What is so special about a Weighted Blanket? A brief History of Weighted Blankets

What is so special about a Weighted Blanket? A brief History of Weighted Blankets

Weighted Blankets have become the new must-have in many Irish homes. You probably heard them called "Gravity Blanket", " Anxiety blanket", "Calming blanket or "Sensory Blankets". What is so special about a Weighted Blanket? Has this product always been aimed at the general population? Who made the first Weighted Gravity Blanket? Keep reading to find out all the responses! 

Emer Flannery back in 2011, making the first prototype of Kocoono Weighted Blanket

How was Kocoono born back in 2011? 

Emer Flannery, the founder of Kocoono, heard about weighted blankets, or anxiety blankets, for the first time in 2011when working as a behaviour therapist with a child with Autism. Emer used to use deep touch pressure with this child, and he loved head massages and body squeezes and pressure on his hands. The child's mother advised her how the child benefited from the gentle pressure. So she wondered if it would be better if he could self-soothe with his own deep touch pressure products that might help him relax in the chair in School. 

Emer has always been very creative, having learned sewing from her talented mum Maureen, so she designed a weighted lap pad for him! At the time Emer recognised the demand for quality products to alleviate stress, anxiety and sensory overload and looked at launching a business but at the tender age of 21 was a bit overwhelmed at the thought of producing in Asia, which she was told was the only option. Parking the idea to start Kocoono weighted blankets back in 2011, Emer moved to Saudi Arabia working as a Behaviour therapist for children with autism using ABA therapy and then onto Australia working with Asylum Seekers and Refugees and in various mental health projects which she loved.
After working in such a variety of services, the pattern seemed quite obvious, that many people accessing mental health services or those that were neurodiverse often experienced sensory overload, inability to sleep or switch off at night time and oftentimes experienced huge bouts of anxiety and depression. The idea for starting Kocoono weighted blankets as a business continued to fester.
On returning to Ireland years later, after a bout of sleep deprivation while working day, night and every other shift in between in the homeless services, Emer designed her first Kocoono Weighted Blanket for personal use and slept with it every single night which finally led to developing Kocoono into the business we know today!

 

The concept of Weighted Blankets: The hug machine from Temple Grandin & Pressure Therapy

 

Pressure Therapy  

The origin of weighted blankets is intimately linked with Deep Touch Pressure, a form of sensory input similar to a hug, squeeze, or massage. The "Hug Machine" invented by Temple Grandin marked the beginning of deep pressure stimulation research. Grandin was only diagnosed with Autism in her adulthood, and she found out that gentle pressure could help with her hypersensitivity one day while she was visiting her aunt's ranch.

She observed in the ranch how the cows were confined in a squeeze chute to calm them for vaccinations. She realised how the cows felt immediately relaxed with the pressure! So, she took the main idea and made it come alive with her own hug machine creating a solution for settling down her own hypersensitivity and for other people with sensory disorders.


Years later, Grandin's concept of pressure therapy and its benefits to calm anxiety and stress was applied with Weighted Blankets. The pressure from the extra weight mimics the technique of deep pressure stimulation.

In contrast with the Hug Machine, Kocoono™ Weighted Blankets don't use the squeeze technique. The gentle pressure on your body is applied by its distributed weight, creating the magic! The Kocoono LUXE weighted blanket has segmented channels allowing the weight to conform to your body and move with you easier!

Who made the original weighted blanket?

Weighted blankets have been existing for some time. It is unclear where it truly originated from; however, to our knowledge, the first weighted blanket, known initially as a "beanie blanket", was first developed in 1997 by the father of three, Keith Zivalich. He was inspired to create his product when he noticed a relaxing hugging sensation after his daughter placed a beanie baby on his shoulder. His wife, who knew how to sew, helped him to design the prototype. They changed their name to the Magic Weighted Blanket after a customer told them that their daughter loves her blanket so much, she calls it her "magic blanket". You can learn more about their lovely story here.

Early 2000: Weighted Blankets used as a calming and sleeping aid in special needs communities

The first Weighted Blankets were aimed at the special needs community

The first Weighted Blanket producers were introduced to the special needs community. Companies such as Therapy ShoppeDreamCatcher, and Salt of the Earth Weighted Gear were pioneers as weighted blankets producers. They sold blankets alongside products such as weighted vests, weighted toys, shoulder wraps, and lappads. Back in this time, these companies were focused on targeting their product to autistic children and people with sensory processing disorders. Soon, people began realising that the benefits of weighted blankets aren't just for children with special needs. We will talk about that later!        

Thirteen years ago, Donna Chambers first heard about weighted blankets when her grandson was diagnosed with Autism, and she started her weighted blanket company: SensaCalm. As she explains on their website, she was researching natural ways to help him sleep and heard about weighted blankets, but at the time, there weren't many places to buy affordable, well made weighted blankets. So, she went to a seamstress friend and together, they crafted a weighted blanket with all the characteristics she was looking for her grandson: not just heavy, but soft, fluffy and cushiony like a comforter.

 

Why are Weighted Blankets good for people with Autism?

Reviews Kocoono

1) Sleep Aid

Siobhan is one of our many customers who bought a Kocoono Weighted Blanket for helping their children to sleep. Many studies have found that Weighted Blankets can help children with autism to sleep. Children with autism are often low in serotonin and tend to produce less melatonin, vital chemicals for having a steady mood and regulating the sleep-wake cycle.

Kocoono Weighted blankets help reduce cortisol levels associated with stress, and in turn, naturally, release serotonin in the body. In this way, the melatonin levels are more steady and help children fall asleep faster and stay asleep for longer.

Often, anxiety is one of the factors that make children with autism have problems with sleep. The Deep Touch Pressure Therapy provided by the weight of Weighted Blankets calms down the nervous system immediately, slowing the heart rate and making the child feel embraced and calm.

We have lovely reviews from other customers who bought the Kocoono weighted blanket to help their loved ones! You can read them here.

2) It helps to get focused

By activating the sense of touch, the weighted blankets keep children from becoming distracted by other sensory stimulations, such as sounds. This can help them to stay in their seats and keep focused on the task at hand.
Emer Flannery made her first weighted product for this purpose when she worked as a behaviour therapist with a child with Autism. She designed a weighted lap pad for him to help him to sit at school.

3) Sensory input 

The pressure of Kocoono Weighted Blankets can provide great sensory input, and it helps children with sensory processing disorders to develop body awareness. The fabric of the Weighted Blanket is also an important source of sensory input. People on the Autism and Asperger Spectrum are very tactile. We find that the Minky fabric of the Kocoono Weighted Weighted Blanket LUXE is very comforting for them, and they find the fabric very soft and soothing to touch.


2017: Gravity Blanket turned the Weighted Blanket into a popular product targeted to the masses.

Although Gravity Weighted Blanket didn't invent the product, they were the ones who made it into a wildly popular product targeted to the masses. Gravity Blanket launched super successful Kickstarter campaign raising almost $5 million." Gravity blanket" is often synonymous with a weighted blanket since the Kickstarter campaign went viral and made the concept of Weighted Blankets mainstream. 

The Co-founder, Mike Grillo credits the success to good design, saying that the look and feel are more luxurious than its predecessors and their launch was good timing. Since Gravity blankets launched in the USA with their Kickstarter campaign, Gravity Blankets UK has also rebranded from Sensorex to Gravity Blankets UK. Different companies altogether, however with the same goal. Gravity blankets UK were initially sewn in a small apartment and sold mainly in Poland. Now, they have over 50 people working for the organisation. 

Are Weighted Blankets for everyone? What are the benefits of using a weighted blanket?

Although Weighted Blankets were originally designed as an aid for Autism and other sensory disorders in the past, their use has been popularised amongst all age groups with people just wanting a good nights sleep and others looking for a solution to alleviate the symptoms of restless leg syndrome, fibromyalgia, anxiety, depression, sleep difficulties, restlessness and insomnia to name a few. Soon, people began realising that the benefits of weighted blankets aren't just for children with special needs.
Weighted Blankets are used nowadays for many purposes! Keep reading and learn more about them👇

1) Calming benefits

The weight evenly distributed through the Kocoono Weighted Blanket applies gentle pressure on your skin, relaxing you naturally while reducing anxiety. 

 The pressure stimulates your body's pressure points, reducing the parasympathetic nervous system's activity (our alert mode), and the body enters in a deep relaxation making you feel calm and embraced. Who does not need a bit of this after a stressful day? Not surprisingly, Weighted Blankets are also known as Calming Blankets and Anxiety Blankets.

2) Assist with sleep 

The pressure provided by a Kocoono Weighted Blanket releases serotonin in the brain, which helps regulate mood and make us feel relaxed. Serotonin plays a big role in the production of melatonin (our sleep hormone). When you use your Kocoono weighted blanket in the bed you will find that you do not twist and turn as much as the Kocoono literally cocoons your body and induces a feeling of relaxation and peaceful slumber. 

3) Mood Regulation

If you're feeling irritable, grumpy, cranky, or depressed, you may have low serotonin levels. As many studies state, the Deep pressure stimulation provided by a Kocoono Weighted Blanket can boost serotonin levels. The Kocoono™ weighted blanket helps reduce cortisol levels associated with stress and naturally increases your body's happy chemicals. 

Additionally, sleep and happiness are intimately linked, so when you improve your sleep, you boost your happiness, and you will feel better. You can read more about how happiness and sleep are connected in this  blog

4) Eases the symptoms of many health conditions

Our customers frequently use Kocoono Weighted Blankets to ease the symptoms of other health conditions such as restless legs, arthritis or fibromyalgia, among others. You can learn more about how Kocoono Weighted Blankets can ease the symptoms of some health conditions in our Blog: What Weighted Blankets can help with

5) Boosts overall well-being with the feeling of a hug

You don't need to have any health condition or sleep difficulties to benefit. Anyone could benefit from a Kocoono Weighted Blanket. The pressure applied by the weight connects with the feeling of a hug, which helps reduce cortisol levels associated with stress and naturally increases your body's happy chemicals. The incorporated shoulder embrace of the Kocoono Weighted Blanket LUXE mimics the feeling that you experience when someone hugs you!

The incorporated Shoulder Embrace in the Kocoono allows the weighted element to come up around the shoulder area, cocooning the body (hence our name!) and embracing the person.
Many of our customers have confessed that they feel hugged using Kocoono™, and their Kocoono™ becomes an inseparable night companion!

What is the best weighted blanket ?

There are a whole variety of Weighted Blankets on the Market available now. We think that a Weighted blanket should have at least three basic characteristics.

1. We recommend choosing a Weighted Blanket with channel stitching or grid-like stitching to have the weighted element equally distributed to get the benefits of the Deep Pressure Therapy over all your body's pressure points. This kind of stitching will stop your Weighted Blanket from hanging over the sides of the bed or the weight' pooling to one side of the blanket. 

2. We also recommend choosing a machine washable Weighted Blanket. Some Weighted Blankets don't come with a washable cover, and you have to buy them separately. Most washing machine especially in Ireland and the UK are not able to handle the heavy load of a weighted blanket which can weigh up to 9kg. Kocoono Weighted Blankets come with washable covers already!

3. And finally, the most important thing to consider when buying a Weighted Blanket is the weight. You should choose one that is approx 10% of your body weight.

All Kocoono Weighted Blankets have all these basic characteristics. 

Our Kocoono Weighted Blanket LUXE version has some extra features that make it unique:

  • It is customisable (you can add or remove the inner weighted bands). You can apply Cold Therapy if needed by removing the inner weighted bands and inserting the weights in the freezer for up to one our and then back into the Kocoono weighted blanket LUXE to cool your body off and nod off to sleep.
  • It also has an integrated shoulder embrace that allows the weighted elements to come up around your shoulder area, creating a nice grounding feeling. You can learn more about its unique features and how they work in this blog. 

Some of the most popular weighted blankets on the Market

Just to mention some of the most popular Weighted Blankets on the Market, we can find the well known Gravity Blanket, the BlanQuil Chill Cooling Weighted Blanket or Sensa Calm Custom Blanket.

What are the strong points of Gravity Blanket?  Good Housekeeping Institute loves mainly two things about Gravity Blanket: It has a machine washable cover, and the weight is distributed thanks to its grid-like stitching.

 The BlanQuil Chill Cooling Weighted is really popular among Instagram influencers Stars like Kourtney Kardashian, JoJo Fletcher, Jordan Rodgers, and Vanessa Grimaldi have tried their benefits. Good Housekeeping Institute states that one of the best things about this Weighted Blanket is its cooling capabilities: "it comes with a cover that instantly feels cool to the touch." 

Deep Sleep is an Irish brand founded in 2017 that offers a great range of quality Gravity Blankets. They do ship from Ireland like Kocoono. 

 Love is behind every Weighted Blanket company's story

 

Brief History of Weighted Blankets

 

Every Weighted Blanket provides different features, but we found that all Weighted Blanket companies have something in common: all their founders were inspired to create the prototype to help someone they love. 


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