Like a Nice Warm Hug
Weighted blankets are often recommended to help with insomnia, restlessness, anxiety, stress, ADHD, autism, and sensory issues. I have a nine-year-old son, Jax, that has ADHD and some sensory processing issues, so we decided to give it a try. He experienced night terrors for a few years when he was very young and more recently has woken up covered in sweat and yelling out to me at night.
Before the school year started, I decided it was time to try something new. Jax had a hard summer and I wasn’t looking forward to the stresses of the new school year, so I bought a 10 pound weighted blanket for his twin size bed. I also added a minky cover, which is super soft with small raised dots for added texture. This way if he gets sweaty or the blanket gets dirty, I can easily just wash the cover.
My son loves the blanket!! He says it feels like he is being hugged. Jax calls his blanket “Weighty,” since we lovingly name all of the blankets in our house, and he asks me to put it on him each night. He especially likes the feeling of the little dots on his hands as he runs them over the blanket. Even better news is that he has been sleeping great since we started using the blanket and he is much calmer during the day. It’s been the best school year yet! In the past, it was normal for me to receive calls regarding Jax’s behavior, with reports that he had trouble calming himself during the day. No calls now! And when we had our first parent-teacher conference, the teacher said she has not experienced any of the anger issues that he had demonstrated the year before. I was overjoyed.
My son attended occupational therapy when he was younger. At the time, they tried a weighted vest but he did not like it. He did walk with a stack of books or a backpack with supplies in between classes to help calm him, and he still pushes against a wall or will do breathing exercises to calm himself when overstimulated. These are some of the helpful activities that we’ve learned from therapists Jax has seen over the years and I always love finding new hacks for different situations. I highly recommend trying different therapies to find the best match for your child. Personally, I have found the weighted blanket is a valuable tool to address my son’s need to feel calmer and more grounded but it is part of many practices working as a whole.
If you’re interested in getting your own blanket, it’s recommended that the weight of the blanket be around 10% of the person’s body weight (but try using as little weight as therapeutically necessary), and for safety you want to make sure a child can move the blanket themselves.
The larger the blanket, the more evenly the weight is distributed, so consider that when choosing one. Generally, deep pressure sensations are calming and help to regulate our sensory systems, which is why the feeling of a weighted blanket can feel like a nice warm hug. Also, dopamine released during hugs can decrease your heart rate, increase the ability to fight infections, and decrease blood pressure. You might find various benefits for everyone in the household if you add a weighted blanket (and more hugs!) to your household wellness toolbox.