Heated Blankets as a Sleep Aid for Children with ASD
About 1 in 59 children are diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). With a wide variety of complex treatments available it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. But, helping your child cope with one of the most common difficulties parents can face (bedtime) – could be simpler than you think. Here’s a look at 6 reasons why a heated warming blanket can help children with ASD sleep.
It’s Nature’s Original Therapy
Heat has long been used for a wide range of healing therapies. It’s often used to ease tension and reduce muscle pain. Applying heat can also prevent stiffness and spasms. Children with ASD can have episodes of anxiety and tension that can greatly benefit from the use of heat. In addition, using heat therapeutically can promote blood flow which increases the amount of oxygen and nutrients that are carried throughout the body. This instigates a number of healing benefits while lowering the risk of many health complications.
Avoid the Shocking Cold
Difficulty adjusting to changes is a common issue for children with ASD. This can include getting into an uncomfortably cold bed. Many children rely on a standard schedule that does not change. Not only can the jolt of a cold bed influence behavior issues, but it can also keep children awake, prolonging bedtime and interfering with their routine. Preparing a high-quality heated blanket about 10 minutes before bedtime can avoid these challenges and make sure there’s a comfy and relaxing bed to climb into it each night.
Researchers at the New York-Presbyterian Hospital, Center for Autism and the Developing Brains explored characteristics of children with ASD and reported improvements in multiple behavioral domains of children who experienced a fever. Areas affected included cognition, communication, social interaction, and repetitive behaviors suggesting an increase in body temperature can improve general behavior.
Produce a Calming Effect
Experts speak of the significant calming effects heat has on a person. Easing stress and anxiety by warming the body temperature is a therapeutic practice that can be traced back thousands of years in ancient Greek and Egyptian history. Modern research now knows applied heat can lower stressful cortisol levels as wells norepinephrine levels which can cause anxious feelings. Using a heated blanket can result in the relaxation of the autonomic nervous system without the side effects that come with prescribed options.
Tell the Body When to Sleep
Children with ASD are more prone to sleep difficulties compared to typically developing children. Your internal clock is run by something called the circadian rhythm. It lets your body know when it’s time to wake up when it’s time to go to sleep. The circadian rhythm is influenced by many things including temperature. Research suggests it may even be more sensitive in children with ASD. By using a heated blanket, you can ensure your child is kept comfortably and consistently warm.
Provide the Sense of Company
For the vast majority of human history, mothers have been co-sleeping with their children. While fewer families choose not to co-sleep today for numerous reasons, the comforting practice our ancestors engaged has left an innate tendency to find the warmth of another comforting while we sleep. Being surrounded by consistent warmth while sleeping can mimic the feeling a child has when co-sleeping and provide an increased sense of company and safety.
Another Option to Consider
In addition to heated blankets, a weighted blanket is another great option to assist sleep. Occupational therapists have been using the calming benefits of weighted blankets for decades. Reports from surveys consistently describe them as a significant way to ease anxiety and sleeplessness. Among those surveys, autism ranked number one in disorders a weighted blanket can help with. This deep-touch therapy tool is so successful at helping children with ASD. Autism Parenting Magazine named weighted blankets as the second item on their ‘Top 10 Things My child with Autism Needs’ list.
Many families of children with autism face an overwhelming amount of treatment options. Some wish to supplement their plans to target specific issues, one of which may be sleeping difficulties. Using a heated or weighted blanket, especially together, at bedtime can be a great way to help give your child a more reliable and restoring night of sleep.
Written by Alexis Schaffer
Alexis Schaffer is a writer in the natural health space. If you enjoyed this article, you can read more of her content by checking out this page