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Do Weighted Blankets Help Neurodivergent Kids Sleep Better?

Updated: Jan 30

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A neurodivergent child under a blue printed weighted blanket

Weighted blankets have been around for a long time, but most people haven’t even heard of them. They haven’t made waves like over-the-counter sleeping medications and meditation apps. And there's a good reason for that — weighted blankets are amazing. I can't imagine anyone being more obsessed with weighted blankets than neurodivergent kids and teens. That's because weighted blankets are essential for those battling sensory overload and anxiety. You’d probably be asking, are weighted blankets safe? How do these weighted blankets work? How much should you use? Does it matter if you have a lot of sensory input disorder or not? What's the difference between a weighted blanket and a comforter or duvet cover? And how do you choose one?

What is a weighted blanket?

Weighted blankets are a type of sensory product that is used to provide deep pressure stimulation.

Deep pressure stimulation is the act of applying firm but gentle squeezing, hugs, or holding that relaxes the nervous system. This pressure can be applied with your hands, special massage tools, or products that your child can wear or wrap around themselves to provide pressure.

Done properly, this therapy triggers a chain reaction in the body that releases an overall sense of calm and peace. It's also been found to help improve focus and concentration levels in kids who typically struggle with staying focused during schoolwork and would otherwise be susceptible to falling asleep at their desks! Not only does it help them get more restful sleep; but it also helps keep them awake during schoolwork hours so they can focus on getting better grades.

How does a weighted blanket work?

It is often made of polyester fiberfill or cotton and polyester batting that has been quilted or sewn into the desired thickness. Weighted blankets are filled with small pellets or beads that are evenly distributed throughout the blanket. These materials are used to provide extra pressure on the body and make the person feel more grounded.

Weighted blankets are designed in much the same way as a tight swaddle and have been heralded for their ability to create a sense of security. This is said to help people fall asleep more quickly by promoting comfort.

A weighted blanket uses deep pressure stimulation which is thought to stimulate the production of a mood-boosting hormone (serotonin), reduce the stress hormone (cortisol) and increase levels of melatonin, a sleep-promoting hormone. One reason they are uniquely effective as a sleep aid is because they make you feel heavier than you do when you're lying on cotton sheets.

Are weighted blankets safe for neurodivergent children and teens?

The short answer is yes, weighted blankets are a safe option for any child. They can help them get a better night's sleep, improve their moods, and even develop a more positive view of themselves.

A recent study published in the journal Research Gate highlights the importance of good quality sleep for neurodiverse kids. The study found that poor quality sleep increases the risk of behavioral problems in ADHD and children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD). In addition, poor quality sleep can increase aggression in ADHD teens, as well as cause them to act out during school hours. The study also showed that neurodivergent kids who experience chronic fatigue might benefit from using a weighted blanket, as it can improve their quality of sleep by helping them relax and fall asleep more quickly.

Weighted blankets are not just for neurodivergent kids - they can also be used by anyone who suffers from insomnia or other sleep issues. Weighted blankets have been shown to increase feelings of relaxation and reduce stress levels, which can help people fall asleep faster so they don't wake up feeling groggy or irritable during the day.

A sleeping neurodivergent child under a blue compression sheet

Sensory Compression Sheet for Kids

(Alternative for Weighted Blankets during Summer days)

How do I choose the correct weight for a weighted blanket?

Weighted blankets can be used for children as young as 3 months old (or even younger). They're beneficial if your child has trouble falling asleep on their own or if they're having trouble calming down before bedtime. However, they are not recommended for infants under 15 months old because they could get stuck under the blanket and suffocate on themselves or develop bedwetting problems due to the tightness around their legs (which is why many parents start using them when their baby starts crawling).

Please take note of the following:

- Don't use a weighted blanket if it's too heavy or too small. It's best to start with something light enough so that your child can comfortably move the fabric around on their body without it being too heavy or restrictive. An easy way to pick the best weight for your weighted blanket is to use the 10% rule. For example, if you weigh 170 pounds, it's a safe bet that you will want a 17-pound weighted blanket.

- Your child may have trouble getting used to the weight of the blanket at first, so be patient with them and make sure they're getting enough rest before you introduce it into their routine.

- Make sure your child is covered in their individual blanket. Don't lay it over your child just like a blanket, since it can restrict their breathing.

- Choose the appropriate weighted blanket size. Cant’s decide what size? Simply have to ask yourself – when will I be using my weighted blanket? Is it for day-to-day sleeping? If so, a standard blanket that will fit on your mattress will suffice.

Are you looking for something to use when traveling? If so, a weighted shoulder wrap is best. It's like a weighted blanket but only covers your shoulders.

A heavier blanket can be much larger than a lighter one, so if you're looking for something to cover both you and your partner, it might be an idea to look into weights designed for a couple of sizes.

Lastly, you want to choose the fabric that is right for you. There are 3 types of fabrics typically used when constructing weighted blankets – cotton, fleece, and flannel. The fabric that you choose will affect the weight of your blanket, the ease of care and cleaning, as well as its softness. For example, flannel is very breathable and a good choice for a blanket with heavy filling material so it’s easy to clean. Fleece, on the other hand, is typically used for weighted blankets with lighter materials like cotton or silk.

I hope to have given you a good idea of what a weighted blanket is, how it can help neurodiverse children and teens manage anxiety and sensory processing as well aid in their sleeping problems, and what factors one must consider when purchasing a weighted blanket for a neurodivergent child or teen.

Before you purchase a weighted blanket for your child, please consult a medical professional first. Do you have any experience with weighted blankets? Feel free to leave a comment below!


➡️ Hyperactivity At Bedtime? Try these Strategies to Help Your Child

➡️ How Can I Help My Child with Sensory Issues to Sleep?

➡️ How Light Therapy Helps Your Neurodiverse Child to Have Better Sleep

You can watch a FREE MASTERCLASS here 👇

I have dedicated my career to helping families and children with sleep-related issues. My passion for this work was born out of the struggles my own children faced as they grew up—and continues today as I work with other families who are fighting the same battles. Read more about my story here, and contact me to schedule a complimentary 15-minute consultation to discuss how The Slumber Academy can help you with your child's sleep concerns.

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