What Do Weighted Blankets Do?This Article Tells You The Answer
A weighted blanket is a lot more than just a "heavier than normal" blanket. Available in a wide range of weights, sizes and colors, weighted blankets offer therapeutic benefits for a broad number of health conditions, including anxiety, ADD/ADHD, autism and sensory processing disorder. Weighted blankets can also ease the symptoms of depression, insomnia and fibromyalgia. Here is a comprehensive guide to weighted blankets, along with helpful tips for ordering one for you or a loved one.
A weighted blanket provides pressure and sensory input for individuals with autism and other disorders. A weighted blanket can be used as a calming tool or for sleep. The pressure of the blanket provides proprioceptive input to the brain and releases a hormone called serotonin which is a calming chemical in the body.
What Is a Weighted Blanket?
Many people in the autism and sensory processing disorder communities are familiar with Dr. Temple Grandin — one of the foremost experts and researchers on autism and related disorders. During a summer vacation as a teenager, Dr. Grandin observed cattle being led through a squeeze chute as they received vaccinations. Veterinarians had developed the chute as a way to keep the cattle still for their shots. While the squeeze chute did a great job of holding the cows in place, it also noticeably calmed them. Dr. Grandin’s observations — and her personal experiences as someone on the autism spectrum — prompted her to create a similar device for humans.
Hence, her famous “hug machine” or “squeeze machine” was born. As the name implies, the squeeze machine provides gentle, consistent pressure all over the body. It’s similar to a hug without involving the touch of another person. Because many people with autism don’t like to be touched by others, the squeeze machine delivers all of the benefits and soothing of a hug while allowing the autistic person to maintain his or her personal space.
The science behind the squeeze machine is that it mimics deep pressure touch — a type of occupational therapy that has been shown to reduce anxiety in individuals with autism and sensory processing disorder. As Dr. Grandin describes it, “Deep pressure touch has been found to have beneficial effects in a variety of clinical settings.”
Dr. Grandin has studied deep pressure touch in both children and adults. Unlike other researchers, her own experiences with autism and sensory processing disorder give her insight into the effectiveness of deep pressure touch therapy.
For example, she talks about wanting hugs as a child but sometimes being unable to stand the sensation of being touched. “As a child, I craved to feel the comfort of being held, but I would pull away when people hugged me. When hugged, an overwhelming tidal wave of sensation flowed through me. At times, I preferred such intense stimulation to the point of pain, rather than accept ordinary hugs.”
While Dr. Grandin’s squeeze machine revolutionized the way scientists and medical professionals view and treat autism, the machine itself is quite costly to build. Models vary, with some squeeze machines priced at over $6,500. Obviously, this is out of range for most people.
Fortunately, there is a way to replicate the benefits of the squeeze machine without breaking the bank. Research has shown that weighted blankets offer a number of benefits that may help people with autism, sensory processing disorder, insomnia, fibromyalgia and many other health conditions. According to a presentation given by the American Occupational Therapy Association, “Over time, interdisciplinary staff recognized [the weighted blanket’s] influence as an individualized, multi-sensory modality that also appeared to decrease the need for the use of seclusion and restraint.”
What Do Weighted Blankets Do?
Just like Dr. Grandin’s squeeze machine, weighted blankets work by applying gentle pressure throughout the body. By using deep pressure touch, they may also help with an individual’s proprioception — the body’s ability to sense the world through receptors in the skin, muscles and joints. In children and adults with sensory processing disorders, this ability to sense oneself in the world is often compromised.
As Shannon Phelan at North Shore Pediatric Therapy explains, “To get an idea of how the proprioceptive system works, imagine closing your eyes and having someone move your arms to an extended position in front of you. Even though you can’t see them, you can feel that your arms are outstretched. Now if someone were to place 10-pound weights in each hand, your proprioceptive system would signal for you to make one of two decisions. Either let your arms fall to your sides due to the increased force or contract your muscles with greater effort to match it.”
However, people with sensory processing disorders have difficulty with proprioceptive processing. In other words, their senses don’t always give them an accurate reading of their environment. They might bang their head on the ground, deliberately bump into things or prefer to wear clothing that is too tight. It’s common for children who have proprioception challenges to play too rough or stomp their feet when they walk.
Occupational therapists and other health professionals who treat sensory processing disorders frequently recommend proprioceptive input as a strategy for inducing calm and reducing anxiety. Activities may include chewing food that requires a lot of jaw power, pushing and pulling heavier objects and burrowing under a weighted blanket.
Through deep pressure touch, weighted blankets have also been shown to boost serotonin — the “happiness” hormone in the brain. A study conducted by the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine found that individuals who were “grounded” during sleep experienced reductions in their pain, stress and sleep dysfunction. Study participants also had lower levels of cortisone — the stress hormone — in their saliva.
Another study published in the Journal of Occupational Therapy in Mental Health found that weighted blankets are an effective calming tool for sleep. Specifically, researchers saw lower anxiety levels in test subjects who slept under a 30-pound weighted blanket. According to the occupational therapists behind the study, “78% [of study participants] preferred the weighted blanket as a calming modality.”
At a time when weighted blankets bring good sleep to countless families, the wholesale weighted blanket business is also booming. As a manufacturer of weighted blankets, we are deeply impressed. We find that more and more wholesalers have ordered weighted blankets from China in recent years. They trust in our products. If you have similar needs, you can leave us a message. The lowest price, the best weighted blanket, you will be satisfied.
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