Recent high profile tragedies have led to intense interest in the role of weighted blankets in various therapeutic contexts. We aim to take an overview of the current guidelines and offer some practical information to help everybody make an informed decision about whether a weighted blanket might benefit their health.
What is a weighted blanket?
Also called a gravity blanket or anxiety blanket, this therapeutic tool is, as its name suggests, a heavy blanket that gives strong feedback to the body. In some circumstances this is a valuable contribution to wellbeing, so a good place to begin is by exploring which situations may suggest the use of a weighted blanket.
The most common reasons are:
• to improve sensory integration
• to reduce anxiety
• to improve sleep.
Weighted blankets for children and adults
Weighted blankets for adults have a long folk history which includes swaddling and wrapping people who were depressed or in ‘low spirits’, this ancient wisdom has been tested clinically. In a 2016 study of thirty adults who were in-patients admitted for mental health issues, weighted blankets delivered a 60% reduction in anxiety.
Heavy blankets for children are a relatively new and much less well developed tool. The deep touch pressure is claimed to give anxious or disturbed children the reassurance to sleep more deeply. However, there have also been occasions where the death of children - one as young as seven months - have had inappropriate use of weighted blankets as a contributory factor.
Weighted blanket autism treatment is well-attested, with many therapy centres using both weighted blankets and lap trays to help people on the autism spectrum. This sensory integration therapy allows individuals to focus on sensory input so that they can regulate their emotions and begin to alter challenging behaviors. This form of treatment should be undertake by trained therapists after a comprehensive assessment of each individual. Where a child is concerned, this assessment should include regular weight checks to ensure the blanket does not exceed 10% of the bodyweight of the child.
How to choose a weighted blanket
Many weighted blanket reviews suggest that there are several key considerations before choosing the perfect weighted blanket for you:
1. Calculate the weight of your blanket.
A heavy blanket for anxiety still shouldn’t be more than 10% of your bodyweight. This weight should also be equally distributed across the entire blanket which is why it’s best to look out for a blanket with a carefully designed threading pattern that spreads the weight evenly across your body, leading to decreased stress levels and better sleep.
2. Consider heat distribution.
The best weighted blanket will be carefully designed to be cool enough during the warmer months. Look out for top quality materials and removable covers that allow you to regulate temperature easily.
3. Bear longevity in mind.
A weighted blanket is an investment in personal wellbeing, so choosing the best heavy blanket for your circumstances includes considering the manufacturing, laundering and appearance of the blanket so that it’s something you enjoy using - and looking at - for many years to come.
In conclusion, while weighted blankets are a valuable therapeutic tool for adults, we recommend that their use for children should always be supervised by a health professional with experience in the use of these tools.