Float Therapy or Restricted Environmental Stimulation Therapy (R.E.S.T), is widely known as Floatation, Floating, and is even called Sensory Deprivation. We consider the experience of floating to be sensory elevation!
In 1954 neuropsychologist Dr. John C. Lilly at the National Institute of Mental Health invented the isolation tank as a research instrument. The tank was used to create an environment with the lowest possible level of external stimuli. He accomplished this with an 8x8x8 tank, where an individual immerses him or herself into 10 inches of 93.5-degree water containing 1,000 pounds of pharmaceutical-grade Epsom salts (magnesium sulfate). Devoid of light and sound, the tank allows one to disconnect from the constant bombardment of sensory input. The magnesium rich water provides buoyancy greater than the Dead Sea, effortlessly allowing one to float. Ultimately, float therapy provides relief from the constant physical effects of daily activity we recognize as stress to our bones, muscles, and joints, while simultaneously delivering a large transdermal dose of magnesium, a natural muscle relaxant. Widely researched for both physical and psychological benefits, the floatation tank has experienced an evolutionary development, resulting in what is currently used to study Restricted Environmental Stimulation Therapy or R.E.S.T., a term coined by Dr. Peter Suedfeld in the 1970’s and is now commonly used in reference to floatation therapy.
Today’s float tanks allow you to comfortably immerse in 10 inches of water, or roughly 250 gallons. With about 1,000 pounds of Epson Salt, the water is so dense, you literally can’t help but float. The magnesium enriched water is warmed to roughly body temperature, which helps to release tension from your muscles and provide a faster recovery from working out or simple aches and pains. These therapeutic benefits continue to be broadly recognized and float therapy is increasingly used by many top athletes, artists and multidisciplinary practitioners.
Clinical studies being performed by Dr. Justin Feinstein at the Laureate Institute for Brain Research are examining float therapy as a primary tool to disconnect from the outside world and reconnect to signals from within the body. Preliminary data collected by EEG and fMRI show the positive effects of REST in the treatment of anxiety and have led to new research into anxiety, addiction and PTSD.
In 2015 Time Magazine’s “Float Hopes: the Strange New Science of Floating” Dr. Feinstein is quoted, “Floating has given me hope that a whole chunk of our population that normally would never be able to meditate could now achieve those sorts of deep meditative states.”
Science of Float Therapy
Sensory isolation in a flotation tank is a method known for inducing deep relaxation and subsequent positive health effects for patients suffering from stress or muscle tension pains. Very few studies have investigated this method as a preventive healthcare intervention. The purpose of this study was to evaluate the effects in healthy participants after receiving a series of flotation tank treatments.