If you’re reading this, that probably means you aren’t getting enough sleep. In fact, according to this study, for women under 45, “researchers found the only factor associated with getting enough sleep was having children in the house, with each child increasing the odds of insufficient sleep by nearly 50 percent.” And while the study focuses on women, I’d venture to bet that in a lot of households today, including ours, sleep is short for both parents! In this post, I’ll share our experience with weighted blankets so you can decide if they might be helpful for your family’s sleep.
THE WEIGHTED BLANKETS SCOUTING REPORT
Weighted blankets have polypropylene pellets, or occasionally, glass beads, sewn into interior compartments. These pellets give the blankets their additional mass. Weighted blankets are typically used for children on the autism spectrum as well as those with sensory disorders or anxiety. The idea is that deep pressure touch simulation makes the person feel like they’re being held, like a hug. Compared to regular blankets, they can be a bit pricey (they usually start around $60, but most are more), so below we’ll go through how they work and how effective they are.
HOW DOES IT WORK?
According to Mosaic Weighted Blankets, one manufacturer, “the deep pressure from the weight causes the body to produce serotonin and endorphins, which are the chemicals our bodies naturally use to feel relaxed or calm. In combination with the darkness that occurs during the nighttime hours, the pineal gland converts serotonin to melatonin, our natural sleep-inducing hormone. Animals and humans alike tend to feel a sense of security when swaddled, so having a weighted blanket wrapped around the body eases the mind, allowing for complete relaxation.”
Please also note that I am not a medical professional. Please consult your doctor for medical advice.
A WORD OF WARNING
I should point out that weighted blankets can be dangerous for children under the age of two because the blanket may be too heavy for them to move. You’ll also want to avoid bed sharing with an infant and using a weighted blanket at the same time. For ages two and up, these blankets are personalized to body weight, so you’ll also want to make sure the blanket you choose is appropriate for you or your child. For example, a toddler should not be sharing a blanket designed for an adult. Finally, if you have a medical condition that could be impacted by such a blanket, it is best to check with your doctor.
If you’re looking an option for babies that works along the same lines, try the Zen Swaddle or Sleep Sack by Nested Bean. These swaddles/sacks have a much lighter weight intended to simulate a parent’s calming touch all night. We used the swaddle on Baby Munchkin when she was tiny. I don’t have empirical evidence, but I do feel like it helped her settle down at bedtime. That said, she didn’t magically sleep through the night from one night to the next, but I wouldn’t have expected her to at two-three months old.
ARE THEY EFFECTIVE FOR KIDS’ SLEEP?
While a number of studies show the effectiveness of these blankets for anxiety, I was able to find two studies that look at sleep specifically.
According to this study in the Journal of Sleep Medicine and Disorders, weighted blankets did improve the sleep of insomniacs, both objectively (increased sleep bout time and decreased movement during sleep) and subjectively (subjects liked the blankets, felt like they slept better, and awoke more refreshed). However, this study, in the journal Pediatrics, measured the sleep of autistic children when using weighted blankets and had more mixed results. Total sleep time and other indicators did not change significantly, but both parents and children preferred the weighted blankets.
Anecdotally, they do seem to be effective for kids. According to the New York Times, which interviewed the owner of a company called The Magic Blanket, the blankets are indeed improving the sleep of middle-school-age children in Southern California, where the company is based.
When I learned about weighted blankets, I immediately ordered one for Big Munchkin, who has always struggled with sleeping well. Once I did more research, I also decided to get one for myself. I have always been a light sleeper, waking multiple times a night to use the bathroom. These days, it’s the kids’ night wakings that interrupt my sleep more than anything else.
Big Munchkin liked his right away. He wanted it on his lap when we read bedtime stories, and he wanted it on him for sleeping. He still asks for it at bedtime pretty much every night. However, he doesn’t keep it (or any blanket) on him during the night, so it hasn’t dramatically changed his sleep.
As for me, I LOVE mine. I sleep with it over my shoulders and torso. I do feel that it makes me calmer when falling asleep. And once the kids aren’t waking me every couple of hours, I am eager to see if it will reduce wake-ups for potty breaks. Overall, for us, I feel like it was money well spent.
Amazon has several options. We got ours from Sensory Goods, which offers glass beads in addition to plastic. We opted for the glass, which they say has a more sand-like feel and comes recommended. Please note that shipping can be expensive because of the weight, so free shipping can change the price calculation considerably.
“Positive Effects of a Weighted Blanket on Insomnia,” Journal of Sleep Medicine and Disorders — https://www.jscimedcentral.com/SleepMedicine/sleepmedicine-2-1022.pdf
“Weighted blankets and sleep in autistic children–a randomized controlled trial,” Pediatrics — https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25022743
“Weighted Blanket Can Help More Than Just Sleep Problems,” New York Times — https://www.forbes.com/sites/davidhochman/2014/04/25/weighted-blanket-can-help-more-than-just-sleep-problems/#3db3dc7c3e0c
“Can a Weighted Blanket Transform Your Kids’ Sleep?” Wellness Mama — https://wellnessmama.com/130140/weighted-blanket/
“Living with children may mean less sleep for women, but not for men,” Science Daily –https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/02/170226212745.htm
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