Everything You Need to Know about Floatation Therapy



A flotation tank, is used for restricted environmental stimulation therapy (REST). It is a dark, soundproof tank that is filled with a ~30cm of 35.5 degree water and ~550kg of epsom salt.

The first tank was designed in 1954 by John C. Lilly, an American physician and neuroscientist. He designed the tank to study the origins of consciousness by cutting off all external stimuli.

In the 1970s, commercial float tanks were created and began being studied for possible health benefits.

These days, finding a float tank is easier, with float centres offering float therapy all over the world.

Their increase in popularity may be due in part to the scientific evidence. Studies suggest time spent floating in a sensory deprivation tank may have some benefits in healthy people, such as muscle relaxation, better sleep, decrease in pain, and decreased stress and anxiety.

Sensory deprivation effects The water in a sensory deprivation tank is heated to skin temperature and heavily saturated with Epsom salt (magnesium sulphate), providing buoyancy so you effortlessly float. You enter the tank nude and are cut off from all outside stimulation, including sound, sight, and gravity when the tank’s lid or door is closed. As you float weightless in the silence and darkness, the brain enters into a deeply relaxed state. Will it make me more creative? According to an article published in 2014 in the European Journal of Integrative Medicine, floating in a sensory deprivation tank has been found in a handful of studies to increase originality, imagination, and intuition, which can all lead to enhanced creativity.

Can it improve concentration and focus? Though most of the research that exists is older, there is evidence that sensory deprivation improves focus and concentration, and may also lead to clearer and more precise thinking. This has been linked to improved learning and enhanced performance in school and different career groups.

Does it improve athletic performance? The various effects of float therapy on athletic performance are well documented. It has been found effective in speeding up recovery after strenuous physical training by decreasing blood lactate in a study of 24 college students. A 2016 study of 60 elite athletes also found it improved psychological recovery following intense training and competition.

Benefits of a float tank There are several psychological and medical benefits of a sensory deprivation tanks on conditions such as anxiety disorders, stress, and chronic pain.

Does float therapy treat anxiety? Flotation-REST has been found to be effective in reducing anxiety. A 2018 studyTrusted Source showed that a single one-hour session in a sensory deprivation tank was capable of a significant reduction in anxiety and improvement in mood in the 50 participants with stress- and anxiety-related disorders. A 2016 study of 46 people who self-reported generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) found that it reduced GAD symptoms, such as depression, sleep difficulties, irritability, and fatigue.

Can it relieve pain? The effect of float therapy on chronic pain has been confirmed by several studies. It is shown to be effective in treating tension headaches, muscle tension, and pain. A small study of seven participants found it effective in treating whiplash-associated disorders, such as neck pain and stiffness and reduced range of motion. It has also been shown to reduce stress-related pain.

Can it improve cardiovascular health? Flotation-REST therapy may improve your cardiovascular health by inducing deep relaxation that reduces stress levels and improves sleep, according to research. Chronic stress and sleep deprivation have been linked to high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease.

Will it make me happier? There are many claims about flotation-REST causing feelings of overwhelming happiness and euphoria. People have reported experiencing mild euphoria, increased well-being, and feeling more optimistic following float therapy using a float tank. Others have reported spiritual experiences, deep inner peace, sudden spiritual insight, and feeling as if they were born anew. Sensory deprivation tank process Though the process may vary slightly depending on the flotation centre, a session in a sensory deprivation tank usually goes as follows:

  • You arrive at the flotation center, showing up early if it’s your first visit.

  • Shower before entering the tank.

  • Enter the tank and close the door or lid.

  • Gently lay back and let the buoyancy of the water allow you to effortlessly float.

  • Music plays for 10 minutes at the start of your session to help you relax. (music can play for the entire duration also)

  • Float for an hour.

  • Music plays for the last five minutes of your session.

  • Get out of the tank once your session has ended.

  • Shower again and get dressed.

To help you relax and get the most out of your session, it is recommended that you eat something approximately 30 minutes before your session. It’s also helpful to avoid caffeine for four hours beforehand. Shaving or waxing before a session is not recommended as the salt in the water can irritate the skin. Women who are menstruating should reschedule their session for once their period has ended.

Takeaway When used properly, a sensory deprivation tank can help relieve stress and ease muscle tension and pain. It can also help improve your mood. Sensory deprivation tanks are safe, however it may be a good idea to speak to a doctor before using one if you have any medical conditions or concerns.

Article courtesy of Healthline


Last medically reviewed on September 14, 2018


16 sources expanded Healthline has strict sourcing guidelines and relies on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations. We avoid using tertiary references. You can learn more about how we ensure our content is accurate and current by reading our editorial policy.

  • Bood SA, et al. (2009). Treating stress-related pain with the flotation restricted environmental stimulation technique: Are there differences between women and men? DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1155/2009/298935

  • Carder K. (2018). What is the lived experience of flotation-REST? https://www.researchgate.net/publication/325176720_What_is_the_Lived_Experience_of_Floatation-REST

  • Daniel C, et al. (2014). Psychotic-like experiences and their cognitive appraisal under short-term sensory deprivation. DOI: http://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyt.2014.00106

  • Daniel C, et al. (2015). Predicting psychotic-like experiences during sensory deprivation. DOI: http://doi.org/10.1155/2015/439379

  • Driller MW, et al. (2016). Flotation restricted environmental stimulation therapy and napping on mood state and muscle soreness in elite athletes: A novel recovery strategy? DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.peh.2016.08.002

  • Edebol H, et al. (2008). Chronic Whiplash-Associated Disorders and Their Treatment Using Flotation-REST (Restricted Environmental Stimulation Technique). DOI: https://doi.org/10.1177/1049732308315109

  • Feinstein JS, et al. (2018). The elicitation of relaxation and interoceptive awareness using floatation therapy in individuals with high anxiety sensitivity. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.bpsc.2018.02.005

  • Feinstein JS, et al. (2018). Examining the short-term anxiolytic and antidepressant effect of Floatation-REST. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0190292

  • Float tanks guidelines for regulating floatation systems as special use pools. (2017). https://www.doh.wa.gov/Portals/1/Documents/Pubs/333-219.pdf

  • Jonsson K, et al. (2014). Curing the sick and creating supermen – How relaxation in flotation tanks is advertised on the Internet. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.eujim.2014.05.005

  • Jonsson K, et al. (2016). Promising effects of treatment with flotation-REST (restricted environmental stimulation technique) as an intervention for generalized anxiety disorder (GAD): a randomized controlled pilot trial. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1186/s12906-016-1089-x

  • Kjellgren A, et al. (2014). Beneficial effects of treatment with sensory isolation in flotation-tank as a preventive health-care intervention – a randomized controlled pilot trial. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1186/1472-6882-14-417

  • Kjellgren A, et al. (2011). Preventing sick-leave for sufferers of high stress-load and burnout syndrome: A pilot study combining psychotherapy and the flotation tank. http://www.ijpsy.com/volumen11/num2/299/preventing-sick-leave-for-sufferers-of-high-EN.pdf

  • Mason OJ, et al. (2009). The psychotomimetic effects of short-term sensory deprivation. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1097/NMD.0b013e3181b9760b

  • Morgan PM, et al. (2013). The acute effects of flotation restricted environmental stimulation technique on recovery from maximal eccentric exercise. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1519/JSC.0b013e31828f277e doi.org/10.2147/OAEM.S17853

  • Pastakia K, et al. (2011). Acute whiplash associated disorders (WAD). DOI:


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