There has been a lot of media coverage and advertisement around weighted blankets. But do they work? And in what circumstances? Our Senior Occupational Therapist Hayley Forbes, examines the weighted blanket claims.

Are weighted blankets recommended?

As an OT I have frequently recommended weighted blankets for a range of things, typically because they give great proprioceptive input. Remember proprioception = calming. Deep pressure applied to joints calms the central nervous system or better yet reduces the flight or fight response. Anyway, enough of the jargon.

But why have I recommended them? Anecdotal evidence. They work! In conjunction with other sensory input.

Typically, weighted products are used as part of a sensory diet, i.e. an organised routine of daily input of sensory information structured to provide the body with enough sensory input to be calm and in the optimum state of arousal necessary for learning.

Also, typically the 10% of your body weight isn’t enough, a great fact with sensory input is ‘less is more' – but more frequent.

Alternatives to weighted blankets

You may not want to use a standard weighted blanket you can also opt for other weighted product ideas:

  • 1 kg ankle weights (sets you back $6 from Kmart).
  • Weighted vest (Kmart sells an exercise weighted vest for around $25, bargain! You can also see if it works).
  • I like to use squeeze or pressure vests, or small back packs with 1-2kgs of rice in them.
  • Lycra bed sheets are also a great addition to bedtime routine.

A weighted blanket is not the only option for weighted equipment. Please remember that weighted blankets are not the best things ever, but they are if you know how to use them! Have a chat to your OT on when and where they can be successful.

Setting up a successful bedtime routine

If your child or your self has a sensory processing disorder, Autism, anxiety etc. A sensory diet may be key but also if your child or you have trouble sleeping the following tips may be of benefit:

  • Reduce screen time or no screen time 30 minutes before sleep. Blue light glasses may also be helpful for adults or children that tolerate them.
  • Showering before bed, so that the child or adult can dry off roughly with a towel. Great sensory input.
  • White noise machines do work.
  • A sleeping mask (the darker room the better).
  • A lycra bed sheet.

Just remember not to leave the weighted blanket on when sleeping, the body will habituate so 10-30 minutes on then taken off once asleep.

Recently I have attended a talk by Temple Grandin, one of the biggest advocates for sensory equipment and input. She is a believer in proprioceptive input calming her body, she even built herself a squeeze machine. So weighted blankets can be used to squeeze as well as pressure vests, joint compressions, etc.

Weighted blankets are expensive so as an OT I try to opt for more functional strategies first, and I trial them in therapy to ensure that it is a good purchase for the families and clients I work with.

Questions about weighted blankets?

Please don't hesitate to contact us – we're here to help and we would love to talk to you about your specific situation.