Hugs are amazing. 

Which is something I realized after over a year riding solo in lock down. The loss of touch was something I hadn’t expected. While I was able to have my other essential needs delivered to my doorstep, I couldn’t Instacart a hug. 

When I finally got to hug my bestie for the first time in over a year, it was weird and a little awkward at first. And then an indescribable, peaceful calm settled in my body. 

Have you ever wondered why a good bear hug feels amazing? Or how burrowing under a weighted blanket is so calming? Maybe you’re one of a legion of people who discovered sleep swaddling helped with their insomnia.

It’s all connected – the physiological benefits of what’s known as Deep Touch Pressure Therapy (DTP).

What is Deep Touch Pressure Therapy?

First, we need to understand how our bodies are constantly collecting information about our environment through our senses like taste, touch, sight, smell, and sound. Another way is through our proprioception, our means of negotiating and navigating through space, e.g. how high to step when climbing a staircase, or how low to squat when sitting on a chair. 

“When you have efficient proprioceptive processing, you always know where your body begins and ends, where your fingertips and feet are.” – Harkla

Much like how our eardrums facilitate our ability to hear, our muscles and joints are instrumental to our proprioception. 

The Power of Pressure

When we’re under stress or experiencing sensory overload, DTP can help return the body to a state of calm by reducing our cortisol levels, the hormone responsible for “flight or flight” mode. 

(DTP) is firm tactile sensory input that provides proprioceptive input to the whole body. This can consist of firm hugs, firm stroking, cuddling, hugging, squeezing, compression, or swaddling. When administered to the whole body, deep touch pressure therapy (DTP) has a calming, organizing effect on children and adults alike.” 

Some examples include:

  • The Thundershirt that calms dogs during fireworks and thunderstorms

  • The Sleep Pod for adults which is essentially a full-body swaddling sock 

  • Any of these cats  

  • And Temple Grandin’s Hugging Machine which is credited with formally kicking off the study of DTP in the early 90s

The Benefits of Bearable Weight

The benefits of DTP are kinda wild and constantly evolving

  • Mood Booster: releases oxytocin aka the “happy hormone”

  • Alleviates stress by reducing cortisol, the “fight or flight hormone”

  • Fortifies connection, combats loneliness, and helps with sleep anxiety

Integrating DTP into your everyday life is easier than you may think. Here are a few ways to get in on the action ASAP:

Bear Hugs

A personal favorite, the 20-second minimum full-body hug cannot be beat. It’s recommended to catch at least eight of these a day, but even one a week can help boost immunity, mental wellness, and feel-good vibes. 

Weighted Blankets

These things skyrocketed in popularity almost overnight through a viral fundraising campaign and word of mouth. Now a staple in homes throughout the U.S., weighted blankets can weigh up to 25lbs and simulate the sensation of a full-body hug. 

But with summer approaching, has the thought of snuggling under all that weight in the sweltering heat left you feeling cold? Don’t sweat it. Women’s Health rounded up 13 breathable weighted blankets for hot sleepers in warmer climates

Weighted Sleep Masks & Face Pillows

Like their larger cousin, weighted sleep masks can help improve sleep, ease headaches and migraines, and alleviate stress. They can also help block out light, instrumental in a solid night’s sleep, and can foster a sense of being “grounded.” Your results may vary

Weighted sleep masks are great for traveling when packing an entire blanket is too impractical. To boost benefits, try refrigerating your mask to help reduce puffy eye areas and help soothe tension aches and eye strain. We love this face pillow for its earth-friendly clay beads and lavender-infused scent, perfect for a quick cat nap or a dreamless night’s sleep. 

Cuddle Buddy

It’s not quite an Instacart Hug, but it’s pretty close. Cuddle Comfort is a platform of touch-enthusiasts seeking platonic partners to cuddle. Just download the app, search for a buddy in your area and negotiate a time and place to cuddle up. 

Adult Swaddling

Otonamaki, or “adult wrapping,” is the Japanese practice of wrapping an adult from head to toe in breathable cotton sheets. The swaddler then gently rocks you or rolls you around a swaddling room. It’s meant to create a sense of calm, relaxation, and comfort. Some swaddled report easing of pain and stiffness around hips, shoulders, and their backs as well as improved posture and balance. 

Either locate a local professional and vetted swaddler or try it at home with a partner. Healthline has some at-home great tips