How many new things the modern market offers us, constantly updating its assortment with various and sometimes unusual products. Not so long ago in Russia for the first time they heard about weighted blankets, which have been actively used in medical practice and in everyday life in Europe and America for several years. Already from the name you can roughly imagine the essence of this product, which is an ordinary blanket with increased weight. But what is it: a fashionable trick or a really effective invention that can benefit our body? MedAboutMe looked into what weighted blankets are and what their uses are.
Blanket for a healthy sleep
Weighted blankets, otherwise known as sensory blankets, are products of various sizes designed for sleeping or relaxing. Despite the apparent simplicity of the design, interest in them is growing every year. Sensory blankets are especially popular with parents whose children are not like others and see and feel the world around them differently. We are talking about both young patients with cerebral palsy (CP), autism spectrum disorder (ASD) or other sensory dysfunctions, and children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
Such a blanket consists of several dozen pocket cells filled with special materials for weighting. The role of the weighting agent can mainly be played by a hypoallergenic polymer or buckwheat husk. Today, many manufacturers are experimenting, changing not only the materials used for sewing blankets, but also their fillers. On the modern market, you can find products with various synthetic and vegetable fillers, and even blankets with Himalayan salt used for weighting. In this way, manufacturers are trying to achieve an additional therapeutic effect, but the main effect of weighted blankets is aimed at sensory stimulation of our body.
Tactile sensations play a huge role in the life of the body. They provide an inextricable connection with the world around us, and for young children they are the main source of knowledge about the external environment. Feelings are directly related to the needs of the human body and can act as a kind of regulators. The most significant tactile sensations for a child from the moment of his birth and as he grows up. It has been proven that simple touches on a child’s body stimulate the development of his brain, endocrine and immune systems. Experiments with laboratory rats have shown that if newborn rats are isolated from their mother, they stop growing. The same thing happens with people. Children deprived of maternal care are much more likely to lag behind in development, and the reason for this, in particular, is the lack of sensory stimulation.
Returning to the topic of weighted blankets, it is worth noting that such products can to some extent compensate for the lack of tactile sensations. It is useful not only for children, but also for adults. According to the creators and manufacturers of sensory blankets, sleeping under such a product is akin to a strong mother’s embrace, in which a person can feel completely safe and calm.
What are sensory blankets?
As mentioned above, weighted blankets differ in the type of filling and material they are made from. But one of the most important characteristics of such a product is its weight. The mass of a blanket, depending on its size, can vary on average from 5 to 15 kg. The weight of a suitable product is determined by the person’s body weight. So, for an adult, the weight of the product, which is approximately 15% of his body weight, is considered optimal. When purchasing a sensory blanket for sleeping, a person should first of all focus on their own feelings and comfort.
Also, weighted blankets can have a fixed or adjustable weight:
- The first are products in which the pockets with filler are tightly sewn up and connected to each other. Such blankets are more affordable, but not practical enough to use. When buying a product with a fixed weight, a person cannot be sure that he will be comfortable sleeping under it. Also, there are certain difficulties with the care of such blankets, because washing a 7–15-kilogram product in a typewriter is impossible, but it is very difficult to do it by hand.
- On weight-adjustable duvets, each pocket is equipped with a zipper, which allows you to adjust the amount of filler and wash the product without it. Using such weighted blankets, a person can change the filler, choosing, for example, a polymeric material for the summer, and a natural one (for example, buckwheat), which has warming properties, for the winter. Also, thanks to the adjustable weight, you can distribute the load on the body during sleep, taking into account your own preferences and feelings.
Having decided to buy a weighted blanket, you need to choose a trusted manufacturer who uses only safe and hypoallergenic materials for sewing and filling products.
Sleeping under a weighted blanket and health: what’s the connection?
In America and many European countries, sensory blankets have long been used in:
- psychiatric practice, where they help people with various mental disorders improve sleep quality and calm down;
- treatment of drug problems, in which sensory blankets help patients to more calmly experience the state of “withdrawal”;
- dentistry in order to reduce stress for patients with a panic fear of dental treatment.
A weighted blanket acts on the body with what is called deep pressure, which affects the proprioceptors and sends certain impulses to the brain, increasing the production of the hormones serotonin, dopamine and endorphins — all of which are sometimes called “pleasure hormones”. In other words, the sensory blanket allows the brain to understand where the body is and provide the optimal load on it during sleep and rest.
Using a weighted blanket for sleeping allows a person to relax and calm down. And what could be better for health than sound sleep?
According to the developers and manufacturers of such miracle blankets, their use can be effective in autism and cerebral palsy (ICP), Alzheimer’s and Tourette’s diseases, Rett’s, Ekbom’s and Asperger’s syndromes, schizophrenia, epilepsy and many other diseases. Also, with the help of sensory blankets, you can fight various phobias. Their long-term use brings the level of the hormone cortisol back to normal, has a positive effect on the work of the cardiovascular system, brain, etc.
- With cerebral palsy, a weighted blanket can reduce spasticity, and with hyperkinesis or atony, it can regulate muscle tone.
- For those with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), sleeping under such a blanket helps to relax and calm down, as well as improve concentration.
- For patients diagnosed with autism, the use of a sensory blanket helps to reduce anxiety and normalize the emotional background.
Of course, the sensory blanket is not a panacea in the treatment of various diseases and disorders, but its use in combination with drugs and other non-drug methods increases the effectiveness of therapy.
Are there any contraindications for using sensory blankets?
When planning to buy a weighted blanket, it is best to consult a doctor first. The specialist will help you determine the appropriate weight of the product and eliminate the presence of contraindications to its use. The latter include diseases of the cardiovascular and respiratory systems. It is also not recommended to use sensory blankets for people with impaired thermoregulation.
Baby sensory blankets can be used from the age of three. And then when choosing a product, you need to make sure that the child does not have difficulties during sleep, and at any time he can fold the blanket on his own.
Particular attention when choosing a blanket should be paid to the characteristics of its filler. It should be eco-friendly and hypoallergenic.
Who makes sensory blankets?
Today, many companies offer tailoring of weighted blankets to order. You can also buy a finished product using the search on the Internet. But it is best to give preference to trusted manufacturers who can guarantee the quality and safety of their products. The cost of products depends on their size, weight and type of filler. Here is an example of three popular manufacturers of weighted blankets, whose products are presented on the Russian market:
The manufacturer’s assortment includes products with filler “Owl balls” (synthetic) or buckwheat. The size of the blankets ranges from 83x122 to 197x198 cm, weight — from 3.3 to 14.1 kg
The production itself is located in St. Petersburg, but the delivery of blankets is possible throughout Russia, as well as to foreign countries. The company uses polypropylene and buckwheat husk as fillers for sensory blankets. The sizes of products vary from 80x110 to 200x200 cm, and weight — from 4 to 17 kg
The dimensions of the products range from 85x125 — 200x200 cm, weight — 4.3–15.4 kg. Filler — buckwheat husk or polymer
In addition to blankets, many manufacturers offer other products for sensory stimulation, such as wraps, scarves, toys, vests, etc.