Weighted blankets work on the same basis as Deep Touch Pressure, or DTP. A hug is one way to get DTP, as is a massage. If you or your child are sensory-seeking, you might have noticed other ways you or they seek out DTP, as well – laying under the couch cushions, slipping between the mattress and box spring, wearing tight clothing, piling on blankets and pillows. And you can also get Deep Touch Pressure from a weighted blanket or weighted lap pad, which provide a nice, evenly distributed, gentle weight.
When the body is under stress or is overwhelmed (such as by sensory input), it moves to the “fight or flight” response – the sympathetic nervous system. The sympathetic nervous system causes your body to release cortisol, the stress hormone, which causes your heart rate and blood pressure to increase, makes you a little sweaty, and makes it hard to concentrate. You start to feel anxious and irritable, among other things. Kids with autism, SPD, ADHD, and other disorders spend far more time with their sympathetic nervous system in charge than most of us. And most of us in our modern society spend far more time with our sympathetic nervous system in charge than is ideal.
But when you apply Deep Touch Pressure to the body, it switches over to the parasympathetic nervous system. Cortisol decreases. Dopamine (neurotransmitter associated with brain’s pleasure center) and serotonin (neurotransmitter associated with feelings of well-being) increase. Your heart rate and blood pressure decrease. Your muscles relax, blood flow improves. You feel relaxed and calm.
You can apply Deep Touch Pressure many ways. A hug. Firm touch (with warning and approval of the person being touched, if they’re sensitive to touch). A massage. Or a weighted blanket or lap pad, which have the benefit of not requiring another person, and being available whenever and wherever you need.
Read more about our weighted blankets here, and more on the science that supports the idea of using weighted blankets for better sleep here. And get your very own weighted blanket or weighted lap pad from Wallypop.
Hsin-Yung Chen et. al., 2011 http://www.jmbe.org.tw/index.php?action=archives2&no=1961
Some of you may find this article about touch and ASD to be informative, as well.