What Is the Research Supporting the Use of Weighted Blankets for Patients With Autism?


Quick Answer

Empirical research has not shown evidence of improved sleep in children with autism spectrum disorder, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. While both children and their parents responded positively to the weighted blankets, empirical measures failed to show a statistically significant difference in sleep quality.

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Children on the autism spectrum are more likely to experience sleep disorders than those not on the spectrum, explains the American Academy of Pediatrics, and weighted blankets are a popular therapy meant to improve children's sleep. The study tested children aged 5 to 16 who were diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder and experienced sleep disorders. Children in the test group received a weighted blanket, while those in the control group used a placebo blanket. The children in the study switched to the other type of blanket near the end of the study.

The average time it took for children to fall asleep was similar in both groups. Furthermore, children in both groups slept for approximately the same amount of time, and the amount of time children spent awake after initially falling asleep was effectively identical. Children generally favored the weighted blanket, and their parents believed their children experienced improved sleep when using them. Parents were also much more likely to report that their children were calmer when they used the weighted blanket. The study showed that clinicians should not actively encourage parents to purchase weighted blankets, but it's unclear if clinicians should actively dissuade their use, states the American Academy of Pediatrics.

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