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Thread Counting Sheep: Weighted Blankets and Their Potential Benefits

By Michael Ahearn

Sleep; a crucial component for any healthy and productive life. Everyone needs it, but none more so than children. They need it for their developing minds and bodies, but not all children get the sleep they deserve. Whether it’s because of insomnia, anxiety, or from sleep disorders, some children aren’t getting enough sleep, and when your kids aren’t sleeping, neither are you. If you are struggling with this problem, you probably know about weighted blankets, a non-medicated sleep aid that has grown in popularity over the last few years. Maybe you’ve heard from friends or Facebook, but what exactly are weighted blankets and how can they help your family get the sleep they need?

Weighted blankets are exactly what they sound like: blankets with extra weight sown into them. These weights are usually glass beads or plastic pellets, although other substances, such as rice or seeds, have been used. The point of the blanket is to keep weight evenly spread across the body. That weight, according to MedicalNewsToday.com, helps the blanket mimic a hug, which in turn releases serotonin, a neurotransmitter that reduces stress, improves mood, and promotes sleep. In addition to helping someone fall asleep, weighted blankets also help keep them asleep throughout the night.

So, that’s the science behind weighted blankets, but would your child actually benefit from them? To answer that question, I spoke with Alex Connell, Creative Energy Officer at PATTI + RICKY, a website specializing in clothes and accessories for those with disabilities. According to Alex, weighted blankets can help kids with a wide variety of needs, “such as children with sensory issues, anxiety, or those on the autism spectrum.” Even adults with similar issues have benefited from using weighted blankets; Alex herself uses one, and it has improved her overall sleep. But while weighted blankets have helped many, Alex also mentions that they aren’t right for everyone. Some people, especially those who don’t like compression, actually get more stressed under the blanket. It really depends on the individual.

If you think your child or even yourself would benefit from a weighted blanket, however, there are guidelines you have to follow. First and foremost, before getting a weighted blanket, consult with a qualified healthcare professional, such as a doctor or occupational therapist; move forward only after getting their permission and make sure to follow any guidelines they give, such as the correct weight for your child. These recommendations will vary, but some general guidelines include never letting kids under the age of three use a weighted blanket, always making sure your child can easily remove the blanket themselves, never letting the blanket cover the head, and also removing it immediately if there is any discomfort from using. These blankets shouldn’t be used carelessly, but as long as you follow the guidelines, a weighted blanket is a powerful tool.

If you and your child’s doctor have decided that a weighted blanket is right for your situation, there are a few ways to get one. Those with the skill and time can make their own, as long as their blankets match the doctor’s recommended weight. And if the cost seems daunting, check with your insurance; some people have had success with getting their blankets covered as a prescription. These blankets aren’t for everyone and involve more precautions than one would expect, but if you are a parent who has tried everything else, a weighted blanket may be the key to helping your child get the sleep they deserve.

 

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