What Are Weighted Blankets ?
Weighted blankets look like quilts or comforters but they are heavier than regular blankets because the sections are filled with extra weight. They have traditionally been used to help calm oneself, organise emotions and prevent sensory overload. Weighted blankets are also used more generally to promote relaxation and a sense of calm.
Weighted blankets are becoming better known but please note that weighted blankets do not suit everybody. They are heavy and they fall closely around your body. This makes you feel wrapped up and tucked in. You can feel your body touching the blanket like you are enclosed in a small but flexible space. Some people find this wrapped up feeling very comforting and grounding and it may help them relax and sleep, but others find it claustrophobic.
If you would like try out a weighted blanket, LaughLand has a Try before You Buy service. More details here.
Weighted blankets have the following features:
Deep Pressure Touch
Weighted blankets provide deep pressure touch, which is the feeling of being held, stroked firmly, massaged, hugged or wrapped. It has a calming effect on the nervous system and is believed to directly increase the levels of serotonin (a feel-good neurotransmitter) in the body.
The feeling of being secure, wrapped up and hugged can assist some people to relax, settle down, feel comforted and sleep better. Using a weighted blanket to help with relaxation and sleep is drug-free and controlled by the user. Weighted blankets can be draped over the shoulders as well as laid over the body like a regular blanket.
Proprioceptive Input/ Body Awareness
Feeling a weighted blanket or lap pad on you assists you to feel and be aware of your own body. There are sensors in our joints and muscles that send signals to our brains about where our bodies are and the direction and force of our movements. This is an internal sense called proprioception.
People who move around a lot, fidget, and have trouble staying seated often do so unconsciously in order to get feedback about their body. Weight helps a person to feel grounded and provides an alternative source of proprioceptive input. This may increase attention and focus on fine motor skills and decrease impulsivity and self-stimulatory behaviours.
Lap pads are useful for this purpose and are used as learning aids by some schools. They are small and comparatively heavy, but lighter overall and more portable than big blankets.
Our senses send signals to our brains about the world around us and about our own bodies. Weighted blankets can assist with sensory processing, which is how all this information is sorted, organised, matched and interpreted.
Weighted blankets can help people who sometimes feel overwhelmed by the amount of sensory information their brains are getting. They can assist those who are very aware of sensory details to manage and cope with an overload of information, or to prevent or recover from a meltdown. Small, relatively heavy blankets, as well as longer full body length blankets are useful for calming and re-balancing the nervous system. Researchers don't yet know exactly how weight does this, but one theory is that the constant feel of weight helps to regulate other sensory information.
Weight can also help people who seek out sensory experiences and those who shy away from them. LaughLand offers soft textured fabrics such as minky as an option.