The effect of deep pressure on sensory integration
A stimulus is information that is received through our senses; seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, touching (external stimuli). We also receive internal stimuli via our bodies such as our thoughts or a signal when we are hungry. This information is processed in our brains so that we can respond and react accordingly. The process is called sensory processing or sensory integration.
Normally these stimuli are filtered and processed unconsciously. A large part of information received via our senses, does not require a constant response and are filtered. For example, you do not feel how tight your socks are all day nor are you continuously aware of the colour of the floor. Some information such as seeing a car approaching when crossing the road requires a more direct response. However if your filtering process is impaired how would you be able to recognise which information requires your attention and which should be ignored?
Every second our brain gets to process 10,000 to 4,000,000 internal and external stimuli.
SENSORY INTEGRATION DISORDER
Individuals with sensory processing differences (also called sensory integration disorder) have a differently tuned filter. They can sometimes react to stimuli very strongly or not at all, and have difficulties distinguishing between important and unimportant information.
For example some people with sensory processing problems may be hypersensitive to sound and will hear much more than the average person. How well would you be able to hold a conversation if you continuously heard the sounds of a ticking clock at the same volume as your friend was speaking? The more unfiltered stimuli received the more likely one is to get distracted.
Sensory Integration Disorder (SID) is a neurological disorder that causes problems with registering, processing and responding to sensory information from the environment or from the body.
Sensory overload occurs when more stimuli are received than then brain is capable of processing. Your brain is busy processing all incoming stimuli of sounds, images, smells, movements, feelings, and thoughts. Many of the (unprocessed) stimuli will be queued, waiting to be processed. This could result in significant information being missed. With all the stimuli queued up it can become hard to rationalise and respond. Each new stimulus (a touch, a question, etc.) is an additional stimulus to the queue. Sensory overload often causes the filter to be even more impaired resulting in too many stimuli being marked as being important, unsafe and frightening.
Sensory overload can cause anxiety or complex behaviour. This manifests itself in a desire to run away or feeling panicked. It can also result in frustration, aggression and physical behaviours (such as making noises, covering ears or flapping hands) to stop or drown out the incoming stimuli. These are the basic responses of the body to survive in a situation that is perceived as dangerous and anxious. It is also known as the fight, flight or freeze reaction. The basic emotion of fear, and the responses resulting from this are determined by the part of the brain that is called the amygdala.
Sensory overload occurs when more information is received from the senses, than the brain can process.
The amygdala, is one of the oldest sections of the brain and forms part of the limbic system. This system is a kind of emotional sentry. The only thing that matters is survival. When there is danger this sentry takes control of the body to be able to respond immediately. Adrenaline, nor-adrenaline and cortisol are released into the body to flee, to fight or to freeze.
At the same time reasoning stops, because in threatening situations there is no time to think about how to respond. The amygdala ensures that we can avoid the danger as quickly as possible. Due to sensory overload, people are no longer able to rationally deal with the situation. Fear takes over and the amygdala gives a fight, flight or freeze response.
Due to sensory overload, people are no longer able to rationally deal with the situation. Fear takes over and the amygdala gives a fight, flight or freeze response.
Everyone has a natural need for safety, security and comfort. The soothing effect of deep pressure is nothing new. Think of the effect of a firm hug when you are upset or the swaddling of restless babies. Individuals with sensory processing differences, who often feel restless or anxious, can greatly benefit from deep pressure.
Deep pressure has a direct influence on the amygdala and has a regulatory effect on sensory processing. It reduces the overwhelming effect of all the stimuli received. It helps calm and soothe an over-stimulated or ‘anxious’ nervous system and provides a safe and protected feeling. This can allow you to better cope with stress and overstimulation, reduce meltdowns, improve concentrate and fall asleep quicker.
In contrast to light touch, where the surface receptors in the skin are stimulated, deep pressure activates the deeper located receptors.
SQUEASE DEEP PRESSURE VEST
There are different ways to receive deep pressure. Some like to lie under the heavy cushions of a sofa or withdraw into small spaces, others love to be firmly hugged. It gives a feeling of safety and security. But what if there are no heavy pillows to lay under or what if you get stressed from physical contact? Receiving a hug brings new stimuli along such as the smell of perfume, a scratchy sweater or the warmth of the other person which can lead to more stress.
With the Squease pressure vest you give yourself calming deep pressure whenever you need it. You have complete control over how much and how long you want to experience pressure. You can take the lightweight vest everywhere you go so that you have it available at those daily moments that can lead to restlessness, anxiety and overstimulation. Whether that is in a full supermarket, at school or work, at the dentist or at home after a busy day full of sensory stimuli.