- Claire Murphy, MOT, OTR/L
How to Use Weighted Blankets
What are weighted blankets?
Proprioception, one of the 8 senses, tells people where their bodies are in space, helps people use the correct amount of force, and helps calm and regulate people’s level of alertness in order to function in a highly stimulating and distracting environment. Some people are unable to process proprioceptive input adequately or require more input than they naturally get during their typical routines. Weighted blankets spread out evenly across a person’s body to provide pressure and proprioceptive input as a calming effect and an unconscious awareness of where the body is in space.
Who can weighted blankets help?
Weighted blankets can be used with a wide age range. It is typically not recommended to use a weighted blanket with a child or adult who is unable to remove the blanket on their own. The following age groups can use weighted blankets:
The proprioceptive input from the weighted blanket can help children and adults with:
Autism spectrum disorder
Behavioral challenges (ie. always crashing and jumping into others)
How can a weighted blanket help?
The weight can help calm children and help them focus in order to learn at home and in the classroom.
It provides a safe feeling to children who have anxiety, fear, or stress in overwhelming environments (ie. loud sounds, lots of people, bright lights, or limited structure)
It can help children decrease hyperactive responses to other sensory experiences in their daily routine and complete tasks without outbursts.
How to use a weighted blanket?
The recommended weight of a weighted blankets should be 10% of the person’s body weight plus 1-2 pounds. Children or adults who are unable to remove the blanket on their own due to age, weakness, or other reasons should not use a weighted blanket.
Where to buy weighted blankets?
You can buy weighted blankets through therapy and medical supply companies. On average a weighted blanket will be between $100-$150, sometimes ranging even more. There are also several vendors on Etsy who make customized weighted blankets. The blankets sold through Etsy are on average $50-$100.
How can you make a weighted blanket?
There are many ways to make a weighted blanket. If you are able to sew and have access to a sewing machine, you can sew a weighted blanket. But you also do not need to be able to sew. There are many DIY tutorials that show how to make no-sew weighted blankets. Below are a few links (there are many more options if you Google it) on how to make your own weighted blanket:
Option 1: Sewing methods
Option 2: No-sew methods
How long to use a weighted blanket?
There is no recommended time duration for how long to use a weighted blanket. Our senses bring in information from our environment and everybody processes that information differently. Therefore some people may only require a few minutes of the deep pressure from the weighted blanket and others may seek out the input from the weighted blanket constantly throughout the day. When using a weighted blanket, trial different amounts of time using the blanket to see how much time gives you positive results. If you have questions or concerns, you can consult a pediatric occupational therapist.
How can an Occupational Therapist help?
An occupational therapist (OT) can help determine how your child’s sensory system is influencing their ability to interact with their everyday schedule. They can help customize a plan for what materials to use to make the blanket, how long to use the blanket, and signs to know the blanket is beneficial. In addition, an OT can assess other performance areas, including: transitions between activities, self-regulation, fine motor skills, strength and endurance, motor planning, eye-hand coordination, and other self-care skills. After assessing your child, the occupational therapist will provide individualized treatment strategies to improve your child’s ability to participate daily routines.