Originally invented to help patients who had a range of conditions like anxiety, autism or insomnia, weighted blankets have become increasingly popular thanks to mainstream media and the choices available, regardless of if you have a specific condition or not.
But, what’s so special about weighted blankets and do they really work? In this article, we’re discussing all the ins and outs of weighted blankets, what to look for when buying one and if they actually work.
What is a weighted blanket?
A weighted blanket is a therapeutic blanket used to simulate the feeling of a big hug on the body. The added weight, which can vary from three to 14kg, helps to mimic a technique called deep pressure stimulation (DPS).
DPS is a therapeutic technique that uses pressure to relax the nervous system. This has been shown to help:
- Relieve pain
- Lessen anxiety
- Improve mood
Weighted blankets are created using small glass, plastic or metal beads that are evenly distributed through the blanket, providing the ‘weight’ feeling on the body.
What are weighted blankets used for?
During the 90s, weighted blankets were purely used by occupational therapists to help soothe overstimulation in children who are diagnosed with autism. Today, weighted blankets can be used by both children and adults for a variety of conditions, including:
- Sleeplessness or insomnia
- Stress and anxiety
- Help improve your mood
- Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
- Chronic pain
- Mental health disorders
The feeling of weight on the body creates the sensation of being hugged or held, which helps to boost serotonin levels (the ‘happy hormone’) in the body, assisting with mood regulation and the body’s natural sleep-wake cycle.
What to look for when buying a weighted blanket?
When thinking about purchasing a weighted blanket, whether it’s for yourself, as a gift, or to assist with DPS for your children, there are a few things to consider:
1. Material: Weighted blankets can be made from various materials, which means that not every weighted blanket is made equal. The three most common materials used to give the blanket its ‘weight’ is metal, glass, or plastic beads. Each offers the user a different feel and can sometimes affect the quality of the blanket. For example, glass and metal beads are similar in weight and quality, however, metal beads can be noisy, so if you are sensitive to sound, opt for either plastic or glass. Make sure you do some research into which type of blanket would best suit you.
2. Weight: The recommended weight for a weighted blanket will depend upon the person who is going to use it. You want to aim for 10% of the person's body weight. So, if you’re buying a blanket for a small child who weighs 25kg, aim for a blanket with a weight of 2kg or 2.5kg, and the same goes for if you are buying a weighted blanket for an adult.
3. Age: The age of the person who is going to use the blanket is another aspect to consider. For young children, the use of a weighted blanket should be supervised to make sure that they can use it correctly and that the weight is right for them.
If you’re not sure about a weighted blanket, other weighted objects can provide similar pressure feedback. Weighted toys are another way that children, who especially need sensory feedback, could benefit from the feeling of DPS. These toys look just like regular soft toys but are designed with extra weight which offers overly stimulated children a nice, calming effect, perfect for cuddling and sleeping with at night.
Our weighted toys from Skillbuilders are cuddly and soft, while the weighted animals from Neptune Blanket come with a removable heat pack, which can be heated in the microwave, and provide even more warmth and comfort for children.
Who shouldn’t use a weighted blanket?
People who should avoid weighted blankets include:
- Those who suffer from sleep apnoea
- People with claustrophobia
- Small children who will be unsupervised
How to care for weighted blankets?
When it comes to caring for your weighted blankets, there are few ways to clean and dry them. Each brand will have a recommended way for cleaning their blankets, so always make sure to follow the specific manufacturer’s recommendations.
Machine wash and machine dry: For a machine wash, use a bleach-free, gentle detergent in cold to warm water on a gentle cycle. Make sure to avoid fabric softener, and for a machine dry, use a cool to warm dry setting and de-fluff periodically.
Machine wash and air dry: For a machine wash, use a bleach-free, gentle detergent in cold to warm water on a gentle cycle. To air dry, lay out flat and make sure that the inner filling is even.
Machine wash cover only: Sometimes, weighted blankets will have a removable cover. To wash, remove the cover and wash it according to the general care instructions. Usually, duvet covers can be washed in cold water on a normal wash setting. You can choose to air dry or in a dryer on a low temperature if the instructions allow.
Spot clean or dry clean: You can spot clean your weighted blanket using a stain remover or the area can be soaked if the stain is particularly stubborn. For blankets that are dry clean only, take them to a professional cleaner.
How often should you wash your weighted blanket?
Depending on how often you use your blanket will determine how often it needs a wash. If you sleep with your blanket every night, washing it every couple of weeks will make sure it stays fresh. If you only use it as a lap blanket now and then, your blanket will only need a wash a few times a year.
Do weighted blankets work?
As weighted blankets have become much more popular over the years, there has been speculation over whether or not they actually work.
Some studies have shown that it is difficult to measure the effectiveness of weighted blankets as the results can be very subjective. This means that there’s no hard evidence to support if they work to help with anxiety, stress, etc. However, that’s not to say that weighted blankets have not been known to help people or that they haven’t been useful.
Weighted blankets are more of a therapeutic tool that can help people feel calmer and more relaxed, especially those with autism spectrum disorders, anxiety, stress and a range of other conditions. As weighted blankets give the physical feeling of deep pressure, this can psychologically help people feel better, resulting in their overall mood, behaviour and experience being more positive after using the blanket. Whether weighted blankets ‘work’ will vary from person to person, as each person will have a different experience in how they feel.
Even if you live with a specific condition or not, weighted blankets are definitely a go-to for extra comfort and relaxation.
Discover the full range of weighted blankets and comfort items from Averee and enjoy the feeling of tranquillity whenever you use it.