Are weighted blankets a tool for managing ADHD symptoms?
Weighted blankets aren’t really new. Occupational therapists have long used them to help children and adults with sensory issues and anxiety. associated with ADHD and / or ASD. And a recent study suggested that weighted blankets showed a positive impact on falling asleep, sleeping the whole night, and relaxing during the day.
What Is a Weighted Blanket and How Does It Work?
A weighted blanket contains weighted pellets, balls, or other heavy materials. Sometimes called gravity blankets, they typically weigh 5 to 30 pounds. Some also have extra layers of fabric to increase their heaviness. And some weighted blankets have metal chain material sewn into them.
Weighted blankets are designed to relieve stress by providing pressure on the body. It is a way to enhance the positive feelings of security that gentle but firm pressure often evokes. It is a kind of warm, friendly hug.
This deep pressure therapy (DPT) is believed to promote the body’s ability to produce serotonin, a neurotransmitter which helps to regulate mood and also creates a sense of calm. DPT also stimulates the production of melatonin, another neurotransmitter that helps to regulate sleep. At the same time, the pressure reduces the stress hormone cortisol which reduces feelings of anxiety.
The Benefits of Weighted Blankets
Here are a some of the potential benefits of using a weighted blanket:
- Focus – A weighted blanket is designed to help your brain recognize your surroundings. This can have a calming, focusing effect on the central nervous system, which may help someone with ADHD organize their thoughts and block unnecessary concerns.
- Sleep – While more study is needed, recent research showed that using a weighted blanket significantly improved sleep problems in children and adults with ADHD.
- Anger management – Some therapists recommend using a weighted blanket specifically for anger issues. Outbursts of anger can be symptoms of ADHD and other neurodevelopmental disorders such as autism.
Using a Weighted Blanket
Here are some things to consider when selecting and using a weighted blanket:
- Choose the right weight – Generally, a weighted blanket should be around 10% of your body weight. Too heavy of a blanket may feel restrictive and make you overheat. A blanket that’s too light won’t create deep therapeutic pressure.
- Take time to get used to the pressure – The sensation of a weighted blanket may feel strange at first, so you may want to begin by covering only your legs, leaving your torso uncovered. This will help your body adjust to the weighted blanket.
- Combine it with mindfulness – To help get the most out of a weighted blanket, you may find it helpful to focus on the sensation of the weight on your body. A mindfulness practice can help you to quiet your mind and pay attention to the physical sensation. If meditation isn’t for you, you could also try a visualization technique or a deep breathing exercise.
- Find the bet posture for you – If possible for you, lying on your back may be an ideal position for using your weighted blanket. In this posture, the weight will be evenly distributed across your body. But if you’re a side or stomach sleeper, your weighted blanket can still be effective in these positions.
Using a weighted blanket is one way individuals with ADHD can self-regulate and feel more relaxed.