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Update on Weighted Blanket

Posted Jan 06 2013 10:04pm
I've been using my weighted blanket for a while now.

So I thought I would update you all on how it's been going.

I sleep under the blanket every night now, and I find it's easier to go to sleep. I don't know why, but the general sensation of all-over pressure seems to give me constant feedback about where my body is, allowing me to relax. Without the blanket, I feel like I need to move. Since I fidget or stim constantly while awake, it makes sense that a weighted blanket would offer a good substitute for that same constant proprioceptive feedback. I tend to be clumsy (technically, mild developmental dyspraxia), so I wonder whether my brain might not be a little inefficient at figuring out where my body is. If so, perhaps that's part of why I stim--it intensifies the sensations about position and movement, giving my brain a clearer signal. It's ironic that I'm under-sensitive to that, because I'm over-sensitive to skin sensation, but there you go--typical autistic weird brain antics.

The blanket itself has held up well. None of the glass beads have shattered. I wash it by itself, carefully placing it around the washing machine for balance, using the gentle cycle. It's too heavy to hang on a clothesline (it'll pull it down), so I drape it across a couple of chairs, a desk--whatever furniture is available. I only wash it every couple of months; to keep my bedding clean, I really only need to wash my mattress cover and pillowcase more often than that. None of the beads has broken, though the thread between one or two of the quilted compartments has come loose enough that the beads in adjoining compartments clink against each other when I lift the blanket. This is a simple repair, but I just haven't gotten around to it.

In the winter, the blanket is not warm enough, but I find it is easy to just pile on more blankets. Right now I sleep under two blankets. I also have a big feather comforter, but it's not nearly as comfortable as sleeping under the weighted blanket.

I've had no trouble from the "bumpy" texture of the glass beads inside the blanket. The bumps are regular and predictable and most of the pressure does seem to come from the blanket itself, with the glass beads just providing the weight to pull the blanket down. But this might be a problem for some people, and it's something to consider.

Do I recommend you make one for yourself? Well--it's not a beginner's sewing project, though it's not terribly advanced. If you haven't finished a simple quilt before, you should round up someone who has before you get started. It certainly does have the benefit of being cheaper than a professionally made one, and if you can put quality workmanship into it, may well last longer than some commercial weighted blankets. I'm not hugely adept at sewing; I've made a dress or two, altered a lot of clothing, made three or four quilts.

There are some alternatives to weighted blankets. A really big, heavy down-filled comforter (for example a feather bed) is almost as heavy as the lighter of the weighted blankets. Multiple blankets are an option, especially if you choose blankets made of heavy materials like denim. A few of us are lucky enough to have big, warm dogs (or a pile of cats) which will drape themselves across our beds at night. What I've learned about dealing with disability is that often times you simply can't get exactly what you need--so you have to be creative, make something that'll work for your particular situation and your particular physical and mental set-up. You try one thing, try another, combine a few ideas--in the end you find something that works.

I'll be graduating from college soon. I want to go to graduate school, so that I can become a rehabilitation engineer--that's a human factors field that deals with developing technology and environments which can be used by people with disabilities. I think if I can just tap into all that jury-rigging and creativity that disabled people use to get along in the world, I could make some good contributions--technology that's flexible and adaptable, just like we learn to be when the world isn't shaped quite right for us.
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