Floating in flotation tanks, also known as float therapy, floatation, R.E.S.T. (restricted environmental stimulation technique) or isolation tanks involves lying in a salt-water solution the same temperature as your body in a specially designed tank. It is the most effective and incredible means of stress relief and relaxation available. One hour in the tank is equal to four hours of sleep, and the more often you float, the better you will feel!
Now widely accepted, and increasingly popular in Europe and the West Coast of the United States, floating is also used to treat a wide range of conditions like depression, pain management or just for relaxation. Don't take our word, Google and YouTube floating for more information.
Float tanks can now be found everywhere, from health spas and fitness centers to hospitals and professional sports clubs. Some regulars even have float tanks installed in their home like Tiger Woods and Joe Rogan to name a few.
History of Floating
While working at the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) in Bethesda, Maryland, Dr Lilly, an American neurophysiologist, and his colleague Dr Jay Shirley became interested in the origins of conscious activity within the brain. The first float tank was developed in the 1950's, and perfected by 1970's to the design similar to the modern-day float tanks.
They wanted to know if the brain needed external stimuli to keep its conscious states active or would the brain fall asleep with no inputs. So, they began devising a system that would restrict environmental stimulation as much as possible.
In Dr Lilly's first tank, the floater was suspended upright and completely submerged, with their head covered by an underwater breathing apparatus and mask. Over the years, Dr Lilly found that he could float in a more relaxing lying-down position if he used salt water (which is more buoyant). In time, he added other improvements such as, water heaters, air pumps, and water filters for re-using the Epsom salts.
How Floating Works
The float tank looks like a large, enclosed bathtub. They are designed to block out all external distractions, such as sights, sounds, tactile sensations and gravity. The tanks measure 4' by 8' by 8' high and are filled with only 10 inches of water and over 1100 pounds of Epsom salt, which creates an environment twice as buoyant as the Dead Sea, letting you float effortlessly on the surface of the water!
The salt-water solution is heated to skin temperature (93.5°F). Once you are settled it's almost impossible to tell which parts of your body are in the water and which aren't, tricking your brain into thinking that you're floating in mid-air. This will make you feel almost completely weightless, letting every single muscle in your body fully relax. The quietness and darkness (if you choose) will allow your mind to drift into a deep state of relaxation.
Without gravity to deal with and without commands needing to be sent out, activity in the logical side of the brain slows down until it synchronizes with the creative side of your brain. This will leave you in a dream-like state, similar to that experienced just before you go to sleep. In this state, the brain releases vast amounts of endorphins, a 'feel good' chemical. In this state of relaxation, which may be deep and profound, your brain will stay dreamily alert. To get technical, the brain gradually shifts from its usual alpha state to generate theta waves. This is also the state of mind that Buddhist monks try to reach through hours of meditation and years of training.
Why Does Floating Work?
Research shows that floating is highly effective on many levels, physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. Why it is so effective is still a topic of much research. There are several theories as to why floating is such an effective tool for such a wide variety of health and wellness benefits. While each explanation has its merit, the overwhelming conclusion is that the combination of these effects is what makes the results of floating multi-layered and profound.