Weighted Blankets

WHAT IS THE PURPOSE OF WEIGHTED BLANKETS?

It is believed that weighted blankets help to reduce the stress levels experienced and provide the feeling of calmness and relaxation through use of “deep touch pressure”, without the anxiety of physical physical touch – it mimics the sensation of being hugged and can aid the ability to go into a relaxed state and enable better sleep.

It is recognised that gently applied pressure and touch have positive psychological and physical effects. The evenly distributed weight added to a blanket exerts what’s known as “deep pressure stimulation”. Deep pressure stimulation lowers arousal. Research shows us that deep pressure stimulation decreases the activity of the body’s sympathetic nervous system—that’s the system that promotes alertness and vigilance, and responds to stressful stimuli, therefore one could assume that deep pressure has a calming effect on the body.

Some research demonstrates that deep pressure stimulation decreases the activity of the body’s sympathetic nervous system. (The sympathetic nervous system promotes alertness and vigilance, and responds to stressful stimuli),  It’s the “fight or flight” reaction of our nervous system. At the same time, deep pressure stimulation increases activity of the parasympathetic nervous system, (which is sometimes called the “rest and digest” system). When the parasympathetic system is  activated, it lowers heart rate and blood pressure, and promotes feelings of relaxation and calmness.

Weighted blankets are also thought to stimulate the stimulate oxytocin. Oxytocin is a hormone can stimulate feelings of attachment and closeness, and generate a deep sense of calm, it plays a number of roles in the body, from stimulating sexual arousal to encouraging social bonding and parent-child attachment, to reinforcing emotional memories. It also plays a role in  facilitating sleep. This hormone is one of several that’s involved in regulating our sleep-wake cycles. Oxytocin levels go up during sleep, typically peaking during longer periods of REM deep into a night of sleep. A 2017 study found that increasing oxytocin during sleep can increase sleep time and sleep quality, and may reduce the symptoms of obstructive sleep apnoea.

Research shows deep pressure reduces levels of cortisol, an alerting hormone that plays a central role in the body’s stress response. The stimulating effects of cortisol make it difficult to fall asleep and stay asleep throughout the night. An evening drop in cortisol is part of the body’s natural progression toward sleep—but feelings of stress, anxiety, and being wound up can interfere with that natural nightly drop. The gentle pressure of a weighted blanket may help your body with its natural nightly suppression of this stimulating hormone.

Research also shows that deep pressure increases the hormones serotonin a “feel good” hormone that helps keep you in a more relaxed state, day and night. Serotonin helps to stabilize mood and regulate energy levels and also contributes to regulating sleep-wake cycles. A lack of serotonin can lead to depression and anxiety, and to disrupted circadian rhythms. Keeping serotonin levels healthy is one way to encourage healthy, restful, sleep routines.

Serotonin is what’s known as a “precursor” to melatonin, a key hormone that promotes our nightly rest. The body produces melatonin from serotonin through a chemical process; when serotonin levels are deficient, healthy, sleep-promoting levels of melatonin are also at risk.

Autism – One of the symptoms of autism, especially in children, is trouble sleeping. *Again please note there is little scientific study to support this

ADHD – There are very few studies that examine the use of weighted blankets for ADHD, but a similar study was performed using weighted vests. In this study, researchers explain that weighted vests have been used in ADHD therapy to improve attention and reduce hyperactive movements. The study found promising results for participants who used the weighted vest during a continuous performance test. These participants experienced reductions in falling off task, leaving their seat, and fidgeting.

Anxiety – One of the primary uses of a weighted blanket is for the treatment of anxiety. Past research has shown that deep pressure stimulation can help reduce autonomic arousal. This arousal is responsible for the symptoms of anxiety, such as increased heart rate. The researchers also explain that for some of the study participants, lying down may also have helped reduce anxiety. This suggests that using a weighted blanket while lying down may further help reduce anxiety symptoms.

Insomnia & Sleep disorders

Osteoathritis – Massage therapy applies deep pressure to osteoarthritic joints, so it’s possible that similar benefits may be experienced when using a weighted blanket.

Chronic Pain – One of the recommended at-home treatments for chronic pain is massage therapy. It is suggested that the extra pressure of a weighted blanket may help keep the legs in place and reduce feelings of pain in chronic pain conditions.

How to use a weighted blanket

You can use a blanket like you would any other blanket providing it is the correct weight. It should never be forced on a child/adult and they should have the ability to take it off if they wish.

It can help you fall asleep more quickly and sleep better over the course of the night. But it can’t do ALL the work of a good night’s rest. You still need to pay attention to the basics, which are key for healthy sleep:

  • Sticking to a consistent sleep schedule, with regular bedtimes and wake times
  • Avoiding too much light exposure at night
  • Not eating too heavily at night and close to bedtime
  • Consuming alcohol only moderately, and ideally not within a few hours of bed
  • Getting regular exercise
  • Managing stress and supporting mood with relaxation practices, including meditation

Why do Weighted Blankets Help?

Decreases activity in the bodys sympathetic nervous system
Increases activity in the parasympathetic nervous system
Stimulation of oxytocin
Decreased cortisol
Increased serotonin
Increased melatonin

HOW TO MAKE THE BLANKET & CONSIDERATIONS

Blankets can be quite expensive to purchase especially as there is no guarantee of there success so I will try to give you some simple steps to make one yourself for around £20.

The blanket should be 10% plus 1-2 lbs of the child’s weight eg if your child is 5 stone, that’s 70lds so the blanket should be 7lds. The length of the blanket should ideally be the length of the chin to feet and approximately double the width of their body.

It is highly recommended to use washable beads such as celloexpress or Fairfield Fil Poly Pellets 

Weighted blankets can be made from a variety of fabrics. Flannel, fleece, satin, polyester, velvet, and cotton are just a few examples. As with selecting the best size for a weighted blanket, choosing a fabric usually depends on preference. I have found that including the child in their choice of fabric and pattern really helps.

Some things to consider:

Consider Icons - Download Free Vector Icons | Noun Project
  • temperature. For someone who loves to bundle up in warm pajamas or heavy blankets, a fabric that holds in heat may be a good choice, like flannel or fleece.

For someone who breaks out in night sweats or is experiencing hormonal changes like menopause, a lightweight cotton blend may be a better fabric choice.

  • Texture. Some will be  sensitivity to certain fabrics that can influence what type of fabric is needed. For individuals with sensory issues cotton or satin fabrics are often preferred, but everyone is different.

PRECAUTIONS

Check out some jobs specific safety precautions - HSEWatch.com

Children weighing less than 20 pounds should never use a weighted blanket of any kind.

Children and infants under the age of two years-old should not use weighted blankets, even if their body weight exceeds 20 pounds. Children under the age of two do not yet possess the fine motor skills to instinctively adjust heavy blankets. A child could easily become overheated or fail to pull the blanket away from his or her face to breathe.

Children should not use adult-size weighted blankets. A child should be able to pull the blanket on and off easily and without any help. If it is too heavy for a child to manage, it is simply too heavy.

Do not use weighted blankets as a way to restrain children or force them to use it even if they do not want to. Weighted blankets should be independently administered. The goal of Deep Touch Pressure and weighted blankets is a calming effect that comes from a sense of safety. Forcing someone to use a weighted blanket against his or her will is counterproductive and will only cause anxiety, further complicating insomnia and other sleep-related issues.

Precautions should also be taken for children with special needs or developmental delays.

While weighted blankets are widely recommended for kids with sensory-related problems and autism, extra precaution should be taken to ensure that the child is able to maneuver the blanket on his or her own before falling asleep.

No weighted blanket should exceed two pounds more than the recommended 10 percent of body weight for children.

For adults with underlying health issues, particularly the elderly, extra care is needed as well. Make sure that blankets are not too heavy for individuals of advanced age.

Pay special attention to weak arms or legs that may feel trapped under the weight of the blanket or be unable to adjust it properly throughout the night.

As with children, if the weighted blanket is too heavy for an elderly person to administer on his or her own, then it is simply too heavy.

INSTRUCTIONS (From https://www.thesprucecrafts.com/weighted-blanket-diy-4164314)

red and black weighted blanket

Equipment / Tools

  • Kitchen scale
  • Scissors
  • Ruler
  • Tailor’s chalk or your favorite marking tool
  • Pins
  • Sewing machine

Materials

  • Durable fabric for the front and back
  • Plastic filler beads (so the blanket is washable)
  • Quality thread

Determine Your Blanket Size and Weight

A weighted blanket doesn’t have to be as large as a quilt or duvet, ideally chin to feet length. Into the fabric you’ll sew squares that will hold the weighted filler. These can be anywhere from 3 to 5 square inches. That means the overall fabric measurements should be a multiple of your square size plus 4 inches for the edges.

Sew Vertical Channels in the Blanket

Weighted Blanket Supplies

Next, sew all the vertical channels on the marked lines. Starting at the closed bottom edge, begin your stitching just over the line of stitching that’s almost 2 inches from the inner topstitching. End the stitching just over the top 2-inch marking, and be sure to backstitch at the beginning and end.

When sewing these lines, it’s helpful to start at the centre and then sew the next lines near the centre of those sections and so on. Working this way helps to prevent the sewing from getting off track and the fabric from bunching.

Fill a Vertical Channel With Weighted Stuffing Beads

Place a measured scoop of filler beads in a vertical channel. Remember that the scoop should hold the correct weight based on the number of squares that will be in that channel.

Shake the beads, so there is a level amount throughout the channel. Depending on the fabric, some beads might stick in the channels (flannel tends to stick a lot), but don’t worry about that too much. 

top stitching the edges of the weighted blanket

Sew Horizontally Across the Filled Channel

Use pins to form a line to keep the filler beads in place and away from the marked horizontal line for your squares. You don’t want to accidentally sew over one of the beads, as it might break your needle.

Sew the marked horizontal line. Begin just over the line of stitching that’s almost 2 inches from the inner topstitching. End your stitching just over the inner topstitching on the other side and be sure to backstitch at the beginning and end.

As you sew support the weight of the blanket, so it doesn’t pull your stitches. Feel along the marked line as you go and push any stray beads out of the way. If you meet any resistance when sewing, chances are a bead got in the way.

Then, repeat the process of adding filler to a vertical channel and sewing horizontally to close off the row of filled squares until all of the lines are stitched.

filling the channels with beads

Topstitch the Open End of the Blanket

When you reach the top of the blanket, sew the last row of squares closed. This stitching should meet up with the line of inner topstitching, overlapping a tiny bit.

Fold the edges of the open side in about 1/2 inch. Starting and ending where the topstitching ended on the sides, topstitch 1/4 inch from the edge. 

***Normally all topstitching would happen at the end of a project. But because this project gets quite heavy, it’s much easier to do most of the topstitching before adding the filler and then finish off the top at the end.

topstitching the weighted blanket

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