One huge struggle that I’ve seen mamas of autistic kids struggling with is helping them fall asleep easily. It can be hard for their bodies to realize that it’s time to quiet down and relax, and when your body can’t relax your brain certainly can’t! I suffer from restless leg syndrome while I’m pregnant, and I feel like that must be what A-Man feels like all over his body sometimes. Like he just needs to move and feel and he just can’t stay still. That all certainly makes getting to sleep difficult! So what do we do? Letting preschoolers stay up all night certainly isn’t an option! Well, friend, your child needs a weighted blanket.
And here’s the thing, I truly believe that every child could benefit from sleeping with a weighted blanket. They help to keep people feeling grounded and the pressure helps everyone to fall asleep more easily and quickly. Those benefits are just magnified when a child is autistic or has sensory processing disorder and really, really needs a weighted blanket!
Why Your Child Needs a Weighted Blanket
A Weighted Blanket Provides Deep Pressure
Ever had one of those days where you just can’t relax, and then someone rubs your shoulders? Deep pressure provides relief to our muscles and joints in a way that little else can. We might get sore muscles and joints like this from a long, tiring day at work or after a tough work out, but our kids can get these aches from their normal day to day activities. Deep pressure also helps to release serotonin in the brain which naturally helps to relax, calm, and soothe our bodies. Some children really struggle to relax enough to fall asleep, so a weighted blanket can provide the deep pressure that they need.
A Weighted Blanket Provides Heavy Work Without Effort
One of the most helpful things our occupational therapists recommended for A-Man was starting something called “heavy work”. Basically, A-Man’s muscles needed to be tired out for him to really feel them and be comfortable, so instead of him crashing into walls we could offer him something to do that worked his muscles. In therapy he worked with weighted balls like this one, and at home we did things as simple as having him move canned goods from one box to another. The downside of heavy work is that it can take a lot of energy to get the amount of sensory input that you need. With a weighted blanket, their muscles are working to hold the blanket, but because they’re doing it while relaxing they can’t even tell.
A Weighted Blanket Is Like Swaddling
When you have a newborn, the nurses immediately swaddle them, and they’re pretty much swaddled except for diaper changes from then on. Why do we do this? Well, newborn babies don’t have control over their movements quite yet, so they can easily startle themselves awake with the jerk of a hand. Our kids do this all. the. time. Especially when they’re trying to fall asleep, but their body is demanding that they constantly move. It’s a hard battle, trust me (I have SPD, falling asleep is difficult!)! With the weighted blanket their muscles are getting the stimulation that they crave, all while keeping them relatively still. It helps to keep their bodies calm so that they can fall asleep without their movements waking them up constantly.
A Weighted Blanket Is Comfy
Seriously, this is probably the most important part. Yes, it helps your child’s sensory system. Yes it helps to relax sore and tired muscles and joints. But really, weighted blankets are just really comfortable to use! The weighted blanket A-Man has is soft and warm, so he loves using it. On days when I don’t feel well but I’m trying to manage until Chris gets home, I’ll even use his weighted blanket. It isn’t heavy enough to have all of the benefits for me (the weight of the blanket should depend on the weight of the person using it), but it has more weight than a typical blanket and it’s just instantly calming.
If you haven’t tried one yet, you really should get on board with a weighted blanket. If your child has sensory struggles for whatever reason, or they just struggle to calm down and fall asleep at night, a weighted blanket will be a game changer for your house! A-Man is sleeping so much better since we started using his weighted blanket, and we are never going back to life without one! We’re actually probably getting one for me and all the other kids too! Have you tried a weighted blanket? If you want to get really crafty, you can even make your own using this awesome tutorial from Parenting Chaos!
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