Cellphones, social media, social pressures, and exams have been the weight of concern for my children lately. In turn, these feelings create a certain level of anxiety, stress, and can impact a good nights sleep. On the other hand, some children have natural stresses because they have special needs; autism and other sensory experiences can affect how children regulate their behaviors or emotions. For years, occupational therapists have been helping children and adults stress less with a weighted blanket.
We have been on the hunt for the perfect weighted blanket for our kids, as this was their holiday gift request, and we have definitely found it! Part of our Florida lifestyle is that we have been so much more relaxed. Just minutes from the beach, the theme parks and the abundance of outdoor living, our family has been exploring ways to de-stress in various ways. We have normal stressors, yet we have tried to not let the small stuff weigh us down, pardon the pun. However, sometimes normal stressors can impact, even seasonal stressors like the holidays can impact sleep and overall wellness.
This past year my sleep has been a mess. A horrible mess. The Chad and I chalked it up to our aging bed and we bought this incredible Tempurpedic. However, before the bed purchase, I was still struggling for sleep. Being that he wanted me to sleep well, he purchased a weighted blanket. Our first night was amazing, I slept like a baby, but the subsequent nights were hot flashes, sweating and every attempt to get comfortable. So after 30 nights we kicked the blanket. I just could not find my sleep despite the level of comfort it brought for my restless legs from weightlifting and my daily stressors.
Do Weighted Blankets Actually Work?
Was it the blanket though that was not helping my sleep? Was it the weight? Was it my bed? So many questions, so many variables. I couldn’t just give up on the blanket. I decided to investigate if there was really any truth to how weighted blankets work and if they truly do help to stress less by easing you into, and keeping you, asleep.
In 2008, a research study was conducted with adult participants and the findings concluded, that basically, weighted blankets are safe to use. The initial findings were that emotional arousal was reduced by the use of the blankets, however, this was only after five minutes of use. Not five hours or more as one might experience during a full nights sleep.
A few other studies – a few years later – proved fruitless as well, using placebo blankets to help further the study. Those findings concluded that sleep was not impacted by the participants, children, and most importantly, children with autism. So where is the proof these blankets work if the research is indicating otherwise?
In the 1990s Temple Grandin, world renowned researcher and a person who also has autism, conducted research studies regarding “hug machines.” Her first studies were with college students that found that the deep touch helped 60% of participants feel more relaxed. Yet, it was the study done in 1999 that was published in the American Journal of Occupational Therapy that found that 12 children with autism all received some benefit from her “hug machine” experiment.
The findings of the 12 children were that five used the machine, continuously applying pressure, while the other seven rested in the machine. What is the hug machine exactly? Built of pads, the user can pull a lever applying deep-pressure touch to the body. The user has total control over the weight and amount of application within the “hug machine.” So while the results are absolutely conclusive, varying studies have shown some applicable reduction in stress, but most importantly is about personal preference.
Which Weighted Blanket and Why?
For the last several years weighted blankets have exploded all over the market and internet. From craft DIY’s to blankets touting metal for better grounding (which we don’t recommend due to the lead possibility), everyone is all about stress less with a weighted blanket. With so many to choose from, which weighted blanket is the best and why?
After much research we found the team at Harkla and their incredible product line of weighted blankets and other sensory experience products. Why did we choose them and why their products? The team at Harkla has first hand experience with sensory issues in children, backed by educators and science to create products that ease stressors in our children’s lives. Think about your new born child and how at ease they felt when swaddled or having the pressure of your hand on them as they were soothed to sleep.
Using this same theory – backed with applicable use by occupational therapists – applying deep-pressure touch helps to desensitize and calm children with sensory processing disorders, as well as children who may struggle with anxiety or the ability to self-calm. With that, weight is a tremendous factor and should only be used in older children, never with infants. Blankets come with a variety of weights that are evenly disbursed and are based upon individual body weight, and of course, preference. Some adults and children have found less weight or even more weight to be beneficial.
Perfect for Teens
Instead of returning our blanket we opted to let Big G try it out. Needless to say, the blanket has never been returned to the store and is – instead – with it’s intended rightful owner. Weighted blankets are perfect for teens! Riddled with hormones and hormonal driven anxiety, married with all the minutiae high school can bring, teens can stress less with a weighted blanket.
Experts have explained that the “deep pressure” feeling generated by a weighted blanket helps to release both serotonin and dopamine to help people feel more relaxed. While the feeling isn’t like a death weight; weighted blankets provide a nice, even, easy to the touch feeling over the entire body to put it to rest. Hence why hugs have that calm feeling as the soft, easy touch can ease feelings of tension, fear, and general upset.
Perfect for Tweens
At the genesis of true teenage years, Tweens are beginning the hormonal process. I see my twins rage or cry over absolutely nothing and everything. They are in the first year of middle school and are navigating multiple classes, exams and early peer pressures. While they both manage to handle stress fairly well, I can tell that they still lean on one another for comfort. By that, I mean they still will crawl into bed with the other while sleeping. Simulating that inherent twin feeling from when they were infants.
My initial thoughts were that this could be a problem, interrupting one another’s sleep in order to find that soothing comfort. Even though I have been a mom for 17 years, I am still figuring this whole gig out most days, especially when my twins are involved. They are a unique breed of people, so vastly different, yet very similar. I do not want to interfere with the connection the two of them have and will willingly foster the healthy coping mechanisms they have as children.
So we explored the weighted blanket route with them as well with Harkla. Our goal was to have them stress less, find a good nights sleep and find comfort, either individually or together. When we put it together I had to have them both try how they could feel together with the weight and individually. They both were at ease, yet smiling ear to ear, full of excitement to feel the swaddling and “deep-pressure” touch they felt as infants and toddlers.
The weight was perfect for their togetherness and individuality. At only 15lbs, they could easily lift up from underneath the blanket, but still benefit from the additional gravity being applied to their bodies. Now the two of them have negotiated who sleeps under the blanket on any given night, with the opportunity of the other crawling in bed for the cuddling feeling. Looks like we will be investing in a second to ensure a future argument doesn’t erupt.
If you’re looking for the perfect gift this year, weighted blankets are at the top of the list. With the amount of stresses in people’s lives these days, we are always looking for ways to reduce stress and tap into more natural ways to relax. More so, the abundance of benefits to the special needs community for those with sensory disorders to help stress less as well. Whether you are an adult with anxiety or sensory disorders or have a child or children with sensory or spectrum disorders, a weighted blanket might be just the perfect gift.