One of the best Occupational Therapy techniques to help you sleep is... deep pressure. What is deep pressure you ask? It is using the sense of proprioception to cause relaxation. Proprioception is one of the least talked about senses. Within our joints and muscles are proprioceptive nerve fibres that tell our brain where our body parts are as well as the force that is being exerted on them. From the day we are born our joints hardly ever escape the effect of gravity pressing down on them. This feeling is sent along our sensory nerve fibres to our brain to tell us whether we are upright or falling or moving quickly or slowly.
Occupational Therapists use additional deep pressure to influence the central nervous system (CNS). This system is responsible for the stress response (fight or flight) as well as the relaxation response (rest & digest). Apply additional pressure into the joints and your body starts feeling more together, more ready to rest. Suggestions include: a big hug, jumping on a trampoline, slow stretching, pushing a stationary object, carrying a heavy object, massage and/or a weighted blanket. The pressure needs to be interpreted as calming (a lovely massage) and not as threatening (a hug that is just too tight) otherwise the stress response will be triggered and sleep will be hard to find.
Here are my prescriptions for a good nights rest:
1. For a tired Mom - 10 minutes of slow stretching with deep breathing followed by 10 minutes of a neck and shoulder massage (a la hubby) or a hand and foot massage (do it yourself!)
2. For a restless toddler - 5 minutes packing away heavy toys, 5 minutes jumping on the bed, 5 minutes of wrestling, 5 minutes of big hugs while reading a story and into bed tucked in tight or using a weighted blanket.
3. For a stressed out Dad - 30 minute run, 10 minutes of boxing, a quick shower and a cuddle on the couch.