7 Ways to use a Weighted Blanket or Lap Pad

We’ve learned all about our weighted blankets. We’ve learned the science that supports weighted blankets, and we’ve learned how they work. Now how about some ways to use weighted blankets or lap pads?

1. Sleeping. Obviously, many people use weighted blankets to help them get to sleep faster, wake fewer times, and feel more rested. We discussed that in-depth in a previous entry.

2. Long periods of sitting. Travel, for example, or church services. Kids (and adults) can struggle with staying seated for long periods (and they SHOULD – it isn’t really normal to sit for that long) – weighted lap pads or blankets can help in these situations. We find that Tbear does better in the car with staying calm and showing appropriate behavior when we combine frequent breaks with a weighted blanket. The blanket provides him the deep sensory input that he naturally seeks – and he doesn’t have to seek it out in other, less desirable ways. Like hitting his sister.

3. Stressful or anxious times. Science has shown that deep touch pressure reduces stress and anxiety, and promotes calm. We use weighted items during hospital stays, for example, and I find that when I’m particularly stressed, I tend to pile Teddy’s weighted blanket on top of my own for even more weight.

4. Schoolwork. Whether at school or at home, a weighted lap pad can improve concentration, help reduce wiggliness, and help students stay on-task (see weighted lap pad studies mentioned here.

5. Transition periods, particularly moving from a period of high activity to one of lower activity – such as sitting down to dinner after running around outside. Letting your child chill out for a few minutes under the weighted blanket in a calm environment can often help ease that transition between high activity and lower activity.

6. Meltdowns. Some parents find that they can head off meltdowns by strategic use of weighted blankets. Weighted blankets, as previously discussed, activate the parasympathetic nervous system, which has a calming effect on the body. Typically, parents need the child’s cooperation, but if they’re willing, and if the parent catches the meltdown early enough to head it off at the pass, a weighted blanket can help.

7. Heavy work. Many kids benefit from heavy work – during transition times, to get out their wiggles, to help re-focus. We often use our weighted blankets for heavy work. “Hey, Tbear, go get your heavy blanket for me!”

And you can get your very own weighted blanket or lap pad here!


Why do Weighted Blankets Work?

Weighted blankets work on the same basis as Deep Touch Pressure, or DTP. A hug is one way to get DTP, as is a massage. If you or your child are sensory-seeking, you might have noticed other ways you or they seek out DTP, as well – laying under the couch cushions, slipping between the mattress and box spring, wearing tight clothing, piling on blankets and pillows. And you can also get Deep Touch Pressure from a weighted blanket or weighted lap pad, which provide a nice, evenly distributed, gentle weight.

When the body is under stress or is overwhelmed (such as by sensory input), it moves to the “fight or flight” response – the sympathetic nervous system. The sympathetic nervous system causes your body to release cortisol, the stress hormone, which causes your heart rate and blood pressure to increase, makes you a little sweaty, and makes it hard to concentrate. You start to feel anxious and irritable, among other things. Kids with autism, SPD, ADHD, and other disorders spend far more time with their sympathetic nervous system in charge than most of us. And most of us in our modern society spend far more time with our sympathetic nervous system in charge than is ideal.

But when you apply Deep Touch Pressure to the body, it switches over to the parasympathetic nervous system. Cortisol decreases. Dopamine (neurotransmitter associated with brain’s pleasure center) and serotonin (neurotransmitter associated with feelings of well-being) increase. Your heart rate and blood pressure decrease. Your muscles relax, blood flow improves. You feel relaxed and calm.

You can apply Deep Touch Pressure many ways. A hug. Firm touch (with warning and approval of the person being touched, if they’re sensitive to touch). A massage. Or a weighted blanket or lap pad, which have the benefit of not requiring another person, and being available whenever and wherever you need.

Read more about our weighted blankets here, and more on the science that supports the idea of using weighted blankets for better sleep here. And get your very own weighted blanket or weighted lap pad from Wallypop.

Hsin-Yung Chen et. al., 2011   http://www.jmbe.org.tw/index.php?action=archives2&no=1961

Some of you may find this article about touch and ASD to be informative, as well.

Do Weighted Blankets Work? Here’s What The Science Says

What does science say about weighted blankets? Do studies support the idea that weighted blankets help with sleep?

We’ll cover the science behind how and why weighted blankets may help in another article, but for now, we wanted to focus on what the science currently says about whether weighted blankets objectively improve sleep.

And…well, not too many studies have looked at this issue, surprisingly, and they’re generally pretty small studies. But many studies that have been completed to date do show objective improvement in sleep, and most show subjective improvement.

Image shows a woman lying on a couch under a weighted blanket

Here are all the studies that HAVE been done that we could dig up.

—  1992 Journal of Child and Adolescent Psychopharmacology. Temple Grandin’s study on her Hug Box supports the idea that deep pressure (such as you get from a hug, or from a weighted blanket, or from, as Dr. Grandin used to do, crawling under the couch cushions and having someone sit on you) objectively calms people with ASD and ADHD.

—  2008 Occupational Therapy in Mental Health.  This study looked at a small group of adults, and measured things like respiration rate, blood pressure, etc., during short periods of using a 30 lb weighted blanket (regardless of participant’s weight). They also looked at effectiveness by measuring electrodermal activity (EDA), using a standardized anxiety measurement, and an exit survey. “The results reveal that the use of the 30 lb weighted blanket, in the lying down position, is safe as evidenced by the vital sign metrics. Data obtained on effectiveness reveal 33% demonstrated lowering in EDA when using the weighted blanket, 63% reported lower anxiety after use, and 78% preferred the weighted blanket as a calming modality.”

—  2011 Nordic Journal of Psychiatry. This study looked at 21 children with ADHD, who slept with a weighted blanket for 14 days, and without for 14 days. Their sleep was monitored by sleep journals and actigraphy. Conclusion: “The results of this study show that the use of Ball Blankets is a relevant and effective treatment method with regard to minimizing sleep onset latency. We find that the use of Ball Blankets for 14-days improves the time it takes to fall asleep, individual day-to-day variation and the number of awakenings to a level that compares with those found in the healthy control group. Furthermore, we find that the use of Ball Blankets significantly reduces the number of nights that the ADHD child spends more than 30 min falling asleep from 19% to 0%.”

—  2012 Australasian Psychiatry. This study looked at about 30 adults inpatient in a psychiatric unit. “Those individuals who used the weighted blanket reported significantly greater reductions in distress and clinician-rated anxiety than those who did not. No changes were noted in rates of seclusion or aggression.”

—  2014 Pediatrics. This study looked at children with an ASD diagnosis and “severe sleep problems.” They gave kids a weighted blanket (no notes on the weight and whether it was appropriate for the weight of the child) and an otherwise identical regular blanket. One blanket was used for 2 weeks at bedtime, then the other blanket was used for 2 weeks at bedtime. 67 children completed the study. The results? “Using objective measures, the weighted blanket, compared with the control blanket, did not increase TST [total sleep time] as measured by actigraphy and adjusted for baseline TST. There were no group differences in any other objective or subjective measure of sleep, including behavioral outcomes. On subjective preference measures, parents and children favored the weighted blanket.” It’s hard to say what this result means. Perhaps the children and parents were experiencing a benefit not captured by the study. Perhaps it was a placebo effect (they expected to see a difference, so they did). It’s also possible that “severe sleep problems” involve larger issues than can be reasonably improved by a weighted blanket.

—  2015 Journal of Sleep Medicine and Disorders. This study looked at 31 adults with chronic insomnia. They slept one week with usual bedding, 2 weeks with weighted blanket, then 1 week with usual bedding. 80% of study participants slept longer and spent less time awake during the night while using the weighted blanket. Participants also reported that it was easier to settle into sleep with the weighted blanket, feeling as though they’d slept better, and feeling more refreshed in the morning.

—  2016 Journal of Formosan Medical Association. They used weighted blankets on people getting a wisdom tooth extraction and compared them with people without the weighted blanket. (This makes me wonder if they just used the lead aprons, lol. My favorite part of the dentist is using that lead apron. It’s sooooo heavy and feels sooooo nice.) They discovered that those WITH the weighted blanket showed more activity in the part of the nervous system that manages low-stress situations, suggesting the people with the blankets were less stressed by their wisdom tooth extraction.

And then there’s the reported experiences of parents, kids, and adults, many of whom report better sleep with a weighted blanket than without. Get yours here!

Image shows a weighted blanket all folded up.

Weighted Vests

I don’t know how relevant weighted vest studies are, since they’re used in different ways than blankets, but I wanted to include these weighted vest studies that I found:

http://www.terapeutas-ocupacionales.es/assets/files/COPTOA/Bibliotecavirtual/AJOT/Mayo-Junio-15/6903350010p1.pdf  Decrease stress, increase calm

A 2011 study in the South African Journal of Occupational Therapy found ADHD kids were more on-task while wearing weighted vests.

http://fileserver.daemen.edu/~rholmstr/weighted_vest_and_adhd.pdf  ADHD kids increase focus, but very small.

Pinnable image for this entry

11 Ways to Survive a Long Hospital Stay With Your Child

Long hospital stays are so challenging. The stress, the poor sleep, being cooped up, dealing with the medical things, and trying to help your child as much as you can. There’s no privacy. And most of us fall into habits that don’t help our mental well being – sitting around, eating junk, drinking too much coffee, stress eating, whatever your coping mechanisms are.

Here’s a list of eleven things I’ve found make a HUGE difference during those long stays.

  1. Drink. No, I don’t mean alcohol (though I sometimes think hospitals should have bars that only take tokens, and parents can earn the tokens through doing good deeds like not being grumpy with the residents). I mean keep yourself hydrated! Drink water, yes. But you also need to get yourself some fun drinks. Like flavored water? Stick some drink flavorings in your hospital suitcase. Like pop? Pack it, but don’t over-do it. Like Coffee? If you’re going to be there for a long time, bring your favorite coffee things – whether that’s your Keurig, your French press, or your favorite creamer. I’m not encouraging over-indulgence here. But I find that treating myself to my personal favorite – raspberry flavored tea – every now and again really does put a bit of a bounce back in my step.
  2. Healthy Food. Especially if you’re a stress eater! Your hospital cafeteria might not have great food, but I bet it has a salad bar and I bet they serve at least semi decent veggies. Ours has great veggies and a nice salad bar, and I make it a point to stock up whenever I can. I also have my husband bring me frozen single-serve veggie dishes when he visits on weekends. Not only is this keeping my body functioning better than it would on junk food, but it actually gives me a mental boost, as well. Not because I love salad so much, but because I feel good knowing I’m eating healthy things. And my body has come to associate Hospital with Vegetables. I actually eat more veggies when we’re inpatient than I do at home. Which is weird. But it’s good for me! And good for you, too.  Some hospitals even have arrangements with local farmers and food co-ops to make fresh veggies available to families. Take advantage if your hospital does this!
  3. Treats. Yes, to go along with all those vegetables you’re going to be eating… bring or get small portions of treats. I have a few of those single serve microwave brownie cups in my hospital suitcase, and I also pack hot chocolate mix. And I know where to get scotcharoos. And as long as I don’t get carried away, these sugary treats ALSO provide a mental boost, because there’s nothing like letting yourself have something that just plain tastes sinful at the end of a long, stressful, and either very boring or very unpleasantly exciting hospital day.
  4. Things Unique To Your Hospital. Most larger hospitals have SOMETHING available to families. A gym membership? Get Child Life to hang with your kid while you check it out. Massages? I used to get a massage during every surgery. They often joked that they couldn’t make much headway on my tension. But it still felt nice. Find out what your hospital has on offer, and take advantage.
  5. Exercise. Yes. Exercise. What can you do in a hospital? If you can leave the room, go for a walk. (If your child can join you, so much the better.) If you can’t, there are YouTube exercise videos, YouTube yoga videos, etc. You can do pushups, situps, squats, calf raises, tricep pushups, etc. in the room. (Oh no! What if someone walks in?!? It’ll be OK. If you’ve been there for a while already, I’m willing to bet that someone walking in on you doing a pushup isn’t the worst thing that’s happened, and you exercising is going to be FAR FROM the strangest thing the hospital folks have seen.) You could even jog in place, or figure out a small circuit in the room. I used to have a stretchy band in my hospital suitcase for some resistance exercises before it got lost. Look up Office Exercises for some other ideas. (or I have a Pinterest board with ideas!)
  6. Electronics. Yes, embrace the electronics. For you, for your child. Your kid’s likely sitting in bed most of the time. YAWN. It’s ok to put aside your ideals about electronics use and let them use a tablet for a while. Truly, this is how Teddy learned his letters and numbers. Yep. The iPod I let him use during hospital stays.
  7. Social Media. There’s nothing quite so isolating as being in the hospital with your child. Especially if you’re on isolation, lol, or in the ICU. Many parents live a distance away from their child’s hospital, making it hard for friends or family to visit, and even if you live in town, many people don’t or can’t have visitors. Use social media to stay in touch with the outside world. Even if it’s hard. I know, believe me, how hard it is to be sitting in the hospital with a gravely ill child and read on Facebook someone freaking out because their perfectly regular kid has a perfectly regular fever, or GI virus, or is getting a tooth. Stay off Facebook if you need to, but try to stay in touch via private messaging or text to your inner circle.
  8. Go Outside. If at all possible, go outside. Even in bad weather. Even if all you do is stand under an awning for five minutes. Go outside. Take a few deep breaths. Do some stretches, or that thing where you tighten and relax your muscle groups for a minute. It isn’t good for humans to be indoors all the time.
  9. Child Life. Get to know them. Get to know what they can do for you and your child. Use them. They can hook you up with toys, activities, art supplies, iPads usually, gaming systems, sometimes music therapy, sometimes therapy animals. Child Life is your friend.
  10. Spiritual Services. If you are religious, talking to the hospital chaplain, even if that person is a stranger, can be really helpful in re-setting your mental state. During one hospital stay, a long distance friend whose dad was a pastor in the are we were staying had her dad come and visit us for a while. I sat and chatted with him for an hour or so, and it was really very nice. Just…. soothing.
  11. Scream and Cry. Most hospitals will have a place you can do this. Embarrassed about it? Take a pillow and find a distant bathroom or meeting room. But there’s no reason to be embarrassed. Nurses will understand, and if you ask them for a safe place to go cry loudly and maybe yell nonsense for a minute, they’ll know where you can go. Sometimes you just need it, and you can’t usually do this in the room with your child.

All About…Cord Clips

Our Cord Clips have been one of our best sellers since we introduced them a few years ago. These simple little doo dads are surprisingly handy – and not just for special needs!

First, the highlights.

  • They’re made with fabric. Four layers of fabric, to be specific. This makes them so much more sturdy and longer lasting than clips made from ribbon.
  • They have two sets of snaps, making them far more versatile than clips with just one snap. There are so many different positions you can use these things in! More on that in a minute.
  • The clip is strong but easy to open. Just press up on the lever. The teeth are non-damaging.

Now, the uses:

With feeding tubes and oxygen tubing, to reduce pulling, to manage excess tubing, or to keep tubing positioned.

With ventilator or CPAP circuits.

With dialysis tubes.
OK, I ritually sacrificed all of our dialysis supplies when Teddy got his transplant, so I don’t have any pictures, but the clips can be used to keep the tubing positioned. If you are on dialysis and want a free cord clip in exchange for high quality pictures if you using it… let me know.

To hold 60 mL syringes in place, whether for gravity feeding or for venting.

To hold a feeding pump bag in place, with or without an insulated cover.

To hold charging cords in the car and keep that mess a bit more tidy!

How do you use YOUR cord clips? Share a picture on any social media account (well… Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or Pinterest) and tag Wallypop (@wallypopia on Insta and Pinterest, @wallypop on Twitter) or share on your blog and pingback to this post. June 30, we’ll put all the tags and pings and whatnot in a hat and draw two to get a free cord clip! (US only unless you want to pay for Priority shipping)

Don’t own a Cord Clip yet? You can buy them here: http://lemondrops.wallypop.net/cordclip.html