Both adults and children can benefit from the weighted blanket therapy. According to research, anxiety affects approximately twenty percent of the world’s population. Fortunately, anxiety is one of the easiest treatable mental disorder. Even though, only forty-five percent seek medical treatment, thanks to the weighted blankets many are able to solve their problems right in their bedroom.
What is a weighted blanket used for?
A weighted blanket is a heavy blanket. However, there is a lot more to a weighted blanket than just its weight. The weighted blanket should weigh anything from five to twenty-five pounds. The most popular criteria for choosing a weighted blanket is that it should be about 10 percent of the user’s body weight. The size also changes with weight; for example, a 20-pound blanket is longer than a 10 –pound blanket.
The blankets provide deep pressure touch that help promote relaxation thus reducing the amount of cortisol the body produces. Cortisol is a hormone that the body produces when the brain thinks of an attack. Deep pressure provided by the blankets triggers the release of serotonin and dopamine the main neurotransmitters that makes your body relax and feel good.
Why does a weighted blanket work?
Such blankets exert deep pressure that in return stimulates specific tactile receptors in the skin and each time one moves in the blankets. A deep pressure sensation is vital in calming you and helping your body balance the hormones responsible for a good night sleep.
The weighted blanket feel like a hug thus stimulating a chemical hormone called oxytocin. Oxytocin acts on the nerves to decrease anxiety and increase the ability of the body to fight off episodes of increased blood pressure and infections.
There are various studies in the past which show that weighted blankets are beneficial to individuals with different sleeping and psychiatry disorders. Research conducted in 2015 showed that they decrease the body activity during one’s sleep hence lengthening their average sleeping time. Here are other reasons as to the weighted blankets work:
1. They make you reluctant about moving around during sleep.
The blankets are huge enough to cover an adult’s entire body. A weighted blanket may seem like four duvets compressed into one. Even though the weighted blanket doesn’t pin you down entirely, it restricts your movements significantly thus helping decrease episodes of sleep disorders like insomnia.
2. They chase anxiety.
Weighted blankets may make you feel safer each time you feel anxious. The blanket helps you fall asleep quicker than you may think.
3. They help you sleep for longer
Because your movement is restricted, you quickly find yourself sleeping for an extended period than usual.
How big does a weighted blanket need to be?
First, you have to understand that a weighted blanket is made to fit the body and not the bed. The blanket is to lie on the bed without hanging on the sides as a normal blanket does. Because the blanket is weighted, it may trouble you the whole night trying to save it from sliding into the floor.
Your weighted blanket can be folded and kept in the bedroom as décor during the day and be used at night. Alternatively you can fold it and keep it in the drawer.
Body weight Blanket weight
20-40lbs 3-6 lbs
30-50 lbs 4-7lbs
50-70 lbs 6-9lbs
90-110 lbs 8-11lbs
140-160 lbs 13-14lbs
What should I consider before buying a weighted blanket?
The main factors that differentiate the types of blankets in the market are the fabric and what is used to weigh down the blankets. Consider the factors below before finally paying for that blanket:
This depends on an individual. Some blankets are made up of cotton while others are made of dotted fabric. It is important to get the reviews of past users about a specific fabric. This is essential if you happen to be buying one for sensory issues, the blanket fabric may better or worsen your experience.
Fabric weight: Experts recommend that the fabric weight should be able to hold the beads in place. It should also not be too thick to sew. Light materials include fleece, satin and polyester.
Fabric touch: How does the fabric feel on the hands? The softer fabrics feel great on the skin. Weighted blanket should be soft enough to sooth the skin. Cotton is the most recommended fabric for a soft feel. Fleece combined with satin also make a great weighted blanket.
Fabric stretch: A stretchy material is breathable, therefore able to allow enough air to circulate properly. Although polyester is a bit stretchy, the truth of the matter is, it does not allow free circulation of air.
Fabric combination: Different fabrics when combined give an excellent design. You can buy a blanket with cotton or satin at the bottom side because these fabrics feel softer than the rest of the market
2. Weighing material
Most manufacturing companies use safe materials to weigh down the blankets. The most common materials used are the steel shot beads, glass beads, and poly-pellets. You may also use rice and barley or whatever that suits you better.
3. Distribution of weight
Another critical factor to consider before buying a weighted blanket is how well the blankets maintain an even distribution of weight. For example, if the blanket is made up of beads that move around, all weight may end up at one side. You can only solve this by stitching pockets into the blankets and distributing weight uniformly in the pockets.
4. Machine washable or not?
You have to check if the blanket you are about to buy is machine washable or not. Blankets vary in fabrics, because of this you need to ask the seller if your blanket will be washable at home or shall be needed to be taken to a dry cleaner.
Can you wash your weighted blanket?
Yes and no. It all depends on the instructions from the manufacturer. Weighted blankets are made of different fabrics, and because of this, you may need to take your blanket to a dry cleaner or simply have to clean it at home. Therefore consult widely on the means of washing the weighted blanket you intend to buy.
Do I need an occupational therapist to get a weighted blanket?
Do you need the help of an occupational therapist to acquire a weighted blanket? Even though it is a good practice for a therapist to pick blankets for their clients, it may not always be necessary. However, since a weighted blanket is part of therapy, some manufacturing companies may need you to be accompanied by an occupational therapist for weighted blanket purchase.
How to care for your weighted blanket at home
After snuggling in your weighted blanket, you need these tips to care for it to last you longer. Here are tips to help you care for the blanket as needed:
- Wash your blanket separately in cold water with a soft, gentle detergent. Do not add chlorine or any bleach.
- If you choose to hang your blanket, hang it uniformly over the laundry line or tub so that the blanket maintains its shape. It is advised that you hang the blanket from one edge. Because of most washing machine spin and remove excess water, drying may not take long.
- Do not wash your blanket at home if it is more than 20lbs. It is wise to take the blanket to a larger washing machine so that you do not cause breakage on yours back at home.
- Do not use harsh chemical reagents on your blankets. Use gentle detergent. Only consider non-chlorine bleach and fabric softener when necessary. Chlorine breaks down the fabric in the blankets while fabric softeners tend to build up in the blanket thus making it less soft.
- Avoid ironing your blanket. Most of the blankets are made up of cotton and beads. Even though it would be nice to hide some wrinkles from the blanket, ironing is not the way to go. It is recommended that you dry the blanket properly by hanging it proportionally the wrinkles tend to be less.
What should I do if I accidentally spill on my weighted blanket?
The best advice for this is to find a way of dealing with the stains before putting the blanket in the dryer. If you dry the blanket with its stains, you shall have it baked permanently. Use soft non-chlorinated bleach to clean stains from the blanket.
SOURCES AND REFERENCES
- Do weighted blankets improve sleep in Autism Spectrum Disorder?(March 2015)
- Weighted blankets for anxiety (June 2016)