What is a Weighted Blanket and How Does it Work?
A weighted blanket is similar to a regular quilt or blanket, the primary difference is that a weighted blanket is designed to feel heavy and provide pressure to the user whereas a regular quilt or blanket is designed for warmth. Most weighted blankets are sewn into pockets, usually square or rectangular in shape.
What is Used for Weight?
Manufacturers fill the weighted blanket pockets using a variety of materials to provide the weight. The type and quality of materials varies and may include items such as plastic pellets (both virgin and recycled), glass beads, river stones, sand, steel ball bearings and even various organic materials such as rice or wheat. In addition to the material used for weight, some manufacturers also add a filler to each pocket to provide softness and to help keep the material from moving around inside the pocket.
At Red Barn Blankets we use only virgin co-poly plastic pellets which are nontoxic and hypo-allergenic while many of the other fillers have drawbacks which, in our opinion, make them unsuitable for use in a child’s blanket. Here are a few of those materials and our reasons for not using them.
- Glass Beads – While glass beads have become more and more common (primarily because they allow for more weight in a smaller space) we do not use them because the beads can have rough edges and can also chip when inside the blanket and develop sharp edges which can cut through the stitching. They can also cause the fabric to wear out faster than normal. Glass beads actually come from the abrasives industry where they are used to restore automobiles and to remove burrs from metals. – http://www.marco.us/abrasives/glass-beads
- Rice, Grains – The primary reason for not using these items is that they are organic and thus provide a good place to grow mold and attract insects and may also induce allergic reactions in some people
- Sand, River Stones – Believe it or not, they are both porous materials making them difficult to dry completely and thus also provide a good place for mold to grow.
- Steel Ball Bearings – Probably don’t need much of a comment here except to ask you to imagine two 12 year old brothers having a pillow fight and one of them decides to use a weighted blanket full of steel ball bearings to hit his brother, ’nuff said about that one!
DTP and Proprioception
A weighted blanket uses DTP or deep touch pressure and sensory reinforcement in order to help with something called proprioception. The term refers to the brains ability to know where all of its body parts are in space.
A good example of proprioception would be the sobriety test commonly used by law enforcement if they suspect a driver is inebriated. It consists of standing up, stretching out your arms with your eyes closed and then trying to touch your nose. Most of us can accomplish this with little difficulty. One of the reasons that this sobriety test is used is because alcohol messes with your body’s proprioception, this is why inebriated people sometimes miss touching their nose by inches or even more!
In conditions like autism, attention deficit disorder, Asperger’s and others, this sensory system does not always work properly, the result of which can be experienced in a variety of ways from anxiety and restlessness to playing too rough with others, bumping into things, etc. The idea behind the weighted blanket is that it helps to reinforce the sensory input the brain is receiving by using added pressure. The result can be a lowering of anxiety and restlessness, thus making it easier to relax or to fall asleep.