Weighted blankets began as a coping device in the special-needs community. Now the Instagram-shopping masses can’t get enough of them.
Donna Chambers first heard about weighted blankets when her grandson was diagnosed with autism. It was just before his third birthday, and someone Chambers knew recommended giving him a heavy quilt with plastic pellets sewn in to help him relax and fall asleep. “It was like somebody’s grandma was making them,” Chambers remembers. “They said, ‘You can talk to this lady, and she can make you one.’” She looked online and found a few other options; mostly, though, she saw an opportunity. She contacted a friend from her church in Chattanooga, Tennessee, who could sew: “I was like, ‘I want to make one of these blankets. Do you think you could help me?’”
So when Chambers started her weighted-blanket company, SensaCalm, in 2008, she knew she hadn’t invented the device. Rather, she’d joined a tiny cottage industry of weighted-blanket makers—many of them small companies with names such as Therapy Shoppe, DreamCatcher, and Salt of the Earth Weighted Gear that sold blankets alongside products such as weighted vests, shoulder wraps, and lap pads. Research suggests that deep pressure on the body can calm the nervous system. One parent of a 12-year-old with Asperger’s wrote in a heartfelt product testimonial that her son’s first night with a weighted blanket was his best night of sleep ever.