Welcome to our guest post by Princess Aspien. An ambassador for Yellow Ladybugs, Aspergers Victoria and Treehouse Geelong, she dedicates her life to being a role model, advocate and encourager to children and adults alike on the Autism spectrum, and helping their families to see through and get a greater understanding.
Please check out her blog: princessaspien.com
I’ve never been a brilliant sleeper.
I’ve never been the sort of person who’s able to fall asleep quickly, who can fall asleep the moment my head touches the pillow (you people that can do that are absolute weirdos), and I often find myself waking up several times a night, and wake up feeling completely unrested- it’s given me the title of being a ‘nocturnal’ by my parents.
I didn’t necessarily choose to be ‘nocturnal’ however- in fact I think it could be any time of the day, I could be absolutely exhausted, and I’d always have an issue with sleeping… My brain just simply does not enjoy the thought of turning off. There’s much too many things to be thinking about.
Over the years of my life I slowly found little tips and tricks for myself to help me to fall asleep better. Putting on an audio book helps, being able to listen to something and put my attention on that one thing- which I suppose a lot of people do. A lot of people like listening to white noise when they fall asleep, I don’t think that’s particularly out of the ordinary.
What is ever so slightly out of the ordinary however is the fact that as the years went on, and my sleeping patterns began to grow worse, I found that the only way I was finding myself being able to sleep was piling my teddies on top of me, so that my body wasn’t even existing anymore, I was just a pile of stuffed bears.
I suppose though this isn’t overly odd for me however, because that has always been my go to thing when I was stressed out or upset or agitated- falling into a pile of stuffed animals and letting them bury me alive until I was ready to cope with life again- so including that in a sleeping routine was just the next step in my strange little life.
However, as I grew older and my sleeping habits grew worse, finding it more and more difficult to fall asleep, I found that a pile of assorted stuffed bears and bunnies and Disney characters weren’t enough, and before I would go to bed I’d sneak around the house and scavenge for any spare pillows, blankets, rugs, clothes… Just about anything I could find to pile on top of my body, and by the time I would fall into a semi-peaceful sleep, it was under a pile of countless blankets, pillows, teddy bears, clothes, pets…
I’ve slept like that for years, with a pile of assorted junk on top of me, and mum and dad used to put it down to me being too lazy to clean my bed off before sleep, and would constantly be telling me that ‘the reason you can never sleep is because your bed is piled high with unnecessary blanket.’
Ah, parents. If only you knew. How naive we were.
I grew agitated and upset, and getting me to sleep was like trying to calm down a hungry, angry tiger (hint: close to impossible), and I did what I have a habit of doing when I don’t know about something, and I googled it- ‘cause Google fixes everything.
So there I was, angrily googling the term of ‘why can I only sleep when I have a lot of stuff on top of me’ (I know, my google searches are bizarre).
Enter: The wonderful world of weighted blankets
I began to find dozens of articles all discussing this strange invention called a ‘weighted blanket.’ A type of quilted blanket that were full of small, weighted beads to make them heavy.
I was fairly curious, and intrigued, and honestly just a little bit excited to see that not only was there other people out there that could only feel safe enough to sleep in the same way as I did, but that there was blankets, and rugs, and shirts, and stuffed animals all to help with that specific reason!
I became completely and utterly hooked on the idea of them, and googled the heck out of it to get all the information and facts about this magical thing that I possibly could find.
What exactly are weighted blankets, I hear you ask?
Well, let me explain. In Chloe terms.
Weighted blankets are proven to be one of the most successful therapies and tools for people with Autism, anxiety, stress, or other issues related to autism and ADD, and dozens of other special needs.
Now, I’m not great with all that sciencey stuff so if you’d like to learn about the in depth details of it, my blog probably isn’t the place where you’ll discover that all, but to put it in very basic ‘Chloe’ terms, the feeling that the weight from the blanket provides, produces a cool thing in your body called serotonin, which is the little people in your brain that make you feel calm and happy.
Having a decent amount of weight given by the blanket on while you’re at rest, preparing to go to sleep will create even more of these little brain-people, which will eventually call on their little brain-people-friends named ‘melatonin’, who help us to achieve a long-needed, peaceful, restful night’s sleep.
Something that I find really cool, is that it’s not only people that can need this sensory tool as well- in fact, a lot of animals are only able to sleep and relax when they’re swaddled up in a tight, close space too.
Temple Grandin (one of my favourite people in the world) invented something absolutely amazing called a ‘squeeze machine’ (which actually sounds quite a bit macabre when I think about it), but it originated the first ideas of weighted blankets, even though it started off as a tool to help cows.
Basically, in situations that can get strenuous and nerve-wracking for cows (such as vet visits or preparing to go on trucks), the cattle are put into a chute, which will gently push in and squeeze the size of it. Just enough to allow them to feel light pressure against their sides- and the animals seem to almost instantly relax.
Cats are the same. Ever noticed how cats find the most bizarre, most uncomfortable looking places to sleep? For example, my cat Biscuit sleeps in the weirdest places, which definitely don’t look comfortable, and will sleep underneath my 25kg Australian Shepherd… why?
Because her body, and the cattle bodies, need the same deep pressure stimulation that I do.
The same little people that are released inside the cows and cats and various other animals brains when they’re squeezed, are the same little people that are released inside humans brains when they’re hugged, or my brain when I have a weighted blanket.
Science lesson over for the day. Phew, my head hurts.
Ever since getting my weighted blanket, sleep has been so much easier. I’m able to sleep for longer periods of time, and stay rested so much easier with little to no restless nights. Something that I never dreamed (or didn’t dream… because I couldn’t stay asleep long enough to do so) was ever possible!
As well as my weighted blanket (which has been customised with Disney princesses, just for me), I also have a weighted lap blanket that I bring to university, long car rides etc, and a weighted stuffed hippo, who again will come with me everywhere that’s suitable.
All three of my weighted items have been such a massive help to me- not just for when I’m sleeping, but for when I’m restless, when I need to concentrate, when I’m sitting for long periods of time… I’ve in fact got my lap blanket and hippo in my lap as I’m typing this very post.
For anyone tossing up the ideas of getting a weighted blanket- release your inner cat and cow and do it.