Some have called it a secret weapon because of the natural calming effect that it can have on high-energy children. But the weighted blanket can be important for adults as well for exactly the same reason. According to Dr. Temple Grandin, this seemingly simple technique can effectively calm and soothe individuals who may be overstimulated or who feel that their nervous system is frayed beyond their ability to control.
Weighted Blanket For Adults
Use of the weighted blanket for adults owes its origin to research using these special blankets to counteract the need for sensory stimulation in children. Children who have been diagnosed on the autism spectrum often seek stimulation, which is displayed in such actions as the random flapping of the arms and so on. The weighted blanket provides the stimulation they seek by delivering constant pressure on the body.
Basically, the pressure of a weighted blanket on the body meets the need for physical sensation and, in the case of a child or an adult, has a calming effect on the individual. Adults dealing with anxiety caused by autism or a sensory processing disorder find relief from this same consistent pressure. According to medical research, this consistent pressure and touch help the brain release serotonin, an important chemical in the brain. Serotonin is essential in the regulation of mood and for healthy sleep.
Need for Stimulation
For an adult with anxiety, dementia, or serious difficulties with sleep associated with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), the blanket can provide much-needed benefits. The list of conditions for which weighted blankets find use includes seizure disorder, fibromyalgia, restless leg syndrome, Alzheimer’s Disease, dementia, insomnia, traumatic brain injury, sensory processing disorder and shift-work sleep issues.
A weighted blanket for adults has been used with military personnel stationed around the world and has also been employed with returning veterans who experience PTSD. The blanket may be used at specific times such as at bedtime to help induce sleep. The individual can leave the blanket in place all night or may remove it if he or she so chooses. The key factor is to leave the blanket in place as long as it provides a calming effect.
Experience has shown there are no negative effects from leaving the blanket on for longer periods of time. Some adults and older children have described the effect as similar to getting a hug from a caring person. It’s important to have a blanket of proper weight, with 10% of the individual’s body weight as a reliable guideline. Weight can be added or subtracted according to the individual’s preference.
For the first few uses, it’s best not to leave the weighted blanket on a person who is unattended. This is, of course, especially important for children, though adults may feel uncomfortable as well when they first begin using a blanket. It’s important the blanket does not keep the individual from moving as freely as he or she wishes. They should be able to remove it themselves without struggling. Use should never be forced and the person should not be tightly wrapped in the weighted blanket.
There are several basic guidelines to follow when using an adult weighted blanket or a blanket for children. As a general rule, the blanket should weigh 10% of the user’s body weight plus one pound. If the doctor or therapist has recommendations for use by a specific person, these guidelines should be followed. The key is to provide a consistent pressure without discomfort or keeping the individual from moving freely.
No matter what the age of the individual using the blanket, it’s important to have the purpose explained clearly. A blanket must be used as a part of the important therapy and should never cause fear or alarm because of its weight. Quality blankets use non-toxic, hypo-allergenic pellets to provide weight, so there are no dangerous elements. However, it’s important to inspect the blanket to make sure these pellets do not spill from a tear or rip in the fabric.
Quality products in this category generally use 100% natural cotton for the covering, which makes them safe and comfortable. Cotton also helps avoid overheating. There is little chance of suffocation or other risks with quality blankets, and this is a major factor in making the blankets safe for younger individuals.
Proper use of the weighted blanket provides coverage from the neck to the feet. The head and face should not be covered. Try to ensure there is a well-distributed, consistent pressure on the entire body for best results. Remember that younger users said they felt as though they were being hugged. If the individual is agitated, it’s important to make sure the blanket covers the entire body.
A weighted blanket for adults can also be used on the shoulders, similar to a poncho or shawl. You may also want to try it as a lap blanket for preventative use. This has been recommended by some therapists for children and may be effective for adults, too. The traditional use of weighted blankets for children experiencing sensory disorders has gradually widened into use by adults experiencing severe anxiety, PTSD, and other conditions.
Although weighted blankets were originally used for autistic individuals, it has also proven to be effective in dozens of different cases. Users have reported being able to sleep more soundly when using the weighted blanket and have also said they wake up feeling generally better and more focused. Special needs teachers have found this type of blanket to be quite therapeutic for their students.
The extra pressure on the body during periods of rest and sleep can have a positive effect on individuals of all ages. Doctors and therapists have become outspoken advocates of using what they call “deep touch” pressure to calm and soothe special needs children and adults. This may not be magic in the true sense of the word, but it is very effective.