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What’s the deal With Weighted Blankets?

Weighted blankets are growing in popularity.  They claim to reduce anxiety, stress, sleep disorders, sensory disorders, ADD, and the list goes on.  So do they really work?  The answer is not as simple as ‘yes’ or ‘no.’  It truly depends on each individual’s sensory needs.

What is the science behind weighted blankets?

Weighted blankets provide proprioceptive input.  Proprioceptive processing is the ability to understand where the body is in space.  It uses information from the skin, muscles, tendons, and joints to allow the body to respond to input from the environment.  We use this information to determine where our bodies are in space and how to plan our next movements. A child that has proprioceptive processing difficulties may be fearful in some situations, or feel clumsy, which can be very frustrating.  Some children will attempt to provide themselves with increased input via jumping, requesting hugs or squeezes, or bumping in to object.  A weighted blanket provides a gentle pressure throughout the body, thus providing increased proprioceptive input.  This provides a calming sensation as the body becomes easier to understand in the environment.

How heavy should my weighted blanket be and when can I use it?

Weighted blankets should be 10% of your body weight plus one pound.  Therefore, the heaviest weighted blanket you can find will not always be the most beneficial.  Allowing a child to sleep with a weighted blanket is not recommended.  A sleeping child may not be able to move a weighted blanket, which can be very dangerous. Instead, try lycra sheets that provide improved proprioceptive input over night.  Or, try a weighted stuffed animal to provide the necessary input.  Weighted blankets do provide proprioceptive input that can feel very calming and may be beneficial for some children, however, providing proprioceptive input in other ways can also be very effective.

Ways to provide proprioceptive input?

Proprioceptive input can be obtained through heavy work activities such as throwing a medicine ball, carrying groceries, taking out the trash, pushing a wagon full of toys, etc.  You can also play hopscotch, jump on a trampoline, do animal walks, wheelbarrow walks, squeeze play dough or putty, do monkey bars, the list goes on.

Should I use a weighted blanket?

Weighted blankets can be very beneficial for anyone who requires increased proprioceptive input.  When choosing the right weighted blanket, choose one that is 10% plus one pound of your child’s body weight.  Participating in activities that provide the necessary proprioceptive input can also help with regulation and improving body awareness.