Floating therapy, also known as sensory deprivation therapy or floating 12, has become an increasingly popular wellness trend over the past few years. But what exactly is floating, and what are the science-backed benefits of this unique therapy? In this comprehensive guide, we’ll demystify floating therapy and explore how it can positively impact your mental and physical health: What is it? Why do people swear by it? And more importantly, will I leave feeling like I’ve had a full 8 hours of sleep? Let’s find out!
Demystifying Floating Therapy: What is It?
- Floating therapy involves lying in a saltwater pod that blocks out light, sound, and touch to produce sensory deprivation. This induces relaxation.
- Studies show benefits like lower blood pressure, less pain, reduced anxiety and cortisol levels, and boosted creativity.
- Floating impacts the brain by producing theta brain waves associated with deep meditation.
- Floating may help with mental health disorders including generalized anxiety and PTSD.
- Physical benefits include pain relief from arthritis, fibromyalgia, headaches, and muscle soreness.
- For first-timers, floating centers provide orientation sessions and float pods designed for comfort and ease.
- Consistency is key—regular floating is needed to experience the most benefits long term.
Floating, also known as sensory deprivation therapy, is a practice that involves lying in a soundproof, lightproof tank filled with a dense Epsom salt solution heated to skin temperature. The high salt concentration allows you to effortlessly float on the surface of the water in a zero-gravity environment.
The float tank eliminates external stimuli like sound, sight, and touch, creating a profoundly relaxing experience. Once inside the float tank, you simply lie back and relax, allowing the warm water to cradle your body. Many people report experiencing a deep state of mental and physical relaxation during a float session.
Some key features of a float tank include:
- A soundproof and lightproof enclosed space, blocking out external stimuli
- 10-12 inches of water saturated with 1000 pounds of Epsom salt to increase buoyancy
- Skin-temperature water heated to 93-95 degrees Fahrenheit
- A feeling of weightlessness and zero gravity once immersed in the salt water
- 60-90 minute float sessions. You can opt to keep the tank lid open or closed based on your comfort level.
The isolation tank was first invented in 1954 by neuroscientist John C. Lilly as a tool for sensory deprivation experiments. However, floating therapy has since evolved into a popular holistic stress relief and mindfulness practice. Today, there are thousands of float centers around the world offering therapeutic float sessions.
Floating Therapy and Its Influence on the Brain
Scientific studies show that floating therapy can induce a deeply relaxed state by reducing gravity’s effects on the body and minimizing external stimuli. This allows the brain to enter the theta brainwave state associated with deep meditation, creativity, and healing.
Research shows float therapy may:
|Lower stress hormones||Floating has been shown to decrease cortisol and adrenaline levels, reducing feelings of stress and anxiety. One study found floating reduced cortisol levels by up to 50%.|
|Boost mood||Studies show floating may increase serotonin, dopamine, and endorphins—neurochemicals that play roles in mental health conditions like anxiety and depression. This can lead to an elevated mood and euphoric feeling post-float.|
|Increase creativity||The deeply relaxed theta brainwave state achieved during floating is linked to boosted creativity. One study found that participants scored significantly higher on tests measuring creativity after completing multiple float sessions.|
|Improve sleep||Research indicates floating may help improve sleep quality, sleep duration, and reduce symptoms of insomnia. This is likely due to reductions in cortisol and muscle tension.|
|Relieve pain||The buoyancy of the saltwater reduces gravitational pressure on joints and muscles, easing pain and muscular tension. Studies show reductions in chronic back pain, fibromyalgia, and rheumatoid arthritis pain after floating|
The mental clarity and creativity boost provided by floating is thought to be linked to the removal of external sensory stimuli during float sessions. This allows the brain to relax deeply, unrestrained by the stress of incoming sensations.
Health Benefits: The Impressive Impact of Floating Therapy
In addition to its effects on the brain, floating therapy has been shown to offer an array of holistic health benefits:
- Muscle relaxation: The Epsom salt solution helps relieve muscle tightness and body aches by allowing muscles to fully let go. This leads to both physical and mental relaxation. Studies show reductions in muscle tension and joint pain after regular floating sessions.
- Lower blood pressure: Studies have found significant reductions in blood pressure after floating, particularly in people with high blood pressure. This is likely due to decreased cortisol and relief of body tension.
- Faster workout recovery: Due to float therapy’s effects on lactic acid, cortisol, and muscle inflammation, it may help athletes recover more quickly after intense workouts.
- Magnesium absorption: Epsom salt is comprised of magnesium and sulfate. Magnesium absorption through the skin may help prevent inflammation and improve electrolyte balance.
- Lower anxiety: Floating allows the mind and body to deeply relax and release worries. Research indicates it can lower anxiety levels, ease social anxiety, and improve mindfulness.
- Pain relief: Float therapy alleviates pain from conditions like fibromyalgia, arthritis, migraine headaches, and chronic back pain. It does this by relaxing muscles, boosting mood, and reducing inflammation.
- Improved sleep: Studies show floating may boost sleep duration, sleep quality, and help treat insomnia. Just one session can induce a profoundly relaxed state optimal for restorative sleep.
Floating Therapy as a Stress and Anxiety Buster
One of the most researched benefits of float therapy is its ability to reduce stress and relieve symptoms of anxiety, both in the short and long term.
Here’s a look at what the research says:
- In a 2018 study, participants reported roughly a 15% reduction in anxiety after a one-hour float session.
- Multiple studies have found floating results in significant decreases in cortisol—a hormone linked to stress.
- Research shows floating can lower blood pressure and heart rate, two physical markers of stress.
- Floating may alter levels of neurotransmitters like endorphins and serotonin to boost mood and relieve tension.
- A 2008 study found participants experienced less muscle tension and negative moods after 12 weeks of regular float sessions.
The sensory deprivation and weightlessness allow both the mind and body to enter a blissful state of relaxation. This gives the nervous system a chance to unwind, calm down, and reset.
Floating can be used to increase general relaxation and mindfulness or as a targeted treatment for chronic stress, anxiety disorders, and phobias.
If you’re considering your first float session, here’s a step-by-step look at what the experience will be like:
Arrival: You will arrive at the float center and be shown to a private room. Centers require a shower before entering the float tank, so bring shampoo/soap. You may be offered earplugs. Use them.
Pre-float orientation: Most places will give you a short orientation on how to enter the tank, use any lights or signals inside, and to exit safely. You can ask any questions you may have.
Entering the float tank: Take a few minutes to get comfortable in the water and on the pillow or headrest. Allow your body to relax and adjust to the darkness.
Floating: Once settled in, you can float with the tank lid open or closed based on your comfort level. Just relax and take slow deep breaths. Many people fall asleep, have vivid mental images, or feel exceptionally clear-headed.
Finishing up: When your time is done, gentle music will come on signaling it’s time to exit. Take your time getting out slowly and readjusting.
Post-float: After showering off the salt water, most people describe feeling extremely relaxed yet energized. Make sure to drink plenty of water afterward to stay hydrated.
Many centers offer an introduction special for first-time floaters—so don’t be intimidated to try it out! Take the time to slowly ease into and out of your first session.
Floating Therapy: A Healthy Addition to Your Wellness Regimen
From reducing daily stress to soothing chronic pain, the benefits of floating therapy are wide-ranging. And while more research is still needed, science indicates it can be a promising treatment and prevention option for both mental and physical health conditions.
Floating offers a unique way to tap into a deeply relaxed, meditative state of consciousness, which can be difficult to achieve through traditional relaxation methods. Sensory deprivation allows the brain and central nervous system to rest at an extremely deep level.
If you’re looking to step up your self-care routine and reduce stress, give floating a try! Even one session can leave you feeling refreshed and rejuvenated. But for long-lasting effects on chronic pain, anxiety, or sleep, routine floating sessions are ideal.
Floating therapy offers a unique, non-pharmaceutical way to tap into a state of deep mental and physical relaxation. While more research is still underway, the science indicates a regular floating practice may benefit both body and mind. Give floating a try to relieve stress, ease pain, and boost your overall sense of health and well-being.
Frequently Asked Questions
What can I expect when using a sensory deprivation tank or floatation tank?
Using a sensory deprivation tank involves floating in a tank of warm water, deeply saturated with Epsom salt. The tank’s design ensures that external stimuli like light and sound can’t interfere with the experience. You can expect an overwhelming sense of calm, psychological relaxation and often a euphoric state. Many also document a heightened sensitivity to their inner thoughts and feelings during the floatation experience.
Is it safe to fall asleep in a flotation tank?
Yes, it is safe to fall asleep in a float tank. The salty water supports your body in a way that even the neck can relax completely. In fact, some individuals specifically use flotation therapy to help with sleep disorders.
Does the frequency of flotation therapy sessions affect the benefits?
Yes, the frequency of flotation therapy sessions can impact its benefits. Regular sessions might enhance the benefits and allow individuals to enter a relaxed state more quickly over time. However, the optimal frequency can vary depending on individual needs and circumstances.
Are there psychological benefits of flotation therapy?
Absolutely. The serene environment inside the sensory deprivation tank promotes a state of deep mental relaxation. This can alleviate stress and anxiety, improve mood, and promote a sense of inner peace and well-being. Some users also report experiencing increased creativity and improved problem-solving abilities after their sessions.
How can someone start with flotation therapy?
The best way to start with flotation therapy is to find a nearby float spa or center that offers it. An initial consultation with the staff can help you understand the process and what to expect. They can also guide you through your first session to ensure you’re comfortable and ready.