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Thinking of investing in a weighted blanket? Then you’re probably wondering if there are any weighted blanket guidelines?
Whilst no ‘official’ set of guidelines for weighted blankets currently exist, there are some generally accepted principles,(PDF) which most therapists & healthcare professionals recommend as a good ‘rule of thumb’.
Below we’ll take a look at 10 of the most common ‘guidelines’ to consider when using a weighted blanket.
Please note: the tips below are intended as a GUIDE only. You should always use a weighted blanket in line with your own common sense, the manufacturer’s instructions & advice from a healthcare professional.
1 – Get the correct size
Whilst there’s no official ‘rule’ with regards to weighted blanket size, it is important to get the correct size in relation to your body weight. The current ‘rule of thumb’ recommended by manufacturers and health professional is:
- For Children: 10% of a child’s body weight, plus 1 or 2 pounds.
- For Adults: 10% of the ideal body weight
You don’t need to worry too much about being ‘exact’ about a blanket’s weight, but keep in mind 10% of an adult ideal body weight can start to feel quite heavy. So if you wavering between two different weight sizes, it’s usually recommended you start out with the lighter weight.
Here’s more information on how to choose the right size weighted blanket.
2 – Choose a suitable fabric
Weighted blankets are made from a variety of fabrics – everything from polyester to bamboo fibres and linen.
The most common fabrics, used in commercially made blankets, tend to be man-made fibres such as fleece or minky or more breathable natural fabrics such as cotton. Which fabric you choose is actually very important.
As a guide, if you want a warm, cosy and tactile blanket, man made fabrics such as Minky Dot fleece often work well. These fabrics retain heat efficiently and are usually a good bet if you sleep cold. The raised tactile dots of Minky Dot fleece fabrics are often a popular choice with sensory seeking kids.
However, if you’re prone to overheating, or like to sleep at a certain temperature, a more breathable cotton, linen or bamboo fibre fabric may serve you better.
Here’s a guide to some of the most commonly used weighted blanket fabrics.
3 – Consider the weighted filling
The most common filling for commercially made weighted blankets is micro glass beads. You’ll also find some blankets filled with plastic poly pellets.
Whereas glass beads have a size and texture a bit like sand, plastic poly pellets are more like tiny pebbles.
Which you choose is really down to personal preference. Glass beads are denser than poly pellets, so they tend to lay more smoothly on the body and also rustle less. However, if you like extra tactile stimulation, the slightly larger poly pellets may suit you better.
If you do go for plastic poly pellets, choose a blanket with high quality virgin polypropylene pellets. These tend to dry quicker than cheaper pellets, which may retain moisture and lead to mold or bacteria.
Alternately, if you’re thinking of making your own DIY weighted blanket, organic fillers such as dried beans or rice are also commonly used. Keep in mind though, dried beans and grains are porous, which makes them unsuitable for washing.
Here’s a Buyer’s Guide to 8 common weighted blanket fillings.
4 – Never use with a baby
Weighted blankets should never to be used with babies or young infants.
Babies can’t regulate their breathing and internal temperatures in the same way as older children and adults. Babies could also struggle to move the blanket off them should they need to. These factors pose serious risks, such as suffocation or over heating.
Manufacturers and therapists generally recommend weighted blanket use for children over the age of 3, who are developing normally and have no underlying heath issues. However, some suggest nearer 6 or 7, so If you’re unsure, or if your child has any underlying health, or mobility issues, talk to a healthcare professional about your child’s individual needs. A weighted blanket should always be used with a child’s consent.
Weighted blankets are also not recommended for children still exploring objects with their mouths, due to the tiny weighted fillings inside the blanket.
5 – Seek professional advice
Weighted blankets have been used in the autistic community for many years and they’ve fast become a popular relaxation and sleep aid for many people in the wider population.
However, whilst weighted blankets are generally considered safe for most people, it’s still recommended you seek advice from a healthcare professional before using a weighted blanket, especially if you have any concerns. This particularly applies to young children or those with pre-existing health conditions.
Oxford NHS (PDF) advise that weighted products should not be used in conjunction with any of the following conditions:
- Respiratory (breathing) problems
- Cardiac (heart) problems
- Serious hypotonia (low tone)
- Skin problems, including certain allergies;
- Circulatory Problems
- Physical, learning or other difficulties which mean a person is unable to remove a weighted blanket independently.
Weighted blankets are also not advised for those with severe dementia or obstructive sleep apnea.
6 – Ensure blanket can be moved independently
A weighted blanket should always be laid over (PDF) the body to ensure equal weight distribution, as well as free and easy movement.
It’s vital that the person using a weighted blanket should be able to adjust, or move, the blanket from their own body independently. Never use a weighted blanket as a restraint, or roll someone up in the blanket, as this will restrict movement.
7 – Check for signs of wear & tear
Reputable weighted blankets are generally well made, often by hand and designed to last.
However, it’s still important to check your blanket for manufacturing faults prior to use, such as open seams where pellets or glass beads could seep out. When buying, look for blankets with reinforced stitching and strong seams, so you know the weighted filling is safely secured inside the blanket. You can also check reviews to see what others are saying about the overall quality of a particular weighted blanket.
It’s also a good idea to regularly check your weighted blanket for signs of natural wear and tear, especially if you have a sensory child who loves to touch and feel their blanket a lot.
8 – Don’t combine with other weighted aids
Weighted blankets are designed to be used at a weight that’s appropriate for the person using it.
So a weighted blanket (or any weighted item) should not be used in conjunction with another weighted product or the combined weight could become too intense.
9 – Use under adult supervision
If you decide to use a weighted blanket with a young child, or an adult with a disorder who requires adult supervision, the British NHS (PDF) recommends that you watch for any negative reactions shown by the child/user, when under the blanket. Signs may include:
- difficulty breathing
- rise in temperature
- any physical or behavioural reactions which indicate discomfort or anxiety.
Use of a weighted blanket should be stopped immediately if any negative reactions occur.
10 – Use for short periods at first
If you’re new to a weighted blanket, it’s a good idea to initially use the blanket for short periods of time, to see how you respond to the deep touch stimulation. Sensory seeking children, for example, often take to weighted blankets immediataly, whereas some children find the sensory stimulation too much and throw the blankets off.
So try the blanket out first – during a nap, for example, and work your way up, as appropriate.
Are Weighted Blankets Safe?
Weighted blankets are generally considered safe for healthy adults, older children, and teenagers. You can find out more about weighted blankets studies and research here.
Weighted blankets should never be used with babies or young infants and may also be unsuitable for people with conditions such as:
- limited limb mobility
- obstructive sleep apnea
- chronic respiratory or circulatory conditions
- severe dementia.
Always use common sense when using a weighted blanket and if unsure, consult a medical professional for advice, especially for a child.
How to care for your weighted blanket
A weighted blanket should come with manufacturer’s instructions, which show you how to wash and care for your weighted blanket.
Some weighted blankets have a removable, washable cover, whilst others are a one piece design where you’ll need to wash the entire blanket. Keep in mind, heavier, one piece adult weighted blankets may be too cumbersome for a regular washing machine and require professional laundering.
The filling of your weighted blanket may also affect washability and whether it’s suitable for a tumble dryer. Consult the manufacturer’s care instructions if you’re unsure.
Whilst weighted blankets made from fleece or minky are generally pretty durable and shouldn’t shrink, cotton or linen may require a cold or delicate wash to retain their shape.
Weighted Blanket Guidelines: Conclusion
Many people find weighted blankets a huge benefit for sleeping issues, anxiety and disorders such as autism or ADHD.
Although no ‘official’ set of weighted blanket guidelines exist, there are a number of generally accepted ‘rules of thumb’, which therapists and doctors tend to recommend. These help to ensure the safe and effective use of weighted products.
For further information, this briefing (PDF) from the Royal Collage of Occupational Therapists outlines a set of professional guidelines for the safe use of weighted blankets for adults & children.
If in doubt, always seek professional advice before using a weighted blanket.