The Ultimate Guide to Deep Pressure Therapy

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Your senses constantly relay input from your surroundings or environment to the brain. For instance, you can sense that a cup of coffee that might be too hot to touch and the vibration of your phone felt when it’s in your pocket signal an incoming text or call. Your nervous system takes this sensory input and filters it. However, when your brain is in a fight-or-flight condition, the process becomes difficult.

You probably are familiar with massage therapy used widely to calm your sensory nerves. But, do you know there is another therapy that is becoming increasingly popular these days? Deep pressure therapy!

Before delving into what deep pressure therapy is, it’s crucial to start with understanding your sensory system so you will get an idea why deep pressure therapy is important and useful to consider. Your nervous system goes through sensory integration and signals information from the environment through your eight senses.

How the Body Processes Information?

In your early academic years, you were taught the humans take in information via 5 senses; sound, sight, taste, smell, and touch. However, there are actually eight senses that help you process information. In addition to these five senses, you take in information through physiological indicators, vestibular system, and musculoskeletal system (proprioceptive input).
Proprioceptive input is how you use muscles and body to sense your body’s position in the environment around you. However, for some people, signals that make their way to the brain often end up jammed or jumbled, which happens when you have a sensory processing disorder. In other cases, anxiety and stress can interrupt your psychological ability to signal and process the received information.

What Is Deep Pressure Therapy And How It Works?

Deep Pressure Therapy (DPT) is a tactile input in the form of pressure exerted or distributed equally across your body. It produces sensations in your body similar to those that generate from cuddling, hugging, stroking, holding, and squeezing. When your body receives deep pressure with specific therapy techniques, it releases calming substances throughout your body that help ease anxiety and depression.
Widely used by professional therapists, deep pressure therapy is a go-to remedy when working to calm, control, and regulates your sensory system. A great number of scientific studies suggest that individuals undergoing sensory issues benefit from deep pressure therapy. They feel more connected to the environment and themselves, which makes them comfortable and relaxed.

What is Weighted Therapy?

Deep pressure therapy is widely becoming popular all around the world. However, the techniques for therapy, specifically while using weighted products, revealed significant holistic effects. The weighted therapy is administered using weighted products, which apply weight and deep pressure to your body while boosting the proprioceptive sense. It further helps to regulate your sensory activities and render calming and soothing effects.

Here it’s important to mention that proprioceptive sense trigger and transmit information about your body’s movement and position through the receptors present on the skin, in joints and ligaments, and muscles. People with a poor proprioceptive sense have trouble in interpreting sensations.
Deep pressure is exerted with using weighted belts, weighted vests or jackets, heavy blankets, or by wrapping you in a tight compression vest. Along with improving your sleeping patterns, aiding focus, and easing transitions, the therapy helps prevent tantrums and meltdowns.

It’s no secret that today weighted pressure therapy is an effective and safe treatment for the improvement of sensory disorders. Moreover, the therapy is often recommended and used in hospitals, schools, and even in the home settings. However, you should only use weighted products after consulting a professional therapist.

A Brief History of Weighted Pressure Therapy

Temple Grandin, a young autism researcher, first introduced weighted therapy. She saw cows lying through a compression device for vaccinations. The doctor noticed the cows became docile and calmer when squeezed gently.

As a person who experienced autism herself, Dr. Grandin agreed that being hugged, when she was fighting the condition, helped ease her anxiety and sensory disorders. She brainstormed how she could help autistic people enjoy all the benefits of a cuddle without feeling restricted or confined.
Using the concept from the compression device, she built a similar device, but for humans experiencing distressful mental conditions. This therapy device stimulates the production of oxytocin in the brain, commonly known as the happiness chemical.

Deep Pressure Therapy with Weighed Blankets

Whether its wintry days or blazing summer, you want to maintain a decent temperature in your room while sleeping snugly beneath a plush weighted blanket. Often, people like sleeping under a heavy blanket with their AC switched on. The reason is a weighted blanket that is more like a regular blanket in appearance, but offers a strong calmative effect.

Unlike a regular blanket, a weighted blanket contains non-toxic hypoallergenic polypropylene pellets, sewn into self-contained tiny compartments evenly incorporated throughout the blanket. These pellets add enough weight to a blanket, which is usually around 10% over the user’s body weight.

Furthermore, the other thing that makes weighted blankets different from regular ones is that they generally fit your body and not the bed. It’s probably because weighted blanket, if hanging over the sides of the bed, will certainly touch the floor.

That said, sleeping under a weighted blanket signals the brain to release certain chemicals like melatonin, serotonin, and dopamine. These chemicals help operate neurotransmitters, which further regulate sleep, mood, and sensory perception. In addition, these substances have comforting and sedative properties that provoke relaxation throughout your body and prevent insomnia.

How Does a Weighted Blanket Work?

Of course, you certainly have a few blankets to use. You will be familiar with those blankets, what they are for and how they work. Maybe, you even have your favorite blanket to snuggle up in not only when you’re sleeping but when you’re reading a book or watching TV. Blankets are a favorite comfort and soothing tool for many people.

When it comes to weighted blankets, they’re super comfy and cozy. These blankets provide higher levels of comforts than a regular blanket. Coupled with a therapy tool, weighted blankets not only render calming effects but also help reduce several mental distress.

Benefits of Deep Pressure Therapy

Mood Booster

Medical experts found that deep pressure therapy increases serotonin levels in your body by 28% and dopamine by 31%. These hormones, also known as happy hormones, have a positive and direct effect on your mood and behavior. Furthermore, using deep pressure therapy, whether via weighted vests or weighted blankets, you can reduce cortisol levels, i.e. the stress hormone.

Improved Sleeping Patterns

Your body produces the hormone, melatonin, which controls your bodily functions when you’re asleep. Furthermore, melatonin is responsible for regulating your sleeping patterns. However, higher levels of cortisol disrupt melatonin production, and thwart your sleeping schedule. Deep pressure therapy helps to increase the production of melatonin, regulates cortisol levels, and realigns your sleeping patterns.

Natural Therapeutic Aid

There is no doubt that medications for treating depression, anxiety, and insomnia have adverse side effects. On the contrary, deep pressure therapy is a great way to help treat these conditions and improve your overall health.

The Science behind Weighted Pressure Therapy

Now that you have an idea about deep pressure therapy and its benefits, let’s explore what scientific evidence reveals about weighted therapy. According to a study by Occupational Therapy in Mental Health conducted in 2008, the adult participants who used 30-lb weighted blanket reported a significant improvement in several health conditions. 63% said that their anxiety levels decreased drastically, 78% of participants’ revealed lower physiological effects and positive calming effects, and some reported coping better in situations that cause anxiety.

Other than that, the use of weighted blankets is becoming increasingly popular among the people experiencing certain mental health conditions like ADHD, post-traumatic stress disorder, obsessive disorder, and anxiety. The research determined that participants reported feeling calm, safe, and expanded the use of weighted blankets.

In addition, scientific evidence published in the Journal of Medical and Biological Engineering disclosed that deep pressure therapy induces a significant calming effect by minimizing anxiety levels while using weighted blankets. Furthermore, the study validated a positive change in the nervous system activity of the participants.

While it’s obvious that people who undergo sensory overstimulation often experience certain psychological symptoms, the study supports that deep pressure therapy may regulate and control medical changes. A research found that weighted blankets work as a sleep aid for people who experience insomnia. The study indicated the participants experienced peaceful and long sleep.

The Bottom Line

Considering the evidence and results provided by the aforementioned scientific researches, using weighted blankets can have potentially positive effects on your nerve health.

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About the Author: Alan

Alan has a passion for weighted blankets, and weighted therapy in general. From an insomniac to a relatively peaceful sleeper, he writes about all things for a better nights sleep on That's My Blanket.

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