It may seem that every gift guide out there this holiday season was pushing some sort of weighted or gravity blanket. Touted as a relaxation and sleep aide, these blankets appear to be the newest, hippest thing on the market.
However, the idea of using a blanket with extra weight to provide relief from stress or anxiety is really not a new idea at all, and they have been used in therapeutic settings for years before blowing up as a hot product.
“A weighted blanket is really any blanket with more than typical weight, really anything that gives even pressure,” said Barbara DeMattero, a physical therapist with Pathways Pediatric Therapy in Keene. “When people say weighted blanket, what they are referring to typically has beads sewn into channels so they stay.”
Although weighted blankets are wildly popular right now, the idea of using pressure or compression to soothe has been around for quite some time. DeMatteo noted that alternative choices are older, heavy quilts, wool blankets or quilted coverlets. Other options include compression garments, or for younger children, cuddling with a parent for a bedtime story followed by a tight good night tuck.
“What you are looking for is an even pressure,” DeMatteo said. “It will go through the nervous system and the body will accommodate the even pressure, so it helps it to calm down. Some people can’t filter out a lot of sensory input and their system won’t dampen that input. But under the influence of pressure, the system can filter out that diverting sensory stimuli.”
“When researching ways to make these blankets I discovered that in order for it to be most effective, the blanket shouldn’t extend more than six inches past the feet so that the majority of the weight is centered on the body,” said Elizabeth Lowe, owner of Worth the Weight Design out of Bartlett. “When determining the weight of the blanket it should be 10 percent of someone’s body weight and can be increased by an extra one to two pounds from there if desired.
“I chose to use 100 percent cotton, fleece, flannel or minky for fabrics because they are fun and provide a variety of options depending on the sensory needs of the child. Then I looked at what I could use for weight in the blankets.
“My choices were glass beads or poly (plastic) pellets. Knowing my children and the type of wear that the blankets might get, I went with the poly pellets. I felt it would be a little safer if the blanket ever got a rip or tear in it and leaked some out,” Lowe continued.
“As a mom of children with ADHD and Sensory Processing Disorder, I have seen the struggle my children go through each day. So many children with ADHD are misunderstood and their behavior is associated with lack of discipline and structure when they work really hard to maintain control every day. This can lead to a lot of negative feedback which can add extra stress and anxiety to their lives,” Lowe said.
“When I made weighted blankets for my children they started sleeping more soundly at night, which led to easier mornings and more positive moods. In school, my daughter regularly asks to use a weighted lap pad to help her sit still and stay focused during story time or other group activities. When my son is feeling overwhelmed at school he loves to wrap up in a weighted blanket because it feels like a big hug and helps him to calm down.”
“With children, anybody whose child is hopping up and down, or restless or can’t seem to settle might benefit from using a weighted blanket,” DeMatteo said. “But I really emphasize that you always want to be looking for underlying issues. The blanket can be a tool that can help bridge while finding what is overstimulating the system, whether it is screen time, or what they are eating with sugar or juice or processed food, or some are sensitive to an electromagnetic field.
“There are no magic bullets and there is a need to be open to trying different options. Parents want to take away things that are irritating and add those that are calming,” DeMatteo added. “A weighted blanket is something that could help everyone.”
Wanting to help more than her own two children is what spurred Lowe to open a shop on Etsy.
“When I realized that I could help so many other people, I decided to start making weighted blankets and lap pads,” she said. “Being able to provide a ‘tool’ to be more successful was important to me and I wanted to provide support for other parents that were looking to help their children as well.”
Parents should always consult with a physician, or physical or occupational therapist regarding care for their child’s sensory or anxiety issues or ADHD diagnosis.
To shop Worth the Weight Design, visit etsy.com/shop/WorthTheWeightDesign.