Most people who are quite familiar with weighted blankets and their benefits may not be aware that there are identical inventions that serve the same purpose. One such invention is the weighted lap pad.
Just in case you’re not yet familiar with weighted blankets, they are quite similar to your regular sleeping blankets. The main difference is the extra weight due to the addition of a weighted material like polymer pellets or glass beads quilted into them.
A weighted lap pad is a smaller, more portable variant of the weighted blanket. It’s usually placed over the lap, as the name implies.
Weighted lap pads have a deep touch pressure component that studies have shown to have a relaxing effect which increases the level of endorphins and serotonin in the body.
Endorphin and serotonin are important chemicals that are produced in the central nervous system of the body and when they are well stimulated, they have been noted to have a soothing effect on the body.
In recent years, the use of weighted lap pads has increased. I strongly believe that this is due to the news of their effectiveness spreading far and wide.
What is the deep touch pressure (DTP) component?
The best way to explain deep touch pressure is by comparing it with light touch pressure. Light touch pressure is the sensation you feel when the fan is blowing against your skin or when someone touches you lightly.
Deep touch pressure is the sensation you feel when you wear a tight piece of clothing or when someone hugs you tightly. It also explains the feeling you have in your lap when you use a weighted lap pad.
Deep touch pressure activates the parasympathetic system of the body and releases endorphin and serotonin which can help people feel calmer. This entire mechanism eases anxiety and tension. It also signals to our brains that we are safe and creates a feeling of relaxation.
What are Weighted lap pads made of?
To find out more about how weighted lap pads are made, we will be discussing two important components:
- The nature of the fabric
- The nature of the weighted material
Weighted lap pads can be made out of different types of fabric materials. The type of fabric a weighted lap pad is made of determines how comfortable it will be.
Some common types of fabric used to make weighted lap pads are:
Lap pads made from cotton range from the regular cotton to satin cotton with a variety of thread patterns. The major advantage of cotton fabric is that it’s very easy to clean and also quite durable.
Kona cotton is a high-grade cotton that is really light, soft and feels more comfortable for people with heat or tactile sensitivities. The flow of air through Kona cotton is better than many other types of fabric, which is why many people regard it as one of the most breathable weighted lap pad fabrics.
However, due to the quality of Kona cotton, weighted lap pads made out of this material might be a bit more expensive. But you may find that the comfort it gives makes it worth the price.
Although the threading pattern of Satin cotton is less intricate in comparison to regular cotton, it has a silkier and lighter feel which gives it an advantage over regular cotton and makes lap pads made out of it feel quite comfortable during use.
Fleece is a synthetic material that has a ‘woolly’ feel to it. The main disadvantage of fleece as a fabric material for lap pads is that it generates a lot of warmth and is not suitable for people that cannot tolerate heat.
Mink is a pretty popular material. It is the same material that is used in making clothes for babies. Mink is a soft and plush fabric that is ideal for people who are sensitive to rough textures.
Polyester is formed as a result of the reaction between carboxylic acid and alcohol. Due to the chemical nature of this material, it is quite durable and resistant to shrinking, stretching and wrinkling.
Another advantage of polyester as a weighted lap pad fabric is that it is hydrophobic. This means that the material is resistant to moisture. Since polyester is resistant to spills, you can easily clean it when it gets stained.
One drawback to using polyester as a weighted lap pad fabric is that it could generate a substantial amount of heat relative to the skin.
For this reason, it might not be suitable for people with heat sensitivity, or those who live in warmer climates.
Weighted material type
There are two main types of weighted filler material which are integrated into the weighted lap pad fabric to make it heavier.
As we have stated earlier, it is this increase in weight of the lap pads that through proprioception activates the deep touch pressure component in the body which is responsible for the relaxing effect that you feel when you use a lap pad.
The following are the different types of materials that can be sewn into lap pads to increase their weight:
Poly pellets are small, round pieces of plastic with a texture similar to that of tiny stones. For some people, this could be a bother while some do not mind at all. Poly pellets are non-toxic so you don’t have to worry about the risk of exposure to them. Another added advantage of poly pellets as a filler material for lap pads is that they can be recycled.
If you are the type of person that does not like the feel of poly pellets in your weighted lap pads, you can use other alternatives.
Glass beads have a very fine texture, similar to that of sand commonly found at the beach. It requires a lower amount of glass beads to attain the same weight as poly pellets. The main advantage of glass beads is that they feel much smoother than poly pellets.
Rice: I am very certain that you are very surprised to see rice which is a food substance listed as one of the filling materials that can be used in weighted lap pads. And you may even be at a loss as to the relationship between rice and lap pads.
Don’t sweat it, it is not unusual for people who make their own weighted lap pads at home to use rice instead of poly pellets or glass beads because rice is easily accessible.
When rice is used, it can be mixed with dried lavender or chamomile.
The advantage of rice is the easy availability and also the fact that lap pads that contain rice as a filling can be easily modified as the child grows older.
Who are weighted lap pads for?
There are a few misconceptions surrounding the use of weighted lap pads.
For example, there are people who believe weighted lap pads can only be used by children.
One of the reasons behind this misconception is because a lot of weighted lap pads are designed with colors or patterns that make them more appealing to children.
The truth is that anyone who needs the sensation of calming deep pressure can use a weighted lap pad whether you are an adult or a child.
Also, many people think that weighted lap pads are specifically used only for children with special care needs like autism or attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder.
While it is true that weighted lap pads are beneficial for children with special needs, literally anyone can benefit from the soothing sensory input of using weighted lap pads.
Another misconception is that the same size of weighted lap pads can be used by everybody. This isn’t exactly true, because a lap pad, like any other weighted product, must suit a user’s body dimensions to be effective.
Weighted lap pads are specific for age, gender, and medical conditions in most cases. This means that when selecting the correct weighted lap pad to use, you have to put all the parameters mentioned above into consideration.
Weighted lap pads for people with special needs
While weighted lap pads can be used by everyone, they offer some great benefits for people with special needs.
We’ll be outlining a few in this section of the article:
Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
In children or adults with ADHD, it has been noticed that they have a low amount of serotonin, the central nervous system chemical that we have discussed earlier in this article.
Weighted lap pads through the deep pressure effect, helps to increase the amount of serotonin in their brains which in turn improves their focus.
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
People with obsessive-compulsive disorder are usually very anxious. Weighted lap pads have been found to be useful in having a calming effect in people with OCD.
It could be difficult for parents with autistic children to deal with meltdowns and tantrums when they occur. A meltdown is a sudden overwhelm a child feels from a multitude of emotions experienced in a short period of time.
Occupational therapists advise that one of the mechanisms to help children to deal with autistic meltdowns is ensuring that they have a stable routine.
Incorporating the use of weighted lap pads into the routine of an autistic child reduces the frequency of meltdowns that they have because they create a soothing effect when used.
A lot of children (and even adults) find a visit to the dentist very scary. Weighted lap pads have been shown to help some patients relax while undergoing a dental procedure.
Restless Legs Syndrome (RLS)
The main cause of restless legs syndrome is unknown. However, a few factors might put people at risk of the condition, e.g. iron deficiency, pregnancy, or heredity.
Calming RLS symptoms
The uncomfortable sensation experienced from RLS symptoms could be quite difficult for sufferers to stay comported.
Weighted lap pads provide DPT sensory input which activates the parasympathetic system of the body and releases endorphin and serotonin to help people feel calmer. This entire mechanism eases anxiety and tension.
Weighted lap pads have also been noted to be useful in the management of the following medical conditions: Alzheimer’s disease, bipolar disorder, Cerebral palsy, Dementia, Down’s syndrome, etc. Patients usually feel safer and calmer when they use their weighted lap pads.
Weighted lap pads help children to further understand their emotions, it also enables them to adequately analyze and process sensory information.
Factors to consider before choosing a weighted lap pad
When it comes to selecting the right type of pad to buy, there are several factors to consider, whether you’re buying one for yourself or someone else.
There are parents who worry about their children outgrowing their weighted pads. This is a legitimate source of worry because children grow very quickly and parents usually want to get a few years out of this sort of purchase.
It’s important for parents of children who have some of the medical conditions that we discussed earlier, to inform their Physician and Occupational Therapist so they are aware before buying any weighted products.
Here are some of the important factors to consider before choosing one:
When it comes to buying a weighted lap pad, the weight of the lap pad you are buying is the most important factor to consider. The right lap pad is the one that will provide optimal benefits for you or your loved ones.
How much do weighted lap pads usually weigh?
Weighted lap pads can weigh anywhere from 5 pounds to 25 pounds. You should ensure that the lap pad you are choosing for your child or yourself is not too heavy for the body weight and height in consideration.
If the lap pad is too heavy, it could begin to act as a restraint which is not healthy for the growth and development of the child.
What is the ideal body weight and how is it calculated?
Your ideal body weight is what your optimum weight should be, based on your current age, gender, and level of fitness.
When this is calculated, it may not be the same thing as your current body weight.
Males: Ideal Body Weight = 110 lbs + 5 lbs for each inch over 5 feet.
Females: Ideal Body Weight = 100 lbs + 5 lbs for each inch over 5 feet.
Lap pad Size
A weighted lap pad should be large enough to cover your lap or trunk completely. Many Doctors and Occupational Therapists even advise that the basis of your calculations should be your ideal body weight.
Common lap pad sizes
Listed below are the common dimensions for lap pads. Lap pads are usually categorized into extra small, small, medium, large and extra-large.
- Extra Small lap pads – 12″ x 16″
- Small lap pads – 12″ x 16″
- Medium lap pads- 14 1/2″ x 19 1/2″
- Large lap pads – 17″ x 23″
As we have discussed in the early parts of this article, the properties of the fabric you select goes a long way in influencing how comfortable the weighted lap pad will be for you or your child.
The best type of fabric is the one that is safe, cool and very breathable. You should also ensure that either you or your child is not allergic to the type of fabric you are purchasing.
A common design for weighted lap pads is to have the filler materials sandwiched between two pieces of fabric and sewn together.
While this design is very simple and easy to construct, it’s not usually the best method as the filler material could easily get ripped off or torn away from the fabric. The most durable pads are usually quilted.
When buying a lap pad, you should check to see that an extra layer of fabric is provided at the seams to protect both the user and lap pad itself.
You should ensure that the filler weight material for the weighted lap pad you are purchasing is non-toxic, non-allergenic, and bio-degradable. It’s great to buy a product from manufacturers that care about how their products affect the environment.
If you are purchasing the lap pad for a child, you should take extra care to ensure that any filler materials do not contain any sharp edges.
While adults may not fancy bright and colorful lap pad patterns, children are more attracted to such designs. To make children even more compliant with the lap pad use, you could involve them in the buying process by make them choose the color and pattern of lap pad that they prefer.
A weighted lap pad is a great alternative for times where a weighted blanket would be too heavy to carry around. It offers the same sensory input as a weighted blanket, but over a smaller surface area.