As the demand for holistic healing surges, Restricted Environmental Stimulation Therapy (aka REST) centers are increasing in popularity. Such centers include sensory deprivation tanks or “float” pools that tout benefits like increased clarity, decreased chronic pain and accelerated healing. Flotation therapy is an hour spent floating in high water with nearly all senses depleted. Flotation is achieved through a combination of water and Epsom salt creating buoyancy which allows you to float with ease without exerting any effort. The basic idea is that floating eliminates external stimuli to help the body achieve a natural restorative state. All distractions like light, smell and sound have been removed. The water is kept at the exact same temperature as your skin, leaving you with just the feeling of floating.
Research suggests that sensory deprivation therapy works by reducing the body’s “fight or flight” stress response, inducing a state of deep relaxation and silencing mental chatter. This state of relaxation activates the parasympathetic nervous system while simultaneously quieting the sympathetic nervous system, effectively decreasing cortisol levels and balancing the immune and hormonal systems. As a result, blood pressure and respiratory rates decrease and digestive function normalizes. Time spent in a sensory deprivation tank is similar to time spent meditating in that the mind becomes peaceful and you are able to let go of stress, fear and anxiety.
Floating also has a powerful impact on the brain. During sensory deprivation, your brain slows to what is known as the theta state, a state that is reached most commonly during deep meditation or just before falling asleep. This state of the brain is most commonly associated with vivid imagery, clear and creative thoughts, insights and inspirations and intense feelings of happiness due to the release of endorphins, the body’s natural opiates.
Studies show that decreased stress achieved from floatation therapy is associated with reduced markers of bodily distress syndrome, which is tied to things like fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue. The positive effects of floating are cumulative and a wonderful way to nurture your mind, body and spirit!