Weighted blankets are quite the rage in the mainstream for a good reason.
Apart from giving you the ultimate sense of comfort and sound sleep, they are excellent sleep regulators that are often used as a part of deep pressure stimulation therapy to help individuals with Down Syndrome and other disorders.
In this article, Sunday Citizen has created a comprehensive guide to help you explore the pros of using sensory weighted blankets for a restful sleep.
What is Down Syndrome?
Down syndrome is a genetic or chromosomal disorder resulting in an extra copy of the 21st chromosome.
It is a congenital condition that leads to cognitive and physical impairments throughout a person’s life. Those with Down Syndrome experience delayed development and lifelong intellectual disability.
Are Weighted Blankets Good for Kids with Down Syndrome?
There is no definitive answer for this question as weighted blankets or any other weighted products for tha matter may be beneficial for most kids with Down syndrome, but not all. However, many children with Down syndrome sleep a lot better with a weighted blanket.
It is important to speak with a doctor before purchasing a weighted blanket to ensure that it is the right choice for the children's sleep. Additionally, it is important to make sure tha the weighted product is not too heavy and is age-appropriate.
What Are Some Of The Sleep-Related Difficulties Faced By Individuals With Down Syndrome?
According to the National Down Syndrome Society (NDSS), “There is a 50-100% incidence of obstructive sleep apnea in individuals with Down Syndrome, with almost 60% of children with Down syndrome having abnormal sleep studies by age 3.5 – 4 years. The overall incidence of obstructive sleep apnea increases as children grow older.”
This is the condition when an individual breathes poorly or even stops breathing while sleeping.
The increased incidence of obstructive sleep apnea in those with Down syndrome is due to their anatomy. Low muscle tone in the mouth and the upper airway, narrowed down air passages and poor coordination of respiratory movements are some of the factors responsible for disordered sleeping.
In addition, the greater risk of airway infections and increased nasal secretions also contribute to individuals’ throats being obstructed and potentially collapsing while falling asleep.
Sleep disorders and poor sleep patterns are detrimental to an individual’s overall wellbeing. Since he/she's not getting a good night's sleep. These sleep problems can result in lowered cognitive functioning, behavioral dysfunction, developmental delays, and lowering one’s concentration level. Thus, it becomes crucial to monitor one’s sleeping habits to be able to diagnose the occurrence of OSA in those with Down syndrome.
Why Are Weighted Blankets Increasingly Popular In Therapy?
Before we address how weighted blankets can be therapeutic, let’s look at the functionality of these blankets.
Weighted blankets are essentially tools that are designed to aid sensory processing and motor planning by applying extra weight. They can help you manage intense emotions and aid in physiological regulation.
These therapeutic blankets promote your self-soothing skills and can improve your nervous feedback.
These specialized blankets are weighed down using glass beads or polymer pellets along with heavy fabrics making them suitable for your deep touch pressure therapy or sensory therapy.
The use of deep pressure mechanisms can enable or trigger the release of serotonin, a neurotransmitter, that can help produce a calming effect throughout your body ensuring a healthy sleep.
The production of serotonin further triggers the production of melatonin in your body that is essential for regulating your sleep cycle. So you'll fall asleep in a consistent pattern.
Weighted blankets are sometimes recommended by practitioners as a non-invasive therapeutic device to help you cope with anxiety and emotional regulation. It can also help improving sleep quality by lowering your stress levels and giving you a profound sense of comfort and calm.
Nowadays, the use of weighted blankets is becoming increasingly popular to ensure a healthy sleep for those with autism, ADHD, Down Syndrome, and cerebral palsy.
They are used to supplement sleep-regulating therapy in the case of those individuals who wish to avoid or reduce their dependence on medicinal sleeping aids or drugs to improve sleep.
So, Are Weighted Blankets Any Good for Special Needs?
Weighted blankets can be beneficial for people with special needs, such as Down syndrome. They help to calm and relax the person, which can lead to improved sleep. It is important to consult with a doctor before purchasing a weighted blanket to ensure that it is the right choice for the person's needs.
How Can Weighted Blankets Help Individuals With Down Syndrome?
For individuals with Down syndrome, heavy, sensory devices such as weighted blankets promote sleeping habits and result in improving the overall quality of sleep as well.
It is said that these blankets give them the feeling of being hugged deeply which in turn results in an increased sense of security and calmness. It is also one of the prime reasons they are used to soothe them during episodes of aggression or explosive anger.
The additional weight provided by sensory or weighted blankets is great in relaxing the respiratory system thereby allowing the airways to open up and regulating one’s breathing better while they're asleep.
Hence by encouraging the body to adapt to a healthier sleeping pattern and by easing breathing, weighted blankets are one of the most cost-effective and low-risk ways to improve one’s sleep quality.
Can a Weighted Blanket Hurt a Child?
The use of weighted blankets is often cautioned against in cases of pediatric patients. This is because there is a risk that the weight of the blanket can cause respiratory problems or even death if it's used incorrectly.
For children with Down's syndrome, however, weighted blankets can be a helpful way to calm and soothe them. Down syndrome results in diminished muscle tone, so a weighted blanket can help provide some extra pressure that can be calming, making them fall asleep just like other children.
Additionally, the weighted of the blanket can help improve focus and attention spam. But you have to make sure that the older children are not eating or drinking foods that inhibit sleep before their nap time.
Like many parents, if you're considering buying heavy blankets for your child with Down syndrome, be sure to consult with a doctor or occupational therapits to make sure the weighted blankets work as intended.
How Does a Weighted Blanket Help with Sensory Issues?
A weighted blanket provides proprioceptive input, which is the type of input that helps our nervous system understand where our body is in space. This can be helpful for individuals with a sensorry processing disorder, who may struggle to make sense of the signals their body is sending them.
The pressure from a weighted blanket can help to "ground" these individuals, providing them with a sense of calm and security. Finally, the weighted of the blanket might assist with attention and focus.
How Do You Choose The Right Weighted Blanket?
Here are some guidelines to keep in mind before investing in a weighted blanket for an individual with Down Syndrome:
Have A Chat With A Doctor
The first step before you invest in a weighted blanket is to talk to your doctor. Speaking to your doctor or any licensed medical practitioner is vital since their professional expertise and assessment will allow you to know whether a weighted blanket may be helpful or not. He/she might also suggest you weighted lap pads, weighted vests, or pillows along with the blanket.
Moreover, their inputs can also serve as a foundation based on which you can opt for the right weighted blanket best suited for your needs.
Photo Credit: Pexels/cottonbro
Opting For The Right Weight
Customizing your blanket to the optimal weight is the most crucial step of buying and owning a weighted blanket. The ideal standards followed are that the weight of your blanket should be between 5% to 15% of your total body weight.
However, for a person with Down Syndrome, it is advisable to opt for a slightly heavier one, taking into account their level of comfort. Doing this can soothe them better during their episodes of aggression and anger, and allow them to regulate their sleep more efficiently. Always remember that the ultimate goal of weighted blankets is to provide relaxation through deep touch pressure without compromising on their safety.
Another point to be noted is that such blankets are not recommended for young children or babies as they could be a hazard.
Always consult with your doctor on the appropriate weight if you have any condition that might affect you.
Weighted Blankets For Improved Sleep Regulation and Relaxation
At Sunday Citizen, we advocate for restful sleep and the ultimate sense of relaxation made easier by specialized bedding like weighted blankets. Not only do they alleviate your stress and help you manage anxiety, their warmth and overall plush feel can also give you a soothing sense of security and safety. All these factors add up to making weighted blankets the perfect choice for you if you’re seeking to enhance the sleeping habits of individuals with Down Syndrome.