I shared this article on facebook recently: Sleeping With Weighted Blankets Helps Insomnia And Anxiety
Traditionally, weighted blankets are used as part of occupational therapy for children experiencing sensory disorders, anxiety, stress or issues related to autism. ‘In psychiatric care, weighted blankets are one of our most powerful tools for helping people who are anxious, upset, and possibly on the verge of losing control,’ says Karen Moore, OTR/L, an occupational therapist in Franconia, N.H.
The response was so positive I promised I would share some blog posts with more information, so here we are. The first is to share some additional information and stories from people who have seen results or heard positive things about their use.
A 2008 study published in Occupational Therapy in Mental Health, observed the effects of a 30lb weighted blanket in a sample of 32 adults: Exploring the Safety and Therapeutic Effects of Deep Pressure Stimulation Using a Weighted Blanket. These results were observed
- 63% reported lower anxiety after use
- 78% preferred the weighted blanket as a calming modality
When I shared the article I asked a few questions. The first one: Have you used weighted blankets personally, or with children or recommended them to patients/clients?
The feedback I received was amazing! Lynn shared this magic blanket comment for ADHD and anxiety:
Someone close to me got one for her foster child, who suffers from emotional dysregulation, ADHD, and anxiety. It works like magic– in fact the child calls it his “magic blanket.”
She also shared this about her younger brother who is autistic and mute:
When we were young children, he would suffer terrible insomnia and agitation whenever there was a full moon. My older brother and I would take turns sleeping with him on full moon nights because that comforted him somewhat. We figured out as small children that we could get him to calm down and go to sleep by draping one leg and one arm across him. I think it was the heaviness and pressure of our limbs that settled his anxiety. Our parents could not do it, I suppose because their limbs were too large. So when I learned about Temple Grandin’s solution [more on that below], it made sense to me. Interesting, hmm
Phaedra commented saying some of us like to sleep with heavy blankets even in the summer and said this:
Deep pressure is calming and nurturing. Helps us get into our bodies and stimulates our proprioception (awareness of our body in space). I use weighted yoga bags filled with sand. Simply placing one across the chest or anywhere else on the body can be calming.
Diane shared that she used to write for a company called Mosaic Weighted Blankets and one of her jobs was to interview customers as testimonials:
I can’t tell you how blown away I was with my first few interviews. Parents of kids having autism, Asperger’s, special needs kids, kids having night terrors…it truly brought them (kids and the entire family) great peace and an ability to sleep through the night, almost immediately in many cases.
Adults also gained benefits, especially relating to issues with PTSD and restless legs syndrome.
The weight is part of the reason it provides calming…the pellets also provided something for the kids to touch/manipulate while they were trying to go to sleep. Mosaic’s blog should still have a lot of good articles on the benefits and how it is also used by occupational therapists. They can be on the expensive side if you compare it to a blanket, but if you compare it to the need for less medications and such it could be a very viable option.
There are many companies as well as sites showing how to make them yourself, just be sure you are focusing on the “pressure” effect and not the “heavy”…these blankets are not the same as just throwing 6 thick blankets on someone.
She also shared this article she wrote: Sensory Processing Disorder Treatment, Mosaic Weighted Blankets
Tara lives in the UK and uses a medium weight duvet/comforter and has two very useful tricks/tips to hopefully get similar benefits if you don’t have access to a weighted blanket:
GREAT thread, everyone! Thanks so much! I find deep pressure *very* soothing. I don’t have a weighted blanket, but we do sleep with a 10.5 tog duvet [spring/autumn weight comforter – tog is a British measure of warmth pretty much year-round. (Ah, the “joy” of living in the UK. Not!)
That said, here are two other tricks: 1) if your climate allows (i.e. it’s not too hot), make yourself a *full* hot water bottle and tuck your feet *under* it. This will put some weight/pressure on your body and will feel comforting. (I’m thinking this could even be done with cold water if it’s too hot where you live.)
And 2) if you don’t have a weighted blanket, but find yourself struggling with insomnia, lie on your side and tuck your arms between your legs (so that your arms are “sandwiched” between your legs and the gravity of the leg on top presses onto your arms). It’s not the same as having the full weight of something on you, but you will be creating a bit of deep pressure all the same. I’m not an OT (I wish I were!) but if you think about what the best thing to do with a small baby is – swaddle it!!! A weighted blanket makes total sense! It’s calming to our nervous system because it “contains” us (but not in an oppressive, limiting way).
I have not verified if these two trick/tips do in fact work the same way but it makes sense that they would so feel free to share if you’ve found they work for you. I personally love the hot water bottle feeling and have always done this for as long as I can remember. I will also often start off sleeping in the arms-sandwiched position and then end up in arms folded position, sort of hugging myself. I had no idea why except that it just feels good.
Tara mentioned also Temple Grandin’s deep pressure squeeze machine.
Temple Grandin (one of my heroes!) actually made her own deep pressure “machine” when she was little – she intuitively knew that it would help and soothe her. I’m not saying that anyone here is on the spectrum, but I have a hunch – tell me where I’m wrong – that a whole bunch of us have super “highly tuned” nervous systems! Thanks so much for all you do, Trudy and thanks to everyone in this group/community/village!
Based on the response this facebook post generated many of us have super “highly tuned” nervous systems, myself included!
Many years ago I had read about device in her book: Thinking in Pictures, My Life with Autism many years ago. She is a fascinating woman and it’s a great read! I see there is now an updated version.
Here is a little more about her: Temple Grandin PhD is an American professor of animal science at Colorado State University, world-renowned autism spokesperson and consultant to the livestock industry on animal behavior. On her website it states that she is now the most accomplished and well-known adult with autism in the world.
She writes about her squeeze machine and how it helped her anxiety and oversensitivity to touch here: Calming Effects of Deep Touch Pressure in Patients with Autistic Disorder, College Students, and Animals
I will describe here a deep touch pressure device (“squeeze machine”) that I developed to help me overcome problems of oversensitivity to touch, and that allays my nervousness. Reactions of other people to the squeeze machine, including children with autistic disorder and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) are also reported.
When I posted this on facebook I also asked: “Do you have a source you can recommend -organic cotton cloth, non-plastic beads?”
I received some great resources but none that use organic cotton cloth and non-plastic beads. Some companies use stones and/or glass beads and one company has the option to send in your own fabric so you could buy your own organic cotton.
I just feel that with sensitive individuals, having organic cotton and beads that are not plastic is the best option, especially since many of you will spend quite a bit of time under these blankets or wrapped in them.
I appreciate having the opportunity to share all the great facebook comments here. Thanks if you contributed to the discussion!. If you’d like to see all the responses here is link to the facebook post. Join us on facebook and be part of future discussions. We have a lot of fun and some healthy and sometimes heated debates too!
Stay tuned for part 2 where I will share resources for buying a weighted blanket. I’ll also share more of the research on how these weighted blankets work, resources for making one plus how to know what weight is best for you.
If you’ve used a weighted blanket for anxiety, stress reduction, ADHD or insomnia please do share how you liked it and how it helped you. Have you used one personally, or with children or recommended them to patients/clients?
If you have a resource that offers organic cotton cloth with non-plastic beads please do share it.