Are Weighted Blankets Safe for Kids?

You may see ads for them on your social feeds, but weighted blankets don't have your pediatrician's approval. Here's what you need to know.

Target Weighted Blanket Gray
Photo: Courtesy of Target

While it would be lovely to imagine a world where getting your child to sleep more soundly is as easy as investing in a weighted blanket, we aren't quite there yet.

Weighted blankets are typically 15 pounds or more and filled with a material such as plastic pellets. The theory is that the extra pressure that comes from a heavier blanket could help kids sleep for a longer period, fall asleep faster, or wake less often. But research hasn't proven they're effective in children.

Here's what you need to know before buying a weighted blanket.

They Might Not Work

When kids ages 5 to 16 with both autism and severe sleep problems slept under a weighted blanket, neither their quality of sleep nor behavior improved, an American Academy of Pediatrics study found. The same goes for kids without autism: No research has shown that these blankets help children sleep better than traditional ones.

Sixty-seven kids with a diagnosed autism spectrum disorder participated in the randomized study in which researchers were trying to learn how weighted blankets could positively affect children's sleep. They found no discernable difference between regular blankets and weighted blankets when measured for falling asleep faster, sleeping longer, and waking less often.

One interesting note about this study is that parents and kids overwhelmingly preferred weighted blankets from a comfort standpoint. So, for some kids, if the issue with bedtime is about comfort, weighted blankets may still have a small benefit. But are they safe?

They Could Pose a Danger

You might think that a weighted blanket could comfort your child if they're struggling to fall or stay asleep—some people describe it as feeling like a hug. Most blankets come with an age range of 4 years and up, but Dr. Landa doesn't recommend that any kids use them while sleeping, as they can be too heavy for a child to move.

If your little one can't push the blanket out of the way at night, their air access may be limited, leading to suffocation. A blanket that's too heavy can also decrease your child's circulation and affect his heart rate or blood flow.

According to the Sleep Foundation, weighted blankets are not safe for kids, and while they may be safe for adults, that is only if the blanket does not exceed 10% of your body weight. So, a person who weighs 150 pounds can safely sleep with a 15-pound weighted blanket, but a child who weighs under 150 pounds would be a risk of suffocation. The foundation also notes that anyone with sleep apnea should avoid weighted blankets.

Consider Changing Your Sleep Habits

Before purchasing a weighted blanket for your child, it may be wise to look closely at their sleep habits to identify and resolve any issues. Here are a few sleep habits to consider for consistent rest.

  • Stick to a regular, predictable bedtime and wake-up time.
  • Find calm and quiet activities before bedtime to help set the right tone.
  • Avoid blue light from screens at least one hour before bedtime.
  • If your child enjoys an evening snack, stick to a high protein, low sugar option.
  • Schedule their bath before bed to help them wind down and relax.
  • Keep their room dark and at a comfortable temperature.

Talk to Your Doctor Before Buying One

Check with your pediatrician if you've thought about using a weighted blanket because your child is showing signs of a behavioral issue like anxiety or hyperactivity.

"Parents should only use a weighted blanket on their child if an occupational therapist, who has training in the area, has recommended it," Dr. Landa says. (Your kid's doc would refer you to an O.T.) Plus, a blanket should be bought only from a reputable distributor, have a list of precautions, and have higher safety standards than other blankets on the market.

Your child's doctor may suggest alternatives like melatonin or switching up your child's sleep routine. For some sleep issues such as snoring, sleep apnea, insomnia, or excessive drowsiness, your child may be referred to a sleep specialist who may likely order a sleep study.

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