such as glass beads, plastic pellets, or polypropylene pellets to add weight. The added weight creates a sensation of being hugged or held, which can be calming and comforting, particularly for people with anxiety or sensory processing disorders.
Weighted blankets are typically used to help ease anxiety, reduce stress, and promote better sleep. This type of deep pressure touch has calming effects on the body and help with emotional regulation. They can help not only people with conditions like autism, ADHD, sensory processing disorder, and anxiety disorders but all people.
The blankets apply deep pressure stimulation which is similar to getting a massage. Think about the last time you had a massage. How did you feel afterward? Did you feel calm and relaxed?
Weighted blankets usually weigh between 5 and 30 pounds, and the general rule of thumb is to choose a blanket that's 10% of your body weight. So, if a child weighs 50 pounds, you would no more than a 5-pound blanket.
How Do Weighted Blankets Work?
Weighted blankets work by providing deep pressure stimulation (DPS) which is a type of therapy that uses gentle pressure to the body. DPS has calming effects on the body and can help people with conditions like autism, ADHD, sensory processing disorder, and anxiety disorders. One study found that DPS can help increase serotonin levels in the body which helps improve mood and reduces anxiety.
The deep pressure from the covering helps signal the brain to release neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine. These neurotransmitters have calming effects on the body and can help reduce anxiety, improve mood, and promote better sleep.
Are Weighted Blankets Safe?
Weighted blankets are considered safe for most people but there are some exceptions. If you have any sort of respiratory condition, such as asthma or COPD, you should check with your doctor before using a weighted blanket because the added pounds could make it more difficult to breathe.
People with joint problems or other chronic pain conditions may also want to avoid weighted blankets because the added weight could aggravate their symptoms.
And finally, small children and elderly adults are also at increased risk for suffocation if they use a weighted blanket, so it's important to use caution if you fall into either of those groups.
For children, I only recommend weighted blankets during supervised nap times for preschool-age children, and at night time for ages 5 and older. Also, make sure your child can move around easily under the blanket.
How young of a child can you use a weighted blanket?
In order to use a weighted blanket a child must be old enough to move around easily in their sleep. They must not have any gross motor delays that can interfere with this either. I only recommend weighted blankets for children under 5 if it is during supervised nap times at daycare. Or to play with (ie NOT sleep with!) in common living room spaces.
Does your child have a hard time staying calm?
Is it a meltdown or a tantrum?
Learn the differences so you can respond with confidence!
Do Weighted Blankets Really Help People Sleep Better?
There is some anecdotal evidence that suggests weighted blankets can help people sleep better. I personally knew I slept better with a heavy blanket way before I was gifted a weighted blanket. I believe I sleep 100 times better with it now.
A review of research in The American Journal of Occupational Therapy concluded: The outcomes of studies using weighted blankets suggest that they have the prospect to be advantageous in limited locations and populations. And that weighted blankets may be a suitable therapeutic tool for easing anxiety.
What Are the Benefits of Weighted Blankets?
There are many benefits of weighted blankets including reducing anxiety, promoting better sleep, improving mood, reducing stress levels, and aiding in relaxation.
Weighted blankets can help reduce stress levels by providing deep pressure stimulation which has calming effects on the body.
What Are The Cons?
There are a few things to consider before buying a weighted blanket including cost, size, weight, filling material, care instructions, and return policy. Let's take a closer look at each of these factors:
Weighted blankets typically cost between $100-$200 which may be out of budget for some people. It's important to compare prices between different brands before making a purchase to ensure you're getting the best deal possible.
Weighted blankets come in different sizes so it's important to choose one that will fit your bed or couch comfortably. You don't want a blanket that's too big or too small as this could impact its efficacy.
Weighted blankets also come in different weights so it's important to choose one based on your needs. If you're unsure about what weight to choose, it's advisable to speak with a doctor or therapist who can give you expert guidance.
Weighted blankets are typically filled with plastic pellets or glass beads. It's important to choose a filling material that won't make you. Too Hot or Too Cold while you sleep could impact your quality of sleep negatively.
What are alternatives for bedtime?
Once a child is old enough to sleep with a blanket you can try a heavy blanket prior to trying a weighted one.
Have you heard of compression sheets? My clients love them! The child the does also need to be able to move around independently to sleep with them.
For infants, I recommend swaddling and for toddlers, I recommend the sleep sack
How options do I have when I pick a weighted blanket?
What is the rule for weighted blankets?
How heavy should a weighted blanket be? 10% of body weight is a good rule of thumb. Sometimes you can add a pound or 2
Does your child like the material the blanket is made from? Is it soft? Is it similar to their current blanket?
Do they move around? In my personal weighted blanket I find the beads often move to the edges of the blanket and then no weight is on me while I sleep. The weight distribution just does not stay consistent, even with the stitching.
What is the ideal size for your child? Twin size is probably too large for a toddler
Washable Duvet Cover
Many weighted blankets are machine washable but a washable cover will make the washing process much easier.
What to know before buying a weighted blanket?
Answer these questions as a yes, then your child may be a great candidate for a heavy blanket.
- Do they like to sleep with a heavy blanket?
- Can they not sleep with just a sheet?
- Do they like to climb under objects or smush themselves into small spaces (like behind the couch?)
- Do they love strong hugs?
- Do they like being massaged?
- Are they over age 4?
- Can they move around easily by themselves?
Frequently Asked Questions
Can a 5 year old use a 5 lb weighted blanket?
Weighted blanket weight is determined by body weight. Not by the age of a child.
How heavy should a weighted blanket be for a child?
10% of body weight. A child who weighs 70 pounds can use a 7 pound weighted blanket.
Are weighted blankets good for children?
Weighted blankets are good for children if they help them get much-needed sleep and rest.
Do kids sleep better with weighted blankets?
This is very child dependent. Some do, and some do not.
How to pick a weighted blanket
Consider the weight, cover material, if it is machine washable and dryable if the beads stay in place and the size of the blanket.
Should a weighted blanket be used by an autistic toddler?
No. Try other calming items for sleep instead of a weighted blanket.
If you're considering purchasing a weighted blanket for your child, there are a few things you should keep in mind.
First, choose a blanket that's 10% of your child's body weight—for example, if your child weighs 50 pounds, you would want a 5-pound blanket.
Second, weighted blankets are not recommended for children under the age of 5, or children who have any gross motor deficits.
If you aren't sure if your child should use a weighted blanket, check with your child's occupational therapist.
And finally, while there is some anecdotal evidence that weighted blankets can help people sleep better, I suggest you decide for yourself if your child would benefit and consider the other options.
Looking for sensory items to help your child stay calm and regulated?
Check out the products at SensaCalm! Weighted blankets and other sensory accessories.