Weighted blankets and sleep in autistic children - a randomized controlled trial

Paul Gringras, Dido Green, Barry John Debenham Wright, Carla Rush, Masako Sparrowhawk, Karen Pratt, Victoria Allgar, Naomi Hooke, Danielle Moore, Zenobia Zaiwalla, Luci Wiggs

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


OBJECTIVE: To assess the effectiveness of a weighted-blanket intervention in treating severe sleep problems in children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD).

METHODS: This phase III trial was a randomized, placebo-controlled crossover design. Participants were aged between 5 years and 16 years 10 months, with a confirmed ASD diagnosis and severe sleep problems, refractory to community-based interventions. The interventions were either a commercially available weighted blanket or otherwise identical usual weight blanket (control), introduced at bedtime; each was used for a 2-week period before crossover to the other blanket. Primary outcome was total sleep time (TST) recorded by actigraphy over each 2-week period. Secondary outcomes included actigraphically recorded sleep-onset latency, sleep efficiency, assessments of child behavior, family functioning, and adverse events. Sleep was also measured by using parent-report diaries.

RESULTS: Seventy-three children were randomized and analysis conducted on 67 children who completed the study. Using objective measures, the weighted blanket, compared with the control blanket, did not increase TST as measured by actigraphy and adjusted for baseline TST. There were no group differences in any other objective or subjective measure of sleep, including behavioral outcomes. On subjective preference measures, parents and children favored the weighted blanket.

CONCLUSIONS: The use of a weighted blanket did not help children with ASD sleep for a longer period of time, fall asleep significantly faster, or wake less often. However, the weighted blanket was favored by children and parents, and blankets were well tolerated over this period.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)298-306
Number of pages9
Issue number2
Early online date14 Jul 2014
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2014


  • Actigraphy
  • Adolescent
  • Bedding and Linens
  • Child
  • Child Behavior
  • Child Development Disorders, Pervasive
  • Child, Preschool
  • Comorbidity
  • Cross-Over Studies
  • Equipment Design
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Intention to Treat Analysis
  • Male
  • Sleep Wake Disorders

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