A Weighted Blanket Helped My Son's Sleep Issues

by Wendy Wisner
Originally Published: 
Wendy Wisner

For a couple years now, I’d been hearing about weighted blankets, and each time I heard about them, I thought to myself, “My son should try one.”

Ever since my son (now a tween) was a baby, he’s been kind of a live wire. He’s been hard to put to sleep, and still takes a while to unwind. And when he gets upset, he can go from zero to 100 in about a minute. It can be hard to bring him down from that place of tension and stress.

Given his nature, he’s always found it soothing to be wrapped up in a couple of blankets (“like a burrito,” we’d say when he was younger), and so, when I told him that our family had the opportunity to try a weighted blanket, he was totally on board with the experiment.

If you haven’t heard of weighted blankets before, they’re actually a pretty simple and rather ingenious concept. They look just like regular blankets. The material used for the blankets vary, but can be anything from chenille, cotton, flannel, or fleece. Woven into the blankets are little micro-pellets that give them some weight. We got our sample blanket from The Magic Blanket company, which asked for my son’s height and weight in order to customize the blanket for his body. Very cool.

On their website, the Magic Blanket peeps explain that weighted blankets have been known to help with issues like sensory processing disorder, anxiety, Asperger’s syndrome, ADHD, and Rett syndrome. The blankets are supposed to “generate proprioceptive input” to our bodies, which is theorized to cause to brain to “release neurotransmitters like serotonin, dopamine, among others.”

And it’s not just this company trying to get you to buy their blankets. Numerous studies have backed up these claims. A 2008 study published in Occupational Therapy in Mental Health found that weighted blankets reduced anxiety in 63% of participants, and 78% reported that they preferred the blankets as a “calming modality.” And a pilot study from 2012 published in Australas Psychiatry reported individuals who tried weighted blankets showed “significantly greater reductions in distress and clinician-rated anxiety than those who did not.”

My son’s custom-made weighted blanket arrived a few weeks ago, and he’s been using it ever since. At first, he was concerned that it was too heavy. He’s sensitive to heat at night, and he thought that the blanket might overheat him. Luckily, that has not been the case at all. The blanket just feels like gentle pressure to him, and not excessive weight or heat.

“They are quite comfortable,” my son told me (yes, he felt very important because he got to be interviewed!). “They’re less hot than you’d think. They have a good middle ground between being too warm or too cold because in the winter it wasn’t too cold and in the spring it’s not too hot.”

And if my super-picky son can vouch for that, it must be true.

Next came the real test. Would the weighted blanket help him sleep, and would it calm him down when he was stressed?

We’ve had the blanket for a little over a month, and the answer to those questions are a resounding YES! Well, for the most part.

“It’s surprisingly helpful at helping you go to sleep,” says my son. However, he says, once he’s asleep it doesn’t really help him stay asleep.

Honestly, I’ll take what I can get. And that’s a pretty big win in my book.

As for whether or not it helps him de-stress, that was an even more affirmative response from him. I’ve even actually witnessed him go get the blanket when he seems unhappy, curl up in it, and start to settle down.

“When I was stressed it helped me get less stressed,” said my son, adding, “If you have really strong feelings, it won’t completely fix them, but it does as much as is reasonable.”

Pretty awesome, right? (And isn’t my son just adorably thoughtful?)

My review as a mom is pretty similar to my son’s. It’s not that weighted blankets are some kind of cure-all to everything that’s ailing you. But they are a great soothing mechanism to have in your toolkit. I like that the blanket has opened up a conversation for my son and me about emotions and self-care. It’s a good way for him to gauge how he’s feeling and to learn that there are tools out there to help him manage the “big feelings.”

And you know what else? I have spent a little time under his weighted blanket myself. It may not be sized and fitted for me exactly, but I don’t care. It is just so damn comfortable and cozy. I feel like I’m wrapped up in a little cocoon, and I never want to get out. Too bad things like parenting, laundry, and adulting exist—otherwise I’d just stay under that blanket forever.

Editors may receive samples and/or a share from purchases made via links on this page. All opinions are our own. Always.

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