Em has been a terrible sleeper most of her life. As a newborn, she was actually pretty good, and only woke up once during the night from day one to eat, and then would go back to sleep, and sleep through the night. Those were a very lucky and easy few months. Then around six months she got sick, and slept poorly for a few weeks, and then she started teething, and then all of a sudden it was like a switch went off in her brain, and instead of it taking 20-30 minutes for her to fall asleep at night, it was taking 4-5 hours. That might sound like an over exaggeration for shock value, but it isn't. It's the gosh darn truth.
People were constantly telling me that I needed to sleep train her, let her cry it out, do baby wise, get rid of the nap, everything. I tried all of those things, and nothing worked. (As a side note, I sleep trained Jay to sleep through the night by 6 weeks, so I know how to sleep train a baby and have a bedtime routine). Needless to say, everything we tried just wouldn't work. We would put her in bed at 6:30, and she would not fall asleep until 10pm every single night. The thing is, she wasn't crying that entire time. She would just be awake laughing, talking, squaking, doing whatever, but not sleeping. People would tell me to just ignore her and sleep and let her do her thing, but every time she makes a peep, my body just automatically wakes up. It's a very unfortunate reflex.
If by some chance she miraculously fell asleep at 6pm, she would only ever sleep in 8 hour stretches, which meant that she was wide awake for at least three hours starting at 2am before going back to sleep again around 5-6am. There has just been very little sleep, and it's been hard. I would randomly start sobbing in the middle of the day because I was just so tired. Em wasn't performing well at physical therapy, and was usually pretty grumpy, and it was just a hard thing for everyone.
A few months ago I started looking into weighted sensory blankets. I'd heard of them before, but they were really expensive to buy, and I didn't want to spend $100+ on a blanket, and I honestly thought it wouldn't make a difference, so I just ignored the idea and put it aside. Finally though, after an entire year of this I found myself so desperate for a full nights sleep on a regular basis that I was willing to try anything.
For some children (or adults) with autism, anxiety, depression, or other neurological disorders, falling asleep can be very hard, and the weighted pressure of a sensory blanket is supposed to be very calming for them, and help them fall asleep. The blankets are sewn together like squared off quilts, and each square is filled with a certain amount of plastic poly pellets for the weights. The ideal weight for a sensory blanket is about 10% of the person's body weight. In Em's case, her's is a little less than three pounds.
After summoning the advice of my autism mommy friends, I learned that most of them all really loved their weighted sensory blankets, and for the most part they were game changers. I was looking for a bedtime game changer, and decided to go ahead and make one on my own. My friend's mom sent me a tutorial she'd come across, and I got to work.
The amazing thing about this project was how easy it was for me to sew the entire thing. I'm not a very gifted seamstress, and sitting at a sewing machine is typically more stressful than not for me, but I was amazed at how for the first time ever I was able to sit and load bobbins, stitch pieces together, thread the machine, change broken needles, all of it with complete confidence. It really felt like a huge tender mercy that I was able to get the entire thing done in about four hours with no major mistakes. I mean the blanket does not look perfect by anymeans, you can see mistakes in the stitching, and one side isn't very even, but it works, and the poly pellets haven't fallen out yet, so I'm considering it a win.
For Em's birthday last Thursday, we gave her the blanket and sleep has been amazing in our house ever since. I'm really just so blown away by how well she is doing with it. The first night she slept from 9pm-8:30am. When I woke up on my own the next morning I was convinced I'd filled the blanket with too many poly pellets and that she'd somehow suffocated in her sleep. Luckily 10 minutes later she woke up, and all was well.
Since then she's been taking 4 hour naps that I have to literally pry her out of bed from. She'll then happily go to bed for the night a few hours later, and sleep from about 7:30pm, all the way through until about 8am. If she wakes up in the middle of the night, she just needs me to put her blanket back on her, and give her a pacifier, and she's able to calm and go right back to sleep, and I can basically do that in my sleep by this point... so bedtime has really just been heavenly.
I really couldn't be more grateful for how well this is working, and hope that writing this post isn't going to jinx the sleep we've been getting. If you've been on the fence about making a weighted sensory blanket for one of your loves ones, let me add my testimony to the bunch, that we love it, and are obsessed.