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Effects of cyclical deep pressure applied by the FLOWpresso on sleep and anxiety

Sleep is a fundamental primitive state of human beings and a daily basic need as we spend nearly one third of our lives asleep. Neuroimaging tracing the electrical circuitry of the brain shows sleep is not passive, or a mere state of rest and disconnection for the brain, but rather a complex and heterogenous state of neuronal activity, potentially aiding in brain functions such as neuroplasticity, immunity, memory consolidation and emotional processing. The decimation of sleep throughout most nations due to today’s 24-hour society is an endemic in modern society. Large fractions of the global population are under slept, with one third of adults having sleep durations substantially below the recommended 7 to 9 hours sleep each night. Sleep disturbances may be initiated by the demands of life stressors originating within an individual or in the context of the environment in which they live. Regardless of origin, poor sleep can become a potent life stressor, it is a major stress on the neuro-hormonal system of the body. The role of sleep is a vital process for affective brain regulation and recalibrating limbic cortical regions, with its potential palliative influence on anxiety and other emotional disorders. Insufficient sleep is pervasive and holds ecological relevance, with under-slept individuals having higher observations of over anxious and mental distress presentations. Though there is limited literature evaluating deep pressure therapy, recent studies show its benefits in reducing agitation and calming the body. This study reports on the use of a novel pneumatic compression device called the FLOWpresso that applies cyclical deep pressure squeezes to small regions of the body, from distal to proximal, in a rhythmic sequence, like a hug. The experimental chapter presents the effects of the FLOWpresso on sleep and S anxiety in two studies (Study A and B), with a large sample of adult first responders who are under daily psychological and sleep stress. Sleep and anxiety were investigated through validated self-reported questionnaires: the Patient Reported Outcomes Measurement Information System (PROMIS) sleep disturbance short form, and the Metagenics mood and stress form. All participants received three forty-minute FLOWpresso sessions over a 3-week period, with one session a week. Data was collected at two time-points: prior to first FLOWpresso session (Day 1), and 1 week after the third FLOWpresso session (Day 21). Pre and post scores were analysed using a two-paired samples t-test and the magnitude of difference of means was evaluated with Cohen’s d effect sizes. Results demonstrated that the FLOWpresso is an effective treatment for decreasing perceived sleep disturbance and reducing anxiety symptomology. In Study A, the p-values for the changes in sleep, anxiety, and stress scores were all considered significant (all p < 0.002). These changes were associated with a large effect size for sleep (d = 1.15 ± 0.32), and moderate effect sizes for stress (d = 0.57 ± 0.30) and anxiety (d = 0.53 ± 0.30). In Study B, the p-values for sleep, anxiety, and stress scores considered significant (all p < 0.001). The size of the positive benefit attained over the three-week intervention were categorised as large (d = 1.05 ± 0.31) for sleep and moderate for stress (d = 0.71 ± 0.30) and anxiety (d = 0.56 ± 0.30). The positive effects observed in this cohort of first responders, demonstrates that one 40- minute FLOWpresso treatment per week for three weeks was capable of improving self-reported measures of sleep, anxiety, and stress. While it is acknowledged that there was no control group, the magnitude of the effects warrants further investigation in this cohort that is exposed to high levels of vocational stress. The results are noteworthy given the short duration (3-weeks) of the intervention and the frequency of the treatment exposure (one session per week). The health burden of poor sleep contributes to global concerns regarding stress and, anxiety. The FLOWpresso device may represent an important countermeasure with the potential to have a positive impact on health and mental well-being.
Type of thesis
The University of Waikato
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