Editor’s note: Last of a two-part series – Last month, Eileen Parker described her ability to find success in life, despite the challenges of autism. This month, she describes the business she created during the course of therapy for the condition.

Eileen Parker and her product, the Cozy Calm blanket

At the dentist, you have probably worn the lead vest they put on your chest for X-rays. So many people say that they wish the technician would leave it on, because the weight feels so good. Maybe you have lain under an old-time country quilt with the weight of it feeling like a cocoon, and you woke up feeling refreshed after the sleep of your life.

I first learned about weighted blankets at an occupational clinic where I received sensory integration therapy. After my occupational therapist, Suzy, put a type of weighted blanket on me, I felt relaxed in two to three minutes. I was so happy with the feeling, but not the type of blanket, so I designed my own, filed a patent, and launched Cozy Calm.

A weighted blanket is for therapeutic sleep and relaxation, naturally. There is science behind it, but grandma has long known this without the science.

The short version of how weighted blankets work is based on how it acts on the body’s sensory system. Only so many bits of sensory information can travel through the central nervous system to your brain at one time. A neurology professor explained it as akin to a mosquito bite. If you press your nail into your skin right around the bite, the feeling of the nail pressing in overrides the pain and itchiness of the mosquito bite. So, the new sensory information of the nail in your skin crowds out the feeling of the bite going through to the brain.

The rest of the science behind it is a theory that the weighted blanket causes relaxation, comfort and sleepiness based on the blanket taking over those bodily feelings. Do we need proof on how it works?

I often tell people about an article I read in the Star Tribune a year or two ago about a study on sleep for school children. The study concluded that children who get a good night’s sleep perform better in school and have fewer behavioral problems, a.k.a “cranky.” Instead of spending all this money on a study, they could have asked a parent from any generation to give them the answer.

The concept of weight on the body is adopted by many hospitals on units such as psychiatric, trauma, geriatric, pediatric and others, all to help the patient reduce anxiety, make them feel comforted, and help them get to sleep and stay asleep. Locally, they are used at Regions Hospital in St. Paul.

We make our weighted blankets heavy with a liner filled with medical-grade plastic beads sewn at intervals so the beads don’t slosh around. It is covered with a super-soft outer covering sewn to the liner. Both are made with professional grade fabric and sewn on industrial sewing machines with industrial-grade thread. In short, the blankets are high quality and made to last, even with repeat washings.

The Cozy Calm weighted blankets are made here in Minnesota, and it so happens that our blankets are made at our shop in rural Minnesota primarily by people who grew up in the country learning sewing at an early age. Our lead sewer, Sandy, has over 20 years of experience working in professional sewing shops, so yes, she knows sewing, but she also knows about fabrics, trims and so many other factors that go into the sewing industry.

The rest is hard work, as every business is, but we are highly motivated by the emails from customers telling us how they have finally slept, which is why sleep is the number one reason that people buy our blankets. At the shop, the sewers keep a binder of these customer emails and phone calls so they can feel connected to the customer and know how much good they do for others by sewing for them.

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