Why Are Weighted Blankets Good For Autism?

You heard about sensory blankets for autism and now you may be wondering: why are weighted blankets good for autism?

Sensory weighted blankets for autism are often used in occupational therapy (OT) to help calm stress, anxiety, or comfort hyperactive individuals. Sleep and anxiety problems are very common in people with autism spectrum disorders and weighted blankets are successfully used to help with those.

Why are sensory weighted blankets so good for autism?

Autistic people have their own specific needs and, in general, they are very sensitive to different types of stimuli: sound, touch, or visual. For those reasons, it is important to take into account how a sensory weighted blanket will be perceived by someone with autism.

Sleep isn’t just any other routine incorporated into our lives; it is a basic human need. Sleep is an essential part of life, just like we need to eat, drink and breath. The amount and quality of sleep we get directly affects our mental, emotional and physical health. This is why it is crucial for all people to strive to always get a good night’s sleep.  

Getting good sleep may be quite challenging for autistic people. According to researchers, individuals with autism have a higher likelihood of developing mutations that interfere with the regular sleep-wake cycle. In turn, this leads to insomnia and other sleep-related disorders in these individuals.  

The good news is, that there are several ways to help autistic adults, teenagers, and children to get better, healthier sleep. And one of the most recommended ways is by getting them a sensory weighted blanket for autism. If you are the parent or guardian of an autistic child, you most probably have heard of weighted blankets.  

But what really are weighted blankets? What makes them different from other regular blankets? And how to choose the best weighted blanket for autism? Read on!  

What is a Sensory Weighted Blanket for autism?  

A Sensory weighted blanket for autism is exactly what it sounds like – a blanket with a heavy weight that offers an enhanced sensory experience thanks to a number of important details.

The best weighted blankets have glass beads that are sewn with small pockets. Additionally, at Relixiy® we use a special technology that is embedding the glass beads in the filling pattern, that’s why our sensory blanket is so comfortable and the beads are not rustling while you move it around.

These glass beads add more weight to the blanket, such that it provides a firm, yet very gentle pressure to the body of the user.  

How heavy should a weighted blanket be? Generally, weighted blankets should be approximately 10% of the body weight of the individual, plus a few more pounds. They are usually heavier than other regular blankets, weighing anywhere from 3 to 12 kg. Also, the weights should be evenly distributed to ensure equal pressure on all parts of the blanket.  

Weighted blankets are recommended for individuals who suffer from autism, anxiety, insomnia and other similar conditions. This is because the pressure provided by the blanket gives these individuals a sense of security, in turn making it much easier for them to sleep.

Therefore, weighted blankets provide ideal complementary treatments to other traditional methods, such as medications.  

According to Dr. Temple Grandin, gentle squeezing and hugging pressure (deep touch pressure therapy) can help people with autism feel less anxious, calmer and more relaxed. And weighted blankets are designed in such a way that they provide this gentle squeezing and pressure while the users sleep.  

To support this, Lynelle Schneeberg, a director of behavioural sleep and board-certified sleep psychologist at the Connecticut Children’s Medical Center, comments that kids gain significant benefits from compression. And this compression could come from stretchy Lycra bags or weighted blankets.  

In other words, weighted blankets provide a “full-body hug” to their users. By so doing, the deep touch pressure therapy provided helps autistic kids and adults sleep more comfortably and remain stress-free throughout the night. And the better sleep they get, the happier and healthier they become.

Benefits of Sensory Weighted Blankets for Autism  

Weighted blankets are not a new thing in the market; they have been here for many decades. In fact, these blankets have been gaining more popularity recently, especially among individuals with autism, insomnia and ADHD.

But what exactly makes these types of blankets unique and different from other typical blankets sold in the market?  

Among the many benefits of weighted blankets, consider the following five unique ones to explain why weighted blankets are good for autism.

1. Promote a More Restful Sleep  

Weighted blankets for autism boost the levels of serotonin in the body. The serotonin chemical is also known as “the happy hormone” and functions to produce melatonin.

Melatonin plays a major role in regulating sleep. Individuals with low melatonin levels tend to suffer from insomnia or restless sleep syndrome.  

Therefore, by increasing the levels of melatonin in the brain, weighted blankets help autistic individuals to have a more relaxed sleep.

It is no wonder that a research study published in the Journal of Occupational Therapy in Mental Health found that 78% of the participants chose to sleep with weighted blankets as their ‘calming modality.’  

2. Reduce Stress Levels  

One of the major causes of lack of sleep in people with autism is high nighttime levels of cortisol.

Cortisol is also commonly termed the “stress hormone. It is usually produced when the brain thinks you are in danger or under attack. In turn, this triggers a flight, freeze, or fright response.  

Weighted blankets for autism are designed in such a way that they push the body downwards, a process termed as “grounding.” This grounding process stimulates deep pressure touch (DPT) therapy; the kind of therapy that helps to reduce chronic stress and anxiety. Therefore, sensory heavy blankets can be said to help reduce levels of cortisol in the brain.  

High levels of cortisol have a very negative impact on the immune system. More so, the “stress hormone” negatively affects the digestive tract and leads to a significant increase in blood sugar. Actually, elevated and prolonged levels of cortisol can lead to multiple complications, such as depression, weight gain, anxiety, and insomnia.  

Therefore, the “grounding” effect provided by weighted blankets does more than just reduce stress levels; it also prevents serious health complications by ensuring a more robust immune system.  

3. Reduce Anxiety 

People suffering from autism usually experience co-occurring disorders, such as anxiety. Anna Merrill, an expert at Indiana University Bloomington, agrees that most kids with ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorders) are diagnosed with additional disorders at a later point in their life. Most of these disorders are related to anxiety and can be very debilitating for people with autism. 

Weighted blankets have been known to have an anti-anxiety effect in people with autism. And by reducing their anxiety, pain, and unrest, these blankets help to improve the quality of life of autistic people.

Also, reduced anxiety levels mean better sleep and a more positive attitude by the blanket users.

4. Minimize Tantrums and Meltdowns 

Most people who are not familiar with autism usually confuse meltdowns with temper tantrums. Temper tantrums are mostly driven by will and can be slowed with self-regulation.

On the other hand, meltdowns are usually driven by the physical shutdown and are out of a person’s control. 

Children with autism can, at times, experience meltdowns. When this happens, they feel completely overwhelmed with no other means to express their emotions.

These overwhelming meltdowns are usually triggered by exposure to different, uncomfortable settings, such as light, crowds, darkness, smells, unusual noises, queues, and other unfamiliar places.  

Children are different; what overwhelms one child may be different from what overwhelms another. Therefore, you must learn to identify the signs and circumstances which trigger your child’s meltdown.

When you see any signs of a meltdown coming on, you are recommended to use a weighted blanket to calm down your child. 

The weighted blanket stimulates even pressure points throughout the individual’s body. In turn, this signals the nervous system to calm down and manage any anxiety triggered.

Therefore, the blanket can help a child dealing with autism to remain calmer and feel more secure, even when exposed to different environments or circumstances. 

5. Improve Focus 

Weighted blankets for autistic adults and children provide one of the best deep touch pressure therapies. This type of therapy brings a calm feeling to its users, in turn helping them improve their focus and attention, especially when at school.  

Also, the deep pressure provided by these blankets helps reduce anxiety in school-going kids with autism.

The less anxious the children are, the better their in-seat behavior and their ability to concentrate. In turn, this makes it much easier for the individuals to complete tasks and other school assignments. 

What to look for to find the Best Sensory weighted Blanket for Autism 

The best sensory weighted blanket for autism is that which offers all of the benefits discussed above. Simply put, the weighted blanket you choose for yourself or your kid should be able to provide emotional, physical, and mental benefits and provide the correct sensory stimulation. 

However, there are hundreds of weighted blankets sold in the market today. And each of these brands claims to offer the best, high-quality weighted blankets for autism.

So how can you tell just which brand or type of weighted blanket to go for? 

Here are nine considerations that can help you make the best decision when it comes to choosing the best autism weighted blanket: 

1. Type of Fabric 

Before you can buy your ideal weighted blanket, take a closer look at the fabric. What kind of materials has been used to make the blanket?

It is true that weighted blankets should have relatively more weight than regular blankets. Still, this does not mean that you choose a weighted blanket whose fabric is too heavy or too light. 

The fabric used to make the blanket should be breathable and highly durable. Even better, choose a machine washable weighted blanket. After all, you wouldn’t want to buy a weighted blanket that will require you to spend too much time and effort cleaning it.  

One of the most recommended fabrics for weighted blankets is cotton; this material is not only machine-washable but also durable and breathable.

Other sturdy fabric options include polyester/cotton blend, satin, bamboo and polyester. 

The best sensory fabric for autism

Autistic people tend to have enhanced sensitivity to touch. This should be taken into account when looking for a weighted blanket for autism.

The best blankets for autism are those that offer a unique sensory experience, like Relixiy®, their fabric is super soft, silky smooth, and super comfy. The fabric may also have some gentle texture, like wobbles on the surface, to enhance the sensory experience.

Those sensory weighted blankets are generally made of plush fabric and have a removable luxury cover. The removable cover will help you to keep the blanket clean because you can easily remove it and wash it in the machine without having to deal with the weighted insert.

Given the high sensitivity to the touch of autistic people, my suggestion is to prefer a blanket made with the finest fabrics. Ideally with a removable luxury cover made with ultra-plush fabric, even better if the cover has some sensory pattern, like wobbles, on one side.

This will increase the sensory experience of your loved ones when sleeping with a weighted blanket. Probably they will not want to sleep without it anymore!

Sensory weighted blanket for autism cover
Cover of a Sensory Weighted Blanket for Autism

2. Quality of the materials 

Some companies make the weighted blanket products themselves, then assemble and design these to make complete blankets. On the other hand, other companies buy already-made products from other factories, then design the blankets. 

It is important that you first confirm how the brand you intend to buy from makes its blankets.

If you live in the UK, make sure that your weighted blanket has been sourced and manufactured following the highest quality standards such as OEKO-TEX Standard 100. Make sure that the manufacturer follows the OEKO-TEX standard and has a label like the one below:

Oeko-Tex Standard 100

You are recommended to purchase your weighted blankets from those companies that make their blankets from scratch to finish or that follow rigorous quality processes such as OEKO-TEX certified. Only then can you be guaranteed to get high-quality blankets with safe materials.

3. Types of Pellets or Beads 

To give a weighted blanket enough pressure and weight, pellets or beads are added to the pockets and stitched together. However, it is not just any type of pellet or bead that can be used on a weighted blanket. 

The best types of pellets are those that are breathable, as well as highly resistant to mold and mildew. Therefore, before you settle on which weighted blanket for autism to buy, you would do well to first check what materials that brand uses to give its blankets weight.  

Among the most recommended materials are 100% virgin polypropylene pellets or micro-glass beads. These types of pellets are preferred for their great durability, high heat point, breathability, non-porosity, as well as resistance against mold and mildew. 

Glass beads are best for weighted material because they also are hypoallergenic and eco-friendly.

When looking for a weighted blanket with glass beads, one important factor to consider is the size of the beads. The smaller the beads and the best in their quality. Premium weighted blankets like Relixiy® are filled with micro-glass beads with a diameter of less than 1mm.

This gives the blanket a very smooth texture, and at the same time helps to remove any noise coming from the beads rustling inside the pockets. Those are ideal for people affected by autism because the blanket will not make noises while moving around and will also have the most pleasant and uniform feel to the touch.

Other common fillers used in weighted blankets are: 

  • Recycled poly plastic pellets. 
  • Polyfill (pillow stuffing) – These fillers make the weighted blanket fluffier, just like a comforter. Also, they help to minimize the sound that weighted blankets make as they shift from side to side. 
  • HDPE pellets – These types of pellets offer more porosity than glass and poly pellets. 

4. Washability 

Say you spill a drink or food on your weighted duvet, how easy will it be to wash it? Think about this: If the regular blankets and duvets are quite difficult to wash by hand, then how much more difficult is washing a weighted blanket which is heavier? 

Hence, to save you a lot of time and energy, it would be wise to go for a washable weighted blanket, even better if machine washable.

Weighted blankets that are 7 kg and below, like Relixiy® can be easily washed and dried in a home washing machine.

However, for blankets heavier than 7 kg, you are recommended to take these to the laundry. Alternatively, purchase a commercial-size washer that provides enough space in the tub for the blanket and that can handle its weight. 

Still, you might ask yourself:  What if I choose to use duvet covers or bed covers? Well, duvet covers can still be used to protect the weighted blanket from spills and stains.

However, using a duvet cover will force you to create enough attachment points that will function to keep the blanket from dropping. For this reason, it is recommended to purchase a weighted blanket with a removable cover as a set.

You may also use duvets, but remember that those are designed with extra layers. These extra layers add more heat; hence, they might not be an ideal option for hot-natured people or during the hot seasons.

Considering all those disadvantages, finding a machine-washable weighted blanket with a removable cover remains the best option. 

5. Colors and patterns

Consider the range of colors and patterns provided. Go for colors, patterns and designs that will appeal to the intended user.

Autistic individuals feel more comfortable and relaxed when they are in familiar environments and colors surrounding them. 

A color like blue or similar tends to have more calming effects than warmer colours like red or yellow or red.

You can learn more about the best colors for a bedroom and how those can influence your mood here.

6. Pressure and weight distribution 

All the weight and pressure of the blanket should be distributed evenly throughout the blanket. No weight should “fall” into the corners or the bottom of the blanket.

A good pre-purchase indicator of uniform weight distribution is the size of the quilting pockets. Prefer blankets that have small pockets, because those will allow less movement of the weighted beads and, as a consequence, will ensure that the beads are more uniformly distributed.

At the same time, be also careful not to prefer blankets with pockets that are extremely small, because in this case, the blanket may feel less soft.

In my experience the ideal size of the pockets is around 10cm: this guarantees a uniform weight distribution, while at the same time keeping the blanket soft and flexible.


Why are weighted blankets good for autism? Here’s why:

  • Promote a more restful sleep – especially important for adults and children with autism spectrum disorders.
  • Reduce stress levels – this is vital to help to get proper sleep because autistic people tend to be more stressed at night.
  • Reduce anxiety – anxiety disorders are very common for autistic people, and a weighted blanket can provide anxiety relief.
  • Minimize tantrums and meltdowns – use a weighted blanket for autism as soon as you perceive any sign of a meltdown.
  • Improve focus – being calmer will help the person with autism to improve focus at home and at school.

Weighted blankets can be a great aid to manage autism and it is important to choose the right one for you. One that offers uniform weight distribution, is made with quality materials, is washable and comes with a nice removable cover.

Relixiy® is one of the best sensory weighted blankets for autistic adults and teenagers, so make sure to check out our shop!