Deep Pressure, or Deep Touch Pressure is a form of tactile sensory input which is often provided by firm holding, firm stroking, cuddling, hugging and squeezing; and also therapeutically through the use of products such as weighted blankets. This deep pressure has a calming, focusing effect on children and adults alike, helping to soothe the nervous system and providing a sense of comfort and security.
Understanding Your Body
Every second you have to process from anywhere 10,000 to over 4,000,000 internal and external stimuli. Stimuli are information received through our senses, which are then processed subconsciously; most of the work is done by our Autonomic Nervous System (ANS) which then sends signals out to regulate the functions of many of your body’s organs in response to that information
Think about the last time you were nervous: sweaty palms, racing heartbeat, fast breathing, and maybe even an upset stomach; or how you feel when you are relaxed: slow, deep breathing, slow heartbeat, and relaxed muscles. Your functioning ANS is responsible for managing this emotional and physical state.
Your ANS has two components: the parasympathetic and sympathetic. Depending on the sensory information your ANS is processing, these systems work together to put your body in the right state to best deal with your current environment.
The Parasympatetic System
The division of the nervous system that controls largely automatic processes such as digestion, respiration, and heart rate. It acts in concert with the sympathetic nervous system and conserves the body’s energy by bringing bodily functions back to homeostasis, particularly after the fight or flight response is activated by the sympathetic nervous system.
The Sympathetic System
The sympathetic nervous system controls the body's responses to a perceived threat and is responsible for the "fight or flight" response. Whether that's the adrenaline rush before a big meeting, or when you've been in an accident, that's your sympathetic ANS at work.
The Effect of Deep Touch Pressure
The modern world can be difficult for your Autonomic Nervous System to understand. Evolved to get us through short periods of danger and stress, the constant stresses of work and home life can cause the sympathetic system it to be over-activated, preventing your body from achieving a relaxed, efficient equilibrium.
Deep touch pressure helps to suppress the sympathetic system and promote the parasympathetic system; slowing high energy functions, and decreasing levels of cortisol is your body, enabling you to reach a more relaxed state.
Endorphins and Hormones
Deep touch pressure also results in increased endorphin levels and releases the “happy hormones” serotonin and dopamine. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that helps to regulate some brain functions and help with mood regulation. It is also known to stimulate parts of the brain that are responsible for sleep and the production of melatonin. Dopamine is a “happy hormone” that controls the reward or pleasure centre of the brain, it regulates our emotional responses and is in action when we set or achieve goals.
Sense of Security
Whether through a hug or a therapeutic product such as a weighted blanket, there is a feeling of security, safety and serenity inherent in deep touch therapy. Creating an environment where you can let your guard down, recover and truly relax.