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A Helpful Guide to Deep Pressure Therapy

There’s something about being wrapped in a top-quality weighted blanket that puts many people in a calmer, happier state of mind. But what is it about weighted blankets in particular that makes us feel so darn relaxed? It has everything to do with deep touch pressure stimulation, a therapeutic technique that has its roots in the world of occupational therapy. 

In this helpful guide, we’ll explain what deep pressure therapy is, how it works and how you can reap the benefits at home.

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What Is Deep Pressure Therapy?

So, what is deep pressure therapy, exactly? Put simply, it’s a form of therapy that relaxes the nervous system by applying firm, gentle pressure to the body. This pressure can be applied via hugging, squeezing, holding, swaddling or stroking.

The origins of deep pressure therapy are largely attributed to Dr. Temple Grandin, a noted researcher and author with autism. As a teenager, Grandin visited a relative’s farm and noticed how cattle would immediately calm down once they entered a squeeze chute. This inspired her to create a “hug machine” that would help calm her own anxiety.

How Does Deep Pressure Therapy Work?

Before we answer this question, it’s important to understand the two main divisions of the autonomic nervous system: the sympathetic and parasympathetic systems.

The sympathetic system controls our “fight or flight” response. This system is sensitive to light touch pressure, which includes sensations such as the wind on our skin or the feeling of someone brushing past us. The sympathetic system helps us sense danger, so we can prepare to fight or get away safely. 

In contrast to the sympathetic system, the parasympathetic system controls our “rest and digest” functions. When the parasympathetic system is activated, it produces a calming effect throughout the body. Our blood pressure drops, our breathing slows and levels of mood-boosting hormones like serotonin and dopamine begin to rise.

So, where does deep pressure therapy fit into all of this? Research shows that applying firm, gentle pressure — aka, deep touch pressure — can stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system, effectively putting your body into “rest mode.” The result is a feeling of calm and contentment that makes it easier to cope with anxiety.

Who Can Benefit From Deep Pressure Therapy? 

Everyone! Whether you’re feeling overwhelmed at work, or you struggle with relentless anxiety, deep pressure therapy is a great way to manage your stress and inject a sense of calm into your day. 

However, individuals with the following conditions may stand to benefit the most from deep pressure therapy:

  • Autism
  • Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD)
  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
  • Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD)
  • Anxiety
  • Sleep disorders
  • Chronic pain
  • Restless Leg Syndrome

How to Incorporate Deep Pressure Therapy into Your Daily Routine

Reaping the benefits of deep pressure therapy could be as simple as getting a tight bear hug from a loved one. Here are some additional ways in which deep pressure stimulation can be administered:

1. Weighted Blankets 

Weighted blankets have quickly become one of the most popular ways to enjoy the soothing sensation of deep touch pressure. These blankets are typically filled with glass beads or plastic poly pellets, providing a gentle pressure that helps the user relax and fall into a deeper sleep.  

Keep in mind that blankets aren’t the only weighted products that can provide deep touch pressure stimulation. For ultimate calm and relaxation, consider adding these products to your daily routine:

  • Weighted robes. Wish your weighted blanket was a little more mobile? Wrap yourself up in a luxurious weighted robe from Gravity Blankets and wear it while making coffee or cooking breakfast. Perfect for chilly mornings, these cozy robes are essentially a weighted blanket that you can wear around the house.
a woman reading a book in her bathroom while wearing a weighted robe
  • Weighted sleep masks. If you want to get better sleep at night or take your nap game to the next level, pick up a weighted sleep mask. These convenient little masks block out 100 percent artificial light and deliver a soft, soothing pressure that you can enjoy at home or on the go.

Sleep Soundly with a Weighted Sleep Mask

2. Therapy Dogs 

If you struggle with PTSD or frequent panic attacks, a therapy dog might be worth considering. Many therapy dogs are now trained to recognize anxiety attacks and provide deep pressure therapy by lying on top of their handler’s chest or lap.

3. Compression Clothing 

Popular among individuals with autism and sensory processing disorders, compression garments are another way to deliver deep, calming pressure. These all-day wearable garments are particularly beneficial for busy kids on the go. 

4. Foam Rollers

Foam rollers aren’t just a post-workout tool. They can also be used to help you relax. These days, there are foam rollers made especially for kids and adults who need help calming down. 

5. Massage 

If a foam roller isn’t doing it for you, look for a professional masseuse trained in deep pressure massage. In addition to easing aches and pains, a deep pressure massage can also help alleviate anxiety by reducing muscle tension and triggering your relaxation response. 

a woman sitting on her bed wrapped in a weighted blanket

Tap into the Power of Deep Pressure Therapy with Gravity Blankets

Deep pressure therapy is growing in popularity as more and more people become aware of its stress-reducing benefits. Ready to experience deep touch pressure stimulation for yourself? Try our best-selling Gravity Weighted Blanket today and let your stress melt away.