By now, you've likely heard the claim that weighted blankets reduce anxiety and promote better sleep. But is it true? If so, can a weighted blanket help a child with anxiety? Childhood anxiety is sadly increasing and parents are scrambling to find solutions. Can weighted blankets reduce stress and anxiety, or is it just a fad?
The Prevalence of Anxiety Disorders in Childhood is On the Rise.
Anxiety disorders are the most common type of mental health disorder in childhood. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, about 8% of all children and adolescents are diagnosed with anxiety. These statistics have risen over the years and many children are quickly placed on medication in response. While medication may be appropriate for some children with anxiety, it isn't the only option.
Can Weighted Blankets Help Anxiety? Let’s See.
I’ve read that a weighted blanket can help ease stress and anxiety and wondered if that could possibly be true. I tend to lean towards science rather than fads, so of course I researched before getting one. I found quite a bit of info supporting the use of weighted blanket for anxiety and was intrigued. When ours arrived, I tried it out by placing it on my lap as I worked. For science, of course.
The blanket came in at the perfect time. I had just started a new teaching position and was stressed out of my mind. If anybody had anxiety to alleviate, it was me. This blanket from Everyday Educate is designed for children, but I figured I’d give it a go.
My Results with the Weighted Blanket
Weighted blankets are meant to be 10% of your body weight, and at 6 pounds, this one is definitely not my size. But even so, the results were stunning. Seriously. Who knew that a kids’ blanket could help ease MY anxiety? I’ve studied and written about sensory input before (Read my post about Accommodating Sensory Issues here), but this was my first time trying out a weighted blanket on myself. I felt less fidgety and more focused. I found myself sitting for longer periods of time and getting more
When I sat on the couch with it, I actually fell asleep. In the middle of the day. Unheard of.
But this isn’t about me. Let’s talk about the kids, since, you know, it’s supposed to be for them and all. I was reluctant to share my new favorite blanket, but when they got home from school, I was eager to see how they would respond to it.
My older son, Joey, has had trouble sleeping since he was born. When he was a baby, we called him the “Sleepless Wonder.” He’s 8 years old now and I’m still convinced that he just syphons energy off of me. It’s as if he can’t just settle down and relax. In addition to his odd sleeping needs, he seems to have a touch of anxiety at times. I wanted to see what a weighted blanket could do for him.
When the boys got home, I placed the blanket on Joey while he did his homework. He snuggled right up with it and seemed content. But not for long, because my younger son, Tommy noticed it and pulled it off him. Typical. But to my surprise, Tommy’s eyes instantly looked sleepy and I could see a sense of calm come over him right away. Amazing.
Tommy especially loves the sensory sack from Everyday Educate, so it shouldn’t have been a surprise that he would react so well to the weighted blanket. He responds well to deep pressure input and as one might expect, the weighted blanket calms him right down every time.
Weighted Blanket vs. The Sleepless WonderWe already know that the weighted blanket helps me sleep. And it calms Tommy down. But about the Sleepless Wonder? Here are the results.
While the blanket does help Joey settle down, it doesn’t make him sleepy like it does with Tommy and me. I’ve noticed that he does fall asleep faster with it at night though. He normally gets up several times at night and takes a long while to doze off. However, when he sleeps with the weighted blanket, he stays in bed and falls asleep much more quickly. Major win. I wish I had this blanket years ago.
The Scientific Reason Behind How Weighted Blankets Work
Weighted blankets provide deep touch pressure therapy (DTP), which can help regulate the nervous system. DTP is firm pressure or compression that comes from activities like hugging, squeezing, holding, rubbing, cuddling, etc. It's a form of proprioceptive input that increases our dopamine and serotonin levels (our body's "happy" chemicals). Weighted blankets promote a calming effect by providing deep pressure to our sensory input system.
There’s something about this blanket that I must mention. When I opened the weighted blanket, I paused at the washing instructions. The cover is hand wash only. I made a mental note to be extra careful with it. A week later, those ended up being the words that flashed through my mind as my cup tipped over, spilling coffee all over our beloved blanket.
Confession: I threw the cover straight into the washing machine without even putting it on a gentle cycle. I don’t recommend doing that, well, since the insert specifically says not to. Consider me a rule breaker. I crossed my fingers and hoped for the best.
The verdict: The cover came out of the washing machine in perfect shape. The textured dots are still as dotty as ever. And the photos on this blog post? They were all taken after The Spill, not before. I didn’t put the actual weighted blanket into the washing machine. I’m not crazy. I just wiped it down and it was fine. Phew.
One thing is clear. Weighted blankets are not just a fad. I can personally attest to the benefits of using a weighted blanket, both with children and adults. I've seen it with my own eyes and it is indeed backed by science: Weighted blankets can absolutely help alleviate stress and anxiety.
Christy is a college instructor from New Jersey with a background in special education. Check out her blog Exceptional Thinkers for teaching tips and more. Follow her on Facebook and Instagram. You can also find all of her teaching resources in her TPT shop, Exceptional Thinkers.
Keep teaching. Keep learning.
The Kids’ Responses to the Weighted Blanket