Here are some of the amazing ways a weighted sensory blanket can help people with Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD).
5 Benefits of Weighted Sensory Blankets to Help Those with SPD
1. Weighted Sensory Blankets Provide Deep Touch Therapy
Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) is a condition in which the brain has difficulty in receiving information that comes in through the senses. Thereby, resulting in inappropriate motor and behavioral responses.
Persons affected with SPD find sensory information input confusing. They may be easily overwhelmed by sensory stimuli (hypersensitivity). In turn, it may lead to conditions such as anxiety, sleep disorders, fibromyalgia syndrome, and chronic fatigue syndrome.
Plus, they may be unaware of sensory stimulation, therefore they tend to compensate by seeking it (hyposensitivity). This is what is called Proprioceptive Dysfunction.
SPD affects children more commonly and, consequently, they typically grow up to become adults with sensory issues. Hence, children and adults may both be affected.
Over the years, occupational therapy has relied on Deep Touch Pressure (DTP) to help those suffering from SPD. DTP is a firm, tangible stimulus to the senses which may be acquired from actions such as firm hugs, squeezing, or compression. However, for a few sufferers, this kind of human touch or interaction proves triggering or even problematic.
This is where weighted sensory blankets come in.
Weighted blankets provide extra weight from its fillings made of small objects, that soothes the user due to its application of deep and even pressure. Once wrapped in the blanket, the user can reap the same benefits as a nice, warm hug or squeeze, without human touch. Weighted sensory blankets can mimic the calming effect one gets from a firm hug.
These blankets also make it easy for SPD sufferers to seek relief at home, in addition to their other professional therapy strategies. They can relax with the weighted sensory blanket draped over their shoulders or spread over their laps.
2. Increase the Levels of Happy Hormones in Persons with Anxiety and Chronic Pain
If you are grouchy, irritable, or overwhelmed, a dose of happy hormones may be exactly what you need.
SPD usually exists simultaneously with anxiety. A person can feel overwhelmed by situations that trigger their hypersensitivities. The symptoms of anxiety can spiral when a person with SPD is faced with too much stimuli all at once.
As previously established, snuggling under a weighted blanket simulates DTP.
A direct result of this is the increased levels of the happy hormones (serotonin and dopamine), and conversely, this decreases that of the stress hormone (cortisol). Thus leading to a feeling of content and well-being.
Persons with anxiety appreciate the lower stress levels, and so do parents whose children are prone to tantrums and meltdowns.
Similarly, chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) is a debilitating disorder characterized by overwhelming fatigue, typically lasting for at least six (6) months, in the absence of an alternative diagnosis.
Both CFS and SPD appear to result from hypersensitivity to even ordinary sensory impulses.
A complete body massage is good for promoting relaxation of the muscles and nerve pains. The DTP from weighted blankets can release happy hormones that makes one feel good, much like how one does after a good massage.
This is especially advantageous for those whose bodies are under immense stress. For instance, when CFS symptoms flare up.
3. Facilitates Release of Sleep Hormone Melatonin for a More Restful Sleep
Imagine tossing and turning in bed all night, or compulsively getting up and having trouble falling back to sleep. This is common for SPD sufferers, who wake up actually feeling more tired than when they went to bed.
Poor sleep can be an indicator of SPD. Persons with SPD are unable to handle sensory overload and experience difficulty with self-soothing and calming down. Both are very crucial to falling asleep.
The sleep hormone melatonin controls your body clock. This determines feelings of sleepiness and wakefulness over a twenty-four (24) hour period. Sensory weighted blankets increase this sleep hormone production, boosting your body clock to work more efficiently.
Studies have found that more restful sleep was observed upon the use of weighted sensory blankets.
4. Soothes Nerve Pain from Fibromyalgia Syndrome
Fibromyalgia Syndrome (FS) is characterized by unexplained, chronic pain in the muscles and joints.
Research shows that a hypersensitive nervous system which overreacts to stimuli is responsible for the syndrome. SPD is co-morbid with FS, which causes exaggeration of common, ordinary sensations, including pain.
The weighted sensory blankets soothe nerve pain and intolerable sensations. Thus, those affected frequently feel more serene with a stable sleeping pattern, due to the increased levels of sleep and happy hormones.
5. Aids in Improving Awareness of Body Position in Those with Proprioceptive Dysfunction
To put it simply, proprioception means “sense of self.” It gives us the information regarding our body’s position in relation to its surroundings and its movement.
Persons with SPD who experience proprioceptive hyposensitivity struggle with the difficulty of not knowing where their bodies are in relation to space, and are often unaware of their own body sensations. Thus, they are diagnosed with proprioceptive dysfunction (PD).
Persons with PD may be under-responsive to touch. Accordingly, added pressure on their joints and muscles will make them more sensitive to sensory input.
The “cocooning” effect and the added weight of the weighted blanket provide the optimal compression persons with PD need. This is important for them to sense the pressure applied upon them. That is to say, this is much like the feeling of being hugged tightly and squeezed, which they typically get comfort from.
Weighted sensory blankets can especially help those who are struggling with SPD. However, the comfort and tranquility weighted sensory blankets can give can be had by anyone who chooses to try it for themselves!
Do you know any other ways the weighted sensory blanket can help persons with SPD? Share them with us in the comment section below!