Weighted blankets are heavy weight therapeutic blankets or duvets, usually weighing 15 pounds or more. Thanks to their therapeutic effects, they provide a sense of calm and help to relieve pain.
Their weight is due to the addition of plastic pellets, glass beads, or due to extra layers of fabric. Weighted blankets with glass beads are one of the latest developments in their technology.
Weighted blankets provide deep touch pressure stimulation, which causes the natural release of neurotransmitters such as serotonin and dopamine. These neurotransmitters provide a sense of calm and relaxation to the body.
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History of weighted blankets
Therapists use weighted blankets to treat their patients since the 1970s.
After this observation, the weighted blankets started gaining popularity and appreciation in the mental health community.
However, the history of weighted blankets is not so clear; the first blanket was made and used by a family of caretakers to seek relief for their children and loved ones.
Rice, beans, corn, stones, popcorn seeds, or anything else could be used to provide extra weight to the blanket. Stones can also be used for this purpose, but their sharp edges can shear the fabric. Also, they get broken down into smaller pieces over time.
Early weighted blanket precursor
Weighted blankets have a long history in the autism community. Temple Grandin is traced to be the early inventor of a precursor of modern weighted blankets. She was an animal scientist and Autism advocate. She developed a device named the “Hug box” or “Hug Machine” She used this for herself and also for Autistic people.
In the 1960s, she spent a lot of time at a relative’s ranch and learned that cattle were soothed when walked through a narrow chute. This gave her the idea of deep pressure stimulation. She realized that she gets similar soothing after experiencing deep pressure stimulation.
Introduction of heavy blankets in the pediatric community
In the1990s, the idea of weighted blankets waved in the pediatric community. Keith Zivalich came up with the concept of the Magic Blanket -a bean-filled blanket used to provide comfort to the children.
Zivalich came up with this idea when he observed that the weight of a flopped Beanie baby lizard on his daughter’s shoulder gave her comfort by providing something like a soothing hug.
After that, he decided to recreate this sensation on a larger scale in the form of a Magic blanket.
The enveloping pressure of the blanket helps in the release of dopamine and serotonin. These neurotransmitters help to alleviate stress.
Evolution up to the modern weighted blankets
Over the years, the idea of deep pressure stimulation is used by clinicians and in the fields of occupational therapy for relaxing and improving sleep in autistic patients.
The deep pressure stimulation is provided through Grandin’s machine. The use of weighted blankets or weighted vests also provides deep pressure stimulation.
The idea of the weighted blankets became a viral hit when, in April 2017, John Florentino started a campaign and raised $21,500 for his weighted blanket project.
Later, he raised more than four million dollars within a few weeks of his campaign. This is a shred of clear evidence to prove the value and benefits of weighted blankets.
This concludes my article, giving you a glimpse of the history of weighted blankets. Here’s a quick summary:
- 1960s: Temple Grandin gets the idea of deep pressure stimulation by observing how cattle was soothed when passing through a narrow chute.
- 1960s: Temple Grandin invented the “Hug Machine” leveraging for the first time the therapeutic effects of deep touch pressure.
- 1970s.: therapists started exploring more in detail the idea of deep pressure stimulation.
- 1990s: Keith Zivalich develops the “Magic Blanket”, the first prototype of modern weighted blankets. He used this heavy blanket to provide comfort to children.
- 1999: Occupational therapist Tina Champagne started exploring the use of weighted blankets to relieve mental health issues.
- 2017: John Florentino completes successful crowdfunding to get weighted blankets into mass production. This was the spark that launched weighted blankets as a popular product to naturally improve sleep worldwide.
- Currently: weighted blankets are extremely popular all over the world and count millions of happy users.