My weighted blanket – what is it and why did I get one for Christmas?

I thought I’d do a bit more of an in-depth post about one of my Christmas presents because some people have no idea what they are, and in any event I’m moving away from monthly favourites posts to articles with more information on one topic.

When I first started to learn about sensory differences, I thought all of my behaviours were sensory avoiding ones. Like avoiding loud noise or certain textures. But now I see that that from a young age, I showed signs of sensory-seeking behaviour too, like the hours I would spend on my swing, or the drama with the duvet and the sheets.

I’ll explain! In those days, we had a normal sheet, and then another sheet on top of that, to go over you, and the duvet or blankets on top. But that upper sheet between me and whatever else was on the bed had to be pulled really tight. I always asked my Nan to make it as tight as she could before she said good night.

When I was old enough to do it myself, I always did. Not just at bedtime. If I got out of bed in the night, the whole procedure had to be done again, even when I was half-asleep. I’d kneel down on the floor next to the bed and push the sheet as far under the mattress as it would go. Then I’d inch my way in from the top, only pulling it as far as necessary for me to get under and feeling that tight cocoon feeling of being wrapped up. Not quite the same as the weight of a blanket, but I knew I liked it and it made me feel safe and cosy so that I could fall asleep again. That was just the way the bed had to be!

Later we did away with these extra sheets and just had duvets, but I always wanted the heaviest one I could find, even in the Summer. As an adult, I left the same Winter duvet on all year round and maybe added something extra in the Winter. Not because I was cold, but because I wanted the extra weight on top of me.

I often used to sit with my dog on my lap – not a little lap dog, but 34 kg of golden retriever. Sitting with her and stroking her had its own beneficial and therapeutic effects, but I never thought anything of all that weight on my lap.

Finding out about weighted blankets

So then I started hearing about weighted blankets. I’d had one on my Amazon list for a while, but I’d never seen one. And that was the problem – firstly the expense, because they aren’t cheap, but secondly although I love online shopping, I really wanted to see one and to touch whatever it was that made it feel heavy. Nobody has them on display though. You have to buy them online. And that worried me because it would be a lot of money to waste if I wasn’t ok with the texture of the material used to give it the weight.

Once you start looking out for something, you se it cropping up everywhere. I noticed posts on blogs about them and how they helped children who wanted the same kind of sensory input. I kept thinking about it, but didn’t get round to buying one. I also kind of hoped it might drop in price a bit as things on Amazon sometimes have a tendency to do, but these are specialised and therefore I didn’t fancy my chances.

So when S asked me to make a Christmas list, I started with the things on my Amazon wish list. I didn’t want a specific one, but I found the link to one and added it to the spreadsheet. He ended up choosing a different one, but I’m not sure I would have indulged in this for myself, so I was very happy about it turning up under the Christmas tree!

The blanket arrives!

On Christmas Day I had a very heavy box to open! A 15kg heavy kind of box! It was my blanket!

It was a bit different to what I’d imagined. It’s not as big as a double duvet, but it can go over 2 people when folded out, so it’s a double one. I thought the weight of it would be concentrated over a smaller area, but then I realised it was supposed to be a double one!

The idea is that the blanket goes over the body, and it’s not supposed to hang over the bed, otherwise it will just pull down towards the floor. You can get different weights depending on a person’s body weight and preferences.

The tiny beads are kept in place in squares, so you don’t have the problem that they all fall down to the bottom or to one side. It can apparently go in the washing machine, but I dread to think how heavy it will get when full of water – it’s heavy enough now. So I’d want to reduce the need for that to happen and put it in a duvet cover or something if you’re not going to have it on top of your duvet as we do.

We put it on the bed on Christmas night and I had the best sleep I’ve had in a long time. I don’t have sleep issues, but I would say I sleep better with it on – it’s a deeper and a better quality of sleep. The weight relaxes me and although hew wasn’t originally the one looking for one, S seems to like it too!

It is fine now, but it will be too hot in the Summer. I hadn’t really planned on having it on the bed, so when the weather gets warmer, I’ll take it off and use it as a blanket on the sofa in my office. For times when I’ve had enough or need some balancing time if I’ve felt overstimulated and want to hide and snuggle under its weight .

How do weighted blankets help?

Weighted blankets look and feel like normal blankets, but they are heavier, because they have been filled with tiny polypropylene pellets that are distributed evenly throughout the blanket in squares that are about the size of a hand when it’s spread out.

The feeling of the weighted blanket is often compared to the sense of being hugged. This can help people who like to feel the pressure of being squeezed in a big hug, or apparently it is also good for some people who don’t like so much physical contact with another person, but who enjoy the pressure sensation.

It’s said that using the blanket is similar to deep pressure therapy and stimulates the release of oxytocin. Oxytocin is a neurotransmitter – a chemical in the brain that can make us feel calm, happy or relaxed. It’s often released when we do things like hugging, and therefore the weight of the blanket is compared to that feeling of being hugged.

I can’t give advice for individuals and wouldn’t want to. Some people will like them, others won’t.

From what I’ve read, some people on the autism spectrum as well as those with anxiety and/or sleep issues have said that weighted blankets have helped them. I’ve read most about them on blogs related to autism, but the blankets are used by neurotypical people as well.

I know that in the past, when I’ve felt sensory overload or just stressed out after a long day, I’ve gone to bed and burrowed right under the duvet, sometimes piling other blankets on top. I didn’t really understand why at the time, but just did it because I thought it would help. My blanket fortress to keep out the things that were stressing me out! For me, the weighted blanket is a cosy, heavy extension of that!

Have you ever heard of or used weighted blankets?

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