Therapists often recommend that people with autism use weighted blankets for sleep and relaxation.
But what is a weighted blanket? And how does it help?
What is a Weighted Blanket?
A weighted blanket is exactly what it says: a blanket that is filled with beads or pellets to make it heavier than an ordinary blanket.
Many people on the autism spectrum find this extra weight comforting.
This is because weighted blankets cause Deep Pressure Touch on your body. And Deep Pressure Touch causes physical changes in your body that calm anxiety and help you sleep.
It simply feels like a hug.
So, let’s look more closely at how Deep Pressure Touch works.
The Deep Pressure Touch caused by a weighted blanket is a firm but gentle pressure. It acts on the two parts of your central nervous system to calm and soothe you.
How Deep Pressure Touch Works
The first part of your body’s central nervous system is called the sympathetic nervous system. This is the “fight or flight” response. Your sympathetic nervous system is in charge of your body whenever you are stressed, anxious or facing a dangerous situation.
You will feel extremely tired, perpetually highly anxious, stressed and overwhelmed if your sympathetic nervous system is in control of your body for long time periods.
Deep Pressure Touch Calms Your Body in Three Stages
Deep Pressure Touch switches off the sympathetic nervous system and removes those feelings of agitation, fear, stress or anxiety.
It then switches on the second part of your central nervous system: the parasympathetic nervous system.
The parasympathetic nervous system calms both your mind and your body. It works to slow your heart rate, your breathing and relaxes your muscles.
This brings feelings of peace and calm.
Then, the parasympathetic system also releases endorphins. These are the “feel good” hormones that exercise triggers.
Lastly, the parasympathetic system releases neurotransmitters that also lift the mood.
These include serotonin. Serotonin helps you sleep. It also regulates memory, appetite, digestion, mood and social behaviour.
How Does a Weighted Blanket Help Someone with Autism?
Therapists endorse using weighted blankets to help people with autism because they:
- Help you sleep better;
- Make you feel less anxious;
- May reduce the frequency and length of meltdown episodes;
- Can improve transition time between activities; and
- Give sensory input.
Let’s unpack each of these in turn.
Weighted Blankets Help you Sleep Better
The Deep Pressure Touch provided by weighted blankets help people with autism sleep better in three ways.
- The calming effect makes you feel less anxious. And so, it is easier to go to sleep and stay asleep.
- Serotonin helps people fall asleep. So, as the Deep Pressure Touch causes the central nervous system to release serotonin, you will feel sleepy.
- One clinical study found that sleeping under a heavy mattress triggered the body to release cortisol – the anti-stress hormone.
In addition, many people on the autism spectrum report feeling as if they are “floating” in bed. A weighted blanket helps you feel more grounded. And that can help you relax and sleep.
So, to summarise. You will sleep better under a weighted blanket because you feel sleepy, less anxious and less stressed.
Weighted Blankets Make You Feel Less Anxious
Many people with autism can spend time feeling overwhelmed by too much sensory input in the form of light, sound and touch.
The calming effect of Deep Pressure Touch helps relieve this high – and constant – sense of anxiety.
Weighted Blankets May Help Meltdowns
A number of our customers – both parents and teachers – have noticed that weighted blankets seem to help with managing meltdowns in two ways.
Firstly, some parents have found that if they encourage their child to sit or lie under a weighted blanket as they notice the signs of an impending meltdown that said meltdown is either shorter and less extreme than usual. Sometimes it doesn’t happen at all.
Secondly, some of our customers say that placing a weighted blanket over someone having a meltdown can shorten the episode.
Once again, this is likely due to the combined effects of what the Deep Pressure Touch triggers.
But there is an interesting theory that many people with autism have low levels of serotonin in their brain.
And this might aggravate some autism traits.
So, the Deep Pressure Touch-related release of serotonin may also have the beneficial effect of relieving social anxiety. You can read more in this article.
Weighted Blankets Can Improve Transition Time Between Activities
Some of our customers who are teachers have told us that they find using weighted blankets helps children with autism manage the change from one activity to another better.
It seems that the comforting action of Deep Pressure Touch gives them mental space to stop doing one thing and start doing a different activity.
Weighted Blankets Give Sensory Input
Many people with autism also have sensory sensitivities. Weighted blankets can help them deal with their feelings of being overwhelmed by providing Deep Pressure Touch’s sensory input.
Every weighted blanket should have three characteristics to maximise its Deep Pressure Touch benefits. These will help you calm down and sleep better.
- The weight should be spread evenly through it, without any “bunching” or “pooling” of the weight.
- It should be the correct weight for the individual user.
- The weight needs to be evenly distributed through the weighted blanket.
Every Weighted Blanket Should Have the Weight Spread Evenly Through the Blanket
At Calming Moments we sew equal weights of our micro beads into evenly spaced pockets throughout the blanket. Each pocket is triple-stitched, so that you can be sure that they will not break and have the beads slide into other pockets.
However, this is not enough to keep the micro glass beads evenly distributed through it.
So, we fill each blanket with two layers of wadding. This spreads the beads evenly through each pocket. So, the blanket will feel heavy, but you won’t be able to feel the individual beads. And they don’t bunch or pool.
The weight must be evenly spread through the blanket to maximise its Deep Pressure Touch so that you can sleep better for longer.
But even this alone is not enough to make sure that you get the correct Deep Pressure Touch on your body to get you the best sleep result.
Every Weighted Blanket Should be Custom-made for the User
Occupational Therapists recommend that single bed weighted blankets should be 10% of the user’s body weight. (We recommend adding extra weight for the larger blankets as the weight is spread over a larger area.)
We all have different body weights.
Yet, most mass-produced weighted blankets come in a limited number of weights.
At Calming Moments, we custom make each blanket to order. We offer multiple different weight options for our weighted bed blankets. These start at 1.5kg and go up to 12kg.
This means that you can get the exact weight blanket that will deliver the correct Deep Pressure Touch that will help your unique body sleep better for longer.
What People Say
She Fell Asleep Easily
My daughter who has ASD and anxiety received her blanket yesterday.
And for the first time she fell asleep easily and slept all night.
Such Wonderful Workmanship
We had one made for our beautiful, Autistic daughter.
Such wonderful workmanship and she has been sleeping so very well since. I can’t thank you enough.
Recommended By Occupational Therapists
“I cannot speak anymore highly of your products! The craftsmanship is perfection and the prices realistic!
I have placed many orders with you and your communication, timeliness of delivery and – of course – product quality is second to none!”
– Amy H from Amy’s OT
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What Our Customers Say:
Very good. Fast delivery. Is very good quality used every day at school for my son. And washed weekly and colour hasn’t faded.
Actually had one of these already but it was taken from me at security when I tried to take it on board with my for an international flight 😥 but now I have this one which is even better because one side is cotton, which feels better for me sensory-wise. Definitely something I use every day and I'm really glad there was a 5kg option because every other site I've been to only has little ones for kids. I'd 100% recommend it to anyone, worth all of my money (twice!)
This shoulder wrap is so well made and it really helps me unwind. It instantly helps to relax the shoulder muscles and then after about 10 minutes of wearing it I feel a sudden whole body relaxation effect kick in. I highly recommend it.
I use this ALL THE TIME. I bring it to work, I use it anytime I'm sitting at home, I use it to help me settle down at night when I go to sleep. This instantly calms and grounds me. The material and weight is perfect.
The quality is excellent, and it was made and posted very quickly. My son loves the textured fabric and lap blankets are much easier to move around the house and use in different locations than full size weighted blankets. We absolutely love it, thanks you!
It is perfect, my daughter who has sensory concerns sleeps better, this is her 2nd blanket from Calming Moments has she has grown.
We could not be happier with the results from buying this sensory sheet. Little miss asd sleeps so much better. The quality of the sheet is amazing and we plan on getting a back up sheet.
Amazing service, very quick and My 6 year old loves it.. has really helped him concentrate in the classroom to have on his lap while working.
Fantastic! That’s what describes the experience I have had. All my questions where answered, great communication either email or phone and the weighted lap pad was a massive hit with my daughter. I know I will be coming back to get more items for my daughter.
Well made, high quality fabric and stitching. Excellent email communication. This is the second lap pad I have purchased, my first one keeps getting “borrowed” by my kids.
I purchased the weighted blanket because my best friend pointed out that I may have anxiety because I told the only thing that could get me to sleep was by putting a pillow or some weight on my legs. It didn’t occur to me until she mentioned the weighted blanket and toys. I then tried out the lap weighted blanket over my legs while I sit on the couch, at my desk or when I sleep and I feel that exact soothing, calming feeling I need. Thankyou!
I bought this for my son who has some problems regulating his emotions etc since buying it if he feels overwhelmed he goes straight to the blanket and he is calm in 5 minutes. Best thing I bought him
It's been great as a sensory tool. Sometimes she pulls it off the bed and uses it like a sensory sock.
I bought the Purple and Shiny Weighted Snake to use with my ASD students at school, but my 11yr old (neurotypical,but prone to anxiety) son found it and has adopted it as his own. He loves the weight, but also the sensation of letting the beads trickle from one end to another. And I think the 3 different fabric textures is a great feature. Very well-made too, as with all Calming Moments products.
My order was made and despatched quickly, status updates were sent so I knew exactly what was happening with my order. The Sensory Narwhal Plush Weighted Toy was exactly as advertised, it looked and felt fabulous. It was a gift for someone and they were delighted with it. I was very pleased that it is a locally made product, the quality of the product and the customer service were all exceptional.
I bought this sensory weighted turtle for my son.he loves it and the texture is soft and has great quality.
I highly recommend this product.
I love that I could make my own combination that reflects my personal choices and tastes.
My 7yo daughter loves her Narwhal. She has called it "Sprinkles". Lovely quality and weight. It's just gorgeous!
My 9yo son loved his turtle immediately. It is SO soft and the weight is lovely. I kind of want one for myself!
I love that we were able to tailor the lap pad to my son’s interests and sensory needs. I also love that there are different weights for different ages which helped me chose the right weight for him. Would definitely buy from here again.
This product is beautifully made. I loved being able to choose the colour. We use it for reading and to help with concentration for tasks like handwriting and siting at the table for meal times. The quality of calming moments products is excellent. My son also uses a weighted blanket made by Calming Moments for sleeping which has stood the test of time.
Great! Our ot has shown us when to use it, and it's helping make the calm before bedtime a lot easier. It's also helping to keep him focused whilst needing to sit for long periods
Loving using this weighted buddy. The cotton is so smooth and cool against my skin and I just feel so much calmer.