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zookeeny's avatar

Are you familiar with the use of weighted blankets for calming and sensory issues?

Asked by zookeeny (875 points ) February 9th, 2010

I am currently looking into purchasing one of these for myself. I need deep pressure to calm myself down.

I have always found a heavy weight on top of me has helped me ground myself and reduce my stress reactions. As I work in therapy it is proving quite important that I am able to soothe myself in this way in order to be able to take a break from the stress responses and then regroup myself and continue to function in everyday life and also ultimatly to progress through therapy.

It will be expensive to purchase one thought I am quite confident that it will be a great help to me so I am willing to stretch the budget. I just am trying to gain a better understanding on how deep pressure works to soothe. I would also love to hear any first had knowledge of weighted blankets as a soothing technique.

I am curious to know if anybody has either personal experience of needing deep pressure and weight to calm them. Perhaps you have experience of children with autism and sensory issues who benefit from weighted blankets and or deep pressure on their bodies. Do you know the psychology of why this helps?

Thank you

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11 Answers

phoebusg's avatar

Very good question. I can’t answer this fully but I am definitely interested.
I remember the feeling of being buried under sand at the beach. Your whole body pressure sensors are stimulated – and not the sharp ones, detecting short changes, but the long term ones. They keep on firing so long the stimulation is present, vs the short ones that fire rapidly at the beginning and end of the stimulus on/off-set.
This stimulation, due to the sensory system (cutaneous sense) must definitely stimulate the oxytocin, which in turn has a direct effect to GABAminergic pathways – with an end effect of relaxation. (GABBA inhibits excitatory systems).

I’m curious as to other answers, that’s all I have to offer. But I’ll keep checking in here. May even do some more research on this.

Thanks for the question :)

snowberry's avatar

I know babies love to be swaddled up tightly. It’s comforting to them. Lots of times I’d grab my fussing babe and simply hold her and squeeze her just a little bit. She seemed to like it.

I also had a lap dog that I began to do this to after her brother died. She’d sigh and go limp in my arms. I guess it works.

gemiwing's avatar

I have a weighted blanket that I use nightly. I find that even if I need just a moment or two of weight that it helps calm me down almost immediately.

I sleep deeper and no longer wake up at every little sound. It’s almost like having a little cacoon. I will say that some nights it’s a bit restrictive. Also, in the Summer they tend to be quite hot.

I bought mine from Alternative Therapy Solutions but I cannot find their website so they may have gone out of business.

If you are looking to buy one, instead of make one, I would recommend purchasing one that uses poly beads instead of stone or sand as they can leak and wear down faster. Also, let them know it is for an adult and they might make a deal with you. There are weight guidelines but most are for children. Also consider buying two smaller blankets and layering them to save money.

Buttonstc's avatar

Temple Grandin is a high functioning person with autism and she has written about how she made her own device for precisely this purpose.

She observed the use of a pressure chute which is used to calm cattle and figured out that it might help her as well since, at that time, she was suffering from severe social anxiety and panic attacks.

So, since she is primarily a visual thinker, it was apparently fairly simple for her to visualize how to construct one for herself.

They do use various forms of overall deep body pressure to calm autistic children and I’m sure you can find out more about it by reading either some of her books or ones about Autism in general.

essieness's avatar

This is so interesting! I have never been able to sleep with anything less than a heavy comforter and I must have a pillow covering the top of my head in order to fall asleep. The pillow has to sort of be mashed between the headboard and the top of my head, then cover my face. I’ve always felt that the weight, or heaviness, on me helps me relax and sleep. It’s interesting to hear that other people have this experience as well. Thanks for bringing it up!

Adagio's avatar

Maybe the sense of comfort has something to do with the confinement we all experienced in the womb?sounds plausible anyway

judochop's avatar

I’ve never heard of these bit they sound amazing. Thank you, GQ! I’m going to research this myself.

snowberry's avatar

I’m all about being warm. I have a very heavy comforter, but it’s so cold, I don’t like to crawl under it. Takes forever to warm up.

Cruiser's avatar

Wow! This one hits home. My son has hyper sensory issues that we only recently began to understand. Growing up he loved what I called “burrito boy” where I would roll him up in a comforter tight as I could and he would just lay there calm as a cucumber….loved it even more when I laid on top of him even with my full body weight on him. We find yoga, ear muffs to block out sound, brushing his skin and loose fit clothes have given him a nice comfort zone for him to then at his pace explore this crazy loud world that can be overwhelming much of his day.

You can make or get 5 lb nylon sand bags to lay over your legs and pin down a regular blanket laid over you with a couple small 1 lb sand pillows over your eyes and practice deep breathing exercises. Meditation will go a long way and also check into your diet as our son we found had allergies that were causing him unnecessary stresses in his life. Good Luck!

leanne's avatar

My son uses weighted blanket for both anxiety and to help him sleep. Ours came from a place called DreamCatcher Weighted Blankets. It is a company that was started by parent’s of a child with autism and they are very helpful in answering questions. The website is www.weightedblanket.net and I believe they are still having a drawing every month for a free weighted blanket. There is lots and lots of good information at their site. Hope it helps…

RedmannX5's avatar

Well I’ve always loved those heavy x-ray protective blankets that they lay on top of you at the dentist…quite soothing. But I’ve never really thought about why that pressure has a calming effect until reading this question. Hmmm…interesting

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