Weighted blankets are all the rage right now.
These blankets are supposed to mimic deep pressure touch stimulation and have a calming and soothing effect. Often, they are used by those who have a hard time sleeping through the night — but are they safe for children?
Martello says weighted blankets are often used to help children who are on the autism spectrum, and may suffer from neurological, medical or behavioural issues. It can help comfort them and allow them to fall asleep faster.
There is some evidence to show that using weight as a calming strategy can be effective.
“Weighted blankets have been around for a long time, especially for kids with autism or behavioural disturbances,” Dr. Cristina Cusin, an assistant professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, said in an interview with Harvard Health Publishing.
“It is one of the sensory tools commonly used in psychiatric units. Patients who are in distress may choose different types of sensory activities — holding a cold object, smelling particular aromas, manipulating dough, building objects, doing arts and crafts — to try to calm down.”
However, there is little research to prove weighted blankets actually help adults, and there’s way less research on children.
One small 2014 study analyzed the effect of weighted blankets on sleep in children with autism spectrum disorder. Seventy-three children between the ages of five and 16 participated in the randomized controlled trial — “the gold standard type of trial,” said Dr. Jennifer Poon, a behavioural pediatrician at the Medical University of South Carolina.
“I think the question people had looking at this paper … was: Is this more of a placebo effect?”
Anecdotally, in her work with families of children with disabilities, autism spectrum disorder and ADHD, Poon has found similar results.
As a pediatrician, Poon always warns parents of the potential risks associated with weighted blankets.
Most weighted blankets come with a recommended weight standard.
Global News contacted Endy, a Canadian mattress company that makes weighted blankets, and a spokesperson said their product is recommended for adult use only.
“It is recommended that a weighted blanket be approximately 10 per cent of a person’s body weight,” said the company. “Our weighted blanket comes in one weight, which is 15 pounds, making it too heavy for most kids.”
Beware the wellness market
Products like weighted blankets have become somewhat trendy, popping up at big retailers like Indigo. On sites like Amazon Canada, anxiety relief products range from necklaces to mists to candles or even teas.
The stigma around the mental health disorder is slowly disappearing, Dr. Katherine Martinez of AnxietyBC previously told Global News, but these products are showing up in the wellness market because of our hectic world.
“We are in a much more fast-paced existence, especially in urban areas,” she said.
She adds being part of this world means wanting to deal with mental health issues quickly, and although she is hesitant to use the phrase, she says some of us look for a “quick fix.”
“You can get everything at your fingertips, so why wouldn’t we have the ability to calm the system?”