Deep Pressure Therapy (DPT) is the science behind weighted blankets. It is the same science that explains why massages and hugs are so comforting. DPT triggers a chain of reactions in your body that produces chemicals which help you feel better, naturally.
What is DPT?
Deep Pressure Therapy or DPT is a form of therapy that is used to regulate mood and stress levels by applying pressure on the body. It has incredible effects on your nervous system and through this therapy, your body releases a chain of hormones and chemicals that make you feel happier and calmer.
Click here if you would like to learn more about the effects weighted blankets have on your body.
How does it work?
We are familiar with the “fight or flight” mode created by the sympathetic nervous system (SNS) of our body. The pressure applied during DPT switches our bodies out of the “fight or flight” mode and stimulates our parasympathetic nervous system (PNS) responsible for “rest and digest”.
People who suffer from sensory disorders or insomnia often have a hyperactive SNS, which can result in anxiety, stress, indigestion, lack of sleep, and irritability.On the contrary, the PNS brings relaxation, happiness, and peace to the mind and body. In the “rest and digest” mode, your circulation improves, heart rate slows down, and muscles loosen. Endorphins are produced by the PNS, which is also called the “happy” hormone because it makes us feel energetic and bright.
The switch between these two systems also release dopamine and serotonin, which help with motivation, attention, memory, social behaviour, sleep, and digestion. To trigger the switch between our SNS and PNS, weighted blankets apply a deep pressure that our bodies find relaxing. It tells our bodies that it’s time to turn off the “fight or flight” mode and start to enter the resting stage.
How are weighted blanked used as a form of DPT?
The pressure and weight of weighted blankets calm the arousal level by isolating the body from other senses and movements to help with self regulation. That is why weighted blankets have been used by therapists and professionals for many forms of therapy that involve sensory integration.
Because weighted blankets put pressure on the body, it helps people with different forms of sensory disorders to focus on the one sense provided by the blanket, which is the pressure and weight. By focusing on the pressure of the blanket, it helps people with autism and other disorders to regulate their emotions and behaviours.
Teresa May-Benson, an occupational therapist with the nonprofit Spiral Foundation in Newton, Massachusetts, weighs in on some other effects of weighted blankets as a form of DPT. May-Benson says that the deep pressure touch promotes relaxation by triggering the release of dopamine and serotonin. The release of these neurotransmitters help break the cycle that a person with sensory or sleeping disorders often experience, which is elevated cortisol or stress hormones during periods of anxiety or restlessness.
Dopamine and serotonin are feel-good hormones that fight stress, anxiety, and depression. It also helps your body turn on its parasympathetic nervous system to help you relax.
There have been many studies on the benefits of weighed blankets and how it affects people with sensory and sleeping disorders. One study showed that 63 percent of adults found that their levels of anxiety decreased after using a weighted blanket. Anther study conducted in 2012 by the Journal Australasian Psychiatry, found that weighted blankets lowered the amount of distressed patients in an inpatient mental psychiatric unit. Weighted blankets were also used in a study with people going through tooth extractions and showed that they felt calmer using the blanket.
We would like to note that the benefits of weighted blankets are still dependent on each person’s needs and preferences. Because weighted blankets are becoming more widely used and self-prescribed, people should note that the pressure of weighted blankets can feel significant especially for first time users. That is why we our blankets are designed to be lighter than most so that the body won’t be as overwhelmed by the unfamiliar pressure.
Even though different people may have different experiences with weighted blankets, the benefits of these blankets as a form of DPT is still evident. That is why they have been used by therapists for people with sensory and sleeping disorders. To find out whether or not our blanket is right for you, click here.