Deep pressure is tactile input that provides proprioceptive input to the body. This can consist of many things including hugging, squeezing, compression, massage, aerial yoga or wrapping up tight in a yoga mat. When administered to the body, deep pressure touch has a calming, organizing effect on your child’s nervous system.
How Does it Work?
Deep touch pressure decreases the “fight or flight” response and lowers stress hormones in the brain and body. Deep pressure increases neurotransmitters (brain chemicals that regulate mood). It enhances levels of serotonin and dopamine, which help your child sleep, feel calm and be happy. The increase in serotonin and dopamine also counteracts the effects of the stress hormone, cortisol, which results in better regulation.
What are the Benefits?
Because deep pressure touch influences the parasympathetic activity (vagal tone) and sympathetic activity (reduced stress response) it has many benefits. Deep pressure touch may improve sensory integration, enhance body awareness, and increase focus. Additionally, it can help with coordination, improve sleep and reduce stress/anxiety.
What Does the Research Say?
• Reynolds, Lane, Mullen (2015) studied the effect of deep pressure stimulation using the Vayu Vest, results demonstrated that wearing the Vayu Vest for even short periods of time positively affected the autonomic nervous system. Their research concluded deep pressure may be useful for reducing internalizing and externalizing behaviors, increasing attention, and decreasing impulsivity. • Mullen et al (2008) found that the use of a weighted blanket, lowered anxiety (63%), lowered physiological data (blood pressure, pulse rate, pulse oximetry), and had a positive calming effect (78%).
Deep touch pressure activities you can do at home:
Rolling/wrapping your child firmly in a yoga mat to make a “fruit roll-up”
Make a sandwich, by gently squishing them between two soft pillows
Firmly roll a weighted exercise ball on top of your child’s legs, back and arms, we call this steamroller.
Weighted lap pad.
Yoga poses in a Body Sox.
Climbing under sofa or at Mindful Child, Nugget cushions
Deep Pressure seating options like our canoe (feels like a hug).
There are many play-based ways to provide deep pressure touch. Combine the activities with deep breathing to double the calming efforts. Want more? Have your child hang out with us in class or camp to learn techniques to promote happiness and calm.
S, Reynolds, S.J., Lane, B., Mullen. (2015). Effects of Deep Pressure Stimulation on Physiological Arousal American Journal of Occupational Therapy, April 2015, Vol. 69, 6903350010. https://doi.org/10.5014/ajot.2015.015560
B. Mullen, T, Champagne, S. Krishnamurty, D. Dickson, & R. X. Gao (2008) Exploring the Safety and Therapeutic Effects of Deep Pressure Stimulation Using a Weighted Blanket, Occupational Therapy in Mental Health, 24:1, 65-89, DOI: 10.1300/J004v24n01_05