Today doctors and therapists recommend using weighted blankets for sensory issues in adults and kids. weighted blanket for sensory issues suffering from Sensory Processing Disorders. Therapeutic weighted blankets are used for treating sensory issues related to all kinds of disorders, like Anxiety, PTSD, Autism, and Sensory Processing Disorder.
Studies have shown that patients who used weighted blanket felt more calm and safe, and slept better at night. The good night’s sleep then helped them in staying focused during the day. It also increased the effectiveness of therapy in some patients.
In this article we will talk about SPD and if a weighted blanket is effective for helping patients of SPD.
What is Sensory Processing Disorder?
“Sensory Processing Disorder or SPD (originally called Sensory Integration Dysfunction) is a neurological disorder in which the sensory information that the individual perceives results in abnormal responses.”
In simple words, Sensory Processing Disorder is a condition in which the brain receives, and reads and reacts to the information received by the senses, differently than in normal people.
For a person with SPD, normal stimuli like light, touch or everyday noises can lead to distress, anxiety and even pain.
These patients have an active Sympathetic Nervous System that keeps them in a high-alert state most of the time. SNS controls our fight and flight responses. In these states, the body is in a more hyperactive state.
SPD is found in both kids and adults, but it is more common among kids with Autism. So far SPD has not been identified as a stand-alone disorder. It is associated with a range of other neurological disorders.
What is a Weighted Blanket?
Weighted blankets are effective tools used by doctors for helping patients with anxiety, autism, and PTSD. Their use goes way back in history.
“The origin of weighted blankets can be rooted in the idea of deep touch pressure in the form of weights. However, the doctors found that some weight could be calming but haven’t exactly figured out how to evenly distribute it on the body, hence, the creation of a heavy cover for the whole body.”
Weighted blankets are also Sensory Weighted Blankets or Therapeutic Weighted Blankets.
Some weighted blankets are made with a filling of non-toxicplastic Polly-pellets. They give the blankets the perfect ‘hugging effect’ without making them too heavy.
Weighted blankets come in different sizes.
For the safety of a child, the blanket should not be more than 10-12% of the child's body weight. This is important that you buy your weighted blankets from a trusted and authentic seller.
Weighted Blanket & Sensory Processing Disorder?
Weighted blankets are popularly used for helping people with Sensory Processing Disorder. People with SPD get anxious and upset by little things in their surroundings. This affects their sleep and most patients complain about restlessness, sleep deprivation, and insomnia. The insufficient sleep then aggravates other symptoms of SPD.
For a patient of SPD, normal stimuli can create a more hyperactive response. Some patients get upset by the slightest touch. Some are hypersensitive to light. Some might panic on loud noises. In these people, the brain fails to correctly read the received stimuli.
The weight of the blanket provides a hugging effect and helps the patients to feel calm and protected. It wraps around the whole body and applies uniform pressure. Deep-touch therapy is very effective in helping patients of SPD. It reduces their sleep-related problems immensely. As a result, well-rested patients do better during therapy and stay calm during the day.
The Science behind Weighted Blanket & Sensory Processing Disorder:
The question is:
Is a weighted blanket effective?
Or is it a myth?
We already told you the history of weighted blankets. To answer this question, let’s go to science.
The weighted blankets, according to doctors, use Deep Pressure Therapy. Deep Pressure Therapy relaxes the body by putting pressure on some stress points. A weighted blanket evenly applies pressure on the whole body.
Our body’s Autonomic Nervous System controls (ANS) our responses and reactions to stimuli. There are two types of ANS: Sympathetic Nervous System and the Parasympathetic Nervous System.
Sympathetic Nervous System (SNS) is the body’s response to ‘fight, fear, and flight'. It produces a nervous or aggressive response due to the release of hormones that cause an increase in heart rate, and breathing. Imagine you are chased by a hound, your heart will be racing, legs will be running and you will be breathing fast.
Parasympathetic Nervous System (PNS) is the body's response in normal situations. In this, the body remains calm. Like when you are sitting and reading a book. Your heart-rate and breathing will be normal.
Now imagine being in the state of SNS all the time. The people suffering from SPD are mostly in the reacting mode by SNS.
When something soft, and heavy makes wrap their body, they get calm and then from SNS move to PNS.
Hugs are very important to help such people feel safe. The weighted blanket creates a hug-like effect on them. This calms them and relaxes their body. In this state, the body relaxes and releases a hormone called Serotonin. Serotonin helps improve the quality of sleep.
This helps the night restlessness and sleeplessness go away. As a result, the patient and his whole family can relax and have a good night's sleep.
How To Choose The Right Weighted Blanket?
We asked for some tips to help you choose the right weighted blanket for you.
- According to experts, an ideal weighted blanket should weigh 10% of the person’s body weight. For more information look at this size chart or read our complete guide here.
- The blanket should be big enough to cover the whole body to create a uniform effect on the entire body.
- Using a heavier blanket for a little child can be dangerous. Always choose a weighted blanket made especially for kids.
- If you or your kid wants to use a Sensory Blanket all around the house, you can also get a weighted lap blanket that is perfect to use on a couch or chair.
The use of a weighted blanket for sensory issues goes back to ancient days. Today, weighted blankets are available in the mainstream market. But not all heavier weighting blankets can help in treating sensory issues related to Sensory Processing Disorder. It is important to get the therapeutic sensory blanket from a trusted seller to ensure it can be effective for helping you and your loved one have a good night’s sleep.