Special Needs Shops and Services

Can Weighted Blankets Help Children with Anxiety, Autism and Sensory Integration Sleep?

Sleeping baby with blanketThere have not been any significant scientific studies conducted on the benefits of weighted blankets for sleep problems. However, anecdotal experiences have shown that weighted blankets can help certain children who have sensory integration issues, and other issues related to special needs such as prematurity, anxiety, and autism, sleep better. For a parent wanting their child to have a good night sleep, a weighted blanket can be a blessing.

What has been proven to help with sleep?

There are a number of things that parents can do for their children that have been demonstrated to help with sleep. These include either getting rid of or covering all lights in the room, including clocks, phones, televisions, and power plug lights. Even the smallest amount of light can cause sleep disturbance. Although it seems simple, it is harder to do in our modern world. Street lights, city ambient light, and various electronic power lights all contribute to brighten a room. One way to tone down the ambient light is with black light curtains. Another thing to do is to turn off all electronic devices for the night or cover over those small but bright light indicators.

Another change parents can make to help their children sleep easier is to cease all electronic activity, such as computers, kindles, tables and television at least one hour before bedtime. This electronic stimulation on the eyes and brains has been shown to increase activity in the brain and thus it takes longer for children (and adults!) to go to sleep.

A remarkably effective strategy for any age is to have a bedtime routine. This works well with young children, as shown by the traditional bedtime stories and tucking into bed by parents, but it continues to be effective even as children age. The routine can change and expand. It should include quieting activities, and it is especially effective if it is something the child looks forward to. Light yoga and stretches, quiet reading (of books that are not too exciting!), talking over the day, tending to quiet chores like tooth brushing, and even just a few moments together can help children settle to sleep.

What are Weighted Blankets?

Weighted blankets are blankets or comforters that have extra heft and weight. They serve to provide deep sensory information to a large part of the child's body. Temple Grandin is probably the most famous person who has spoken about the comfort to her as a person with autism of having deep weight on her body. She even extrapolated her personal experience to cows and created a cow embrace to settle animals. Her autism books are well known among the autism community.

Children with sensory issues or anxiety can often have more trouble with light touch but find deep touch reassuring. Thus the heavier weight of these weighted blankets and the spread of this weight over their body can be calming for children with this sensitivity.

How Do Weighted Blankets Help with Sleep

The soft and heavy touch of a weighted blanket can help your child sleep by providing deep sensory input all over their bodies. This has been shown to help some children with sensory issues or anxiety, including autism or sensory integration dysfunction, or even over-stimulation from ADHD.

What Care Should I Take with Weighted Blankets?

Not all children will respond favorably to weighted blankets. Before you make the investment, try piling on a number of blankets or comforters to see if this approach is helpful. It is important to ensure that your child is not too hot, so you will probably want to increase the air flow. Also you do not want a blanket that is so heavy that it is uncomfortable or unsafe. Different weighted blankets feel different, so you will want to check heaviness, softness, and consistency for suitability for your child. Of course you will want to be sure the blanket is washable. In addition, you will want to be sure that your child is not allergic to materials in the weighted blanket or blanket cover. Keeping it washed is important to curtail dust mites, another contributor to allergic reactions.

Some children enjoy cacooning, so you may want a weighted blanket that is thin enough for them to wrap themselves up like a cacoon. Once again, you want to check for air flow for breathing. In this case, they feel most comfortable with deep touch all around their bodies.

Where Can I Find Weighted Blankets?

Weighted blankets are not available in many stores, although you may be able to find a heavy comforter they may not be as cool. You can find a number of weighted blankets at Amazon, including LUNA Weighted Blanket, ZonLi Weighted Blanket (Cooling), Sensadream Cooling Weighted Blanket, SensaCalm Weighted Blanket or Weighted Idea Kid's Weighted Blanket.

Back to Special Needs Directory