Weighted Blanket for ADD/ADHD
Attention Deficit Disorders such as ADHD and ADD are the most commonly-diagnosed mental disorder of children. Affected kids may exhibit symptoms of extreme hyperactivity as well as being unable control their impulses. They may also have trouble paying attention.
The CDC estimates that around 11% of children in the United States between ages 4 to 17 are afflicted with some form of ADHD. That’s 6.4 million kids just in the US alone.
For individuals who suffer from, or manifest symptoms of, Attention Deficit Disorders, there’s a secret weapon that occupational therapists swear by: it’s called a weighted blanket.
This “magic” sleeping aid is turning everyone into quiet, behaved angels—from rowdy elementary school children, to high-strung adults, and especially individuals suffering from ADHD.
What Is A Weighted Blanket?
The weighted blanket is exactly what it sounds like: a blanket, but weighted. It’s similar to your regular quilt or comforter, with the bonus feature of plastic pellets or glass beads providing additional weight evenly distributed over the entire blanket.
The heavier feel of the blanket creates a natural feeling of calm for some kids—even entire classrooms full of high-energy children. And if something can calm down a room of sweaty, disorderly children, it can calm down anyone.
The effectiveness of a weighted blanket isn’t just purely perception, either.
In 2015, the Journal of Sleep Medicine & Disorders published a study stating that the amount of sleep their research participants got dramatically increased with weighted blanket use. They also found that sleep came easier and faster compared to when they were not using a weighted blanket, and that they woke up fresher in the morning.
Weighted Blankets And Attention Deficit Disorders
Attention Deficit Disorder is a neurological condition wherein affected individuals are unable to sit still, pay attention, or keep quiet. In the case of children, it affects their development, in that they have a hard time focusing and sitting through one lesson, let alone an entire day of classes.
Bedtime might also pose a challenge. Because of their lack of control over their hyperactivity, children with ADHD have a difficult time dozing off at night.
A 2011 study at Örebro University in Sweden revealed that children with ADHD have almost 50% lower levels of serotonin, a protein produced by our brains, which then causes an impairment of sustained attention
"This probably means that the brain produces less serotonin,” explains Jessica Johansson, who is presenting her research findings in a dissertation in medicine. “Thus far the focus has mainly been on the signal substances dopamine and noradrenaline in the medical treatment of ADHD. But if low levels of serotonin are also a contributing factor, other drugs may be necessary for successful treatment."
Typically, doctors prescribe medications like Ritalin and Adderall to provide patients with the serotonin boost they need to get their focus back. But like with any drug, these medicines have side effects that are quite difficult for children to cope with.
Fortunately, there are various ways of getting a serotonin boost without having to turn to drugs or chemicals. One of the most effective is called Deep Pressure Therapy, which is the principle that weighted blankets employ.
A weighted blanket significantly elevates your “happy hormones”: a 28% increase in serotonin and a 31% increase in dopamine. Thus, not only is your overall mood improved, but your mind also becomes more calm when you’re trying to fall asleep.
Serotonin is also responsible for producing the hormone melatonin, which regulates sleep and wakefulness. When you have high levels of the hormone in your system, you sleep deeper and more restfully.
These helpful effects combine to not only soothe the nervous system, but calm the mind. And once your child’s mind is calm, his brain is more able to organize incoming sensory input and adapt to changes in the environment. He begins to stop seeking for stimulation and is able to settle down by himself and improve his attention span.
Best Time To Use A Weighted Blanket
You don’t have to wait for one specific time to use a weighted blanket. For children with ADHD, especially, it can be useful in a variety of situations. Before bedtime, when trying to calm down from an emotional situation, transitioning from a high energy to low energy activity, long car rides, and many more.
And here’s another reason why a weighted blanket is more effective than any medication: unlike drugs, which can be a pain to administer especially for kids who don’t like drinking pills, it’s so much easier to drape them with a warm, cozy blanket and have them lie down in a place where they’re comfortable.
When your child begins to understand by himself what a weighted blanket does, he will willingly seek it before bedtime, during a meltdown, or whenever he wants to be more calm.