The Science Of What Happens When We Disconnect
See for yourself how floatation therapy can help you relax and rejuvenate
Even without the existential malaise of living through global crisis, our modern way of life tends to exert a lot of pressure on most people. As mental health research evolves, it’s become apparent that what we call “stress” can actually cause a lot of health problems; not just physical problems like heart disease and high blood pressure (although those are certainly significant), but also mental health issues like PTSD, depression, and eating disorders.
Finding ways to recharge is more important than it’s ever been, but there’s a healthy amount of skepticism about alternative wellness practices, with floating being no exception. So how can we be sure floating is as helpful as it claims to be?
Simple. We follow the science!
There was a recent Tedx Talk by a well known scientist, Dr. Justin Feinstein from the Laureate Institute of Brain Research, who shared some of his research findings about the effects of floating on stress. What’s so incredible about this research is that every single person who participated in it experienced some amount of stress relief, with most people experiencing a significant reduction in their stress levels that lasted for more than a full 24 hours after a single session.
24 hours is a pretty long time for any given treatment to work. Just think: if there was a pill that would make you virtually stress free for a whole day, who wouldn’t want that? While floating isn’t quite as easy as taking a pill, the benefits of it seem even more significant than most available anti-anxiety treatments. Not to mention, you don’t have to worry about things like interactions with other medications or other negative contraindications.
Dr. Feinstein has been studying people with stress-related illnesses like PTSD, depression, and anxiety, and what he’s finding is that people who have the highest levels of stress before floating experience the largest benefit. Basically, everyone who floated returned to a baseline level of relief so no matter how anxious you are, floating is going to bring you down to a similar level of relaxation as everyone else.
This is all really fascinating, but how does it work? Is it really as simple as sitting in the dark and not thinking about anything for an hour or more? It looks like it.
Floating allows our minds and bodies to slow down, gives us the ability to recharge more quickly, and puts our brains in a more dreamlike state. The solitude of a float, where we know we can’t be bothered by the outside world, is a massive destresser that is surprisingly difficult to find elsewhere.
To help illustrate this point, let’s move from science to history. There’s a psychologist named Peter Suedfeld who did a lot of groundbreaking research into “sensory deprivation” back in the 60s and 70s. Dr. Suedfeld’s work didn’t focus on float tanks (at first), but instead involved placing people in completely dark rooms in total isolation for 24 hours or more at a time. He called this process REST (Restricted Environment Stimulation Therapy).
At the time, psychologists were very misinformed about sensory deprivation — they essentially thought it was torture. Previous research was incomplete, and the methods that researchers used were suspect at best. They would prime subjects to bad outcomes before the experiment even began; focussing on negative side effects in their introduction. The experiments themselves involved exposure to constant harsh lights and loud noises — which doesn’t exactly sound like sensory deprivation, does it? Dr. Suedfeld thought that it was possible to take a different approach and get a positive effect. And he was right.
Dr. Suedfeld focused on keeping subjects at ease and making the process simple for anyone participating. What his research found was that instead of feeling like it was torture, people actually enjoyed the sensory deprivation experience! The subjects felt it was relaxing and beneficial. One participant even tried to sneak in multiple times under different names to repeat the experience!
Over the years, he found out that there was a positive potential benefit to REST in many areas: addiction treatment, helping people with autism, enhancing creativity, and, of course, reducing stress. It shouldn’t be surprising, then, that there are entire groups of people who choose to live in total darkness for months at a time and say they find it peaceful.
This research was foundational for the future of float tanks, and helped to key in early on to the benefits of floating and reducing stress. In fact, back in the 80s and 90s, scientists started calling it “Floatation REST” and referring to the dark rooms that Dr. Suedfeld used as “Chamber REST”.
Since then, scientific understanding of sensory reduced environments has only grown, and in the age of information, the benefits of isolation run in stark contrast to how we live our day-to-day lives. Luckily, you don’t need to spend a day in the dark to experience the benefits — we’re learning now that Float REST can provide similar benefits in just a single session (though of course, the longer you can float, the better).
In his talk, Dr. Feinstein notes how we aren’t designed to be constantly plugged in and looking at screens all day, listening to cars driving by, or dealing with the glare of fluorescent lights non-stop.
Neither were we supposed to be constantly thinking about what we have to do next, fit a full 8 hour workday on top of raising families, going to school, and being a part of our communities.
Even when we enjoy these things, they can wear us out and add to the stress of our daily lives. Taking a break can give us a reset button, and floating has been proven to be one of the most effective ways to do that.
Ready to disconnect but still have questions?
Here is a list of the most common questions we get from new floaters:
What if I'm claustrophobic?
The tanks you will be using are large enough for you to stand inside of and getting in and out is extremely easy. You control your float. If you would like to get out early, you are able to. We have hundreds of people that have come through who say they are extremely claustrophobic yet felt 100% comfortable once they were in the tank. Please note: the tank seen above in the preview image of the video is much smaller than what we have.
How is the salt water solution kept clean?
Every float tank goes through four stages of rigorous filtration for a total of five full turnovers. The water surface is skimmed, treated with a micron filter, NSF certified UV and Ozone injectionWater is checked and balanced daily with strict chemistry metrics. Fresh water and salt are continuously reintroduced into the solution, ensuring the entire volume is reintroduced into the solution, ensuring the entire volume is replaced over a period of ten weeks. Keeping the salt solution in a clean and safe condition is a top priority to allow you to just relax and enjoy your time while floating.
Do i shower before a float?
Yes. Showering before floating eliminates personal products and other contaminates. Using the shower afterward is also suggested to remove the coating of Epsom salt that is left on the skin and hair.
What do I bring with me?
There is nothing you have to bring. We provide soap, shampoo, towels, and all the amenities necessary. There is even a "freshen up room" that you visit after your float that has hair dryers, leave in conditioner, q-tips and disposable combs (you may want to bring a hair brush).
Can I drown?
No. No one has ever drowned in a float tank. The water is so buoyant it is very difficult to flip over. If you did, the amount of salt in the water getting into your face would immediately wake you up.
Can i wear a bathing suit while floating?
No. Any clothing will interfere with your experience and contaminate the water.
Can I float with another person?
No. Only one floater per float tank. Feel free to book a float with a friend or loved and float in different tanks at the same time.
Can I eat or drink before floating?
A heavy meal beforehand is not recommended, however you don’t want to hear your stomach growling. Too much caffeine can interfere with your ability to relax.
Can you fall asleep in the float tank?
Yes. Some are drawn to floating specifically to catch some Z’s while inside the tank. Sleeping in the tank can leave you feeling rested and refreshed.
Will my fingers get pruney?
Zero prune-age!!!! The high concentration of salt in the water keeps your finger plump and prune free. As a matter of fact, your skin will feel soft, silky and smooth after a float.
Can I float if i am pregnant?
Yes, please talk to you doctor before hand. But research shows, pregnant women and float tanks go together like peanut butter and jelly. Kristen Gerrish and Lene Kilic up at float Alaska are dedicated midwives using float therapy to help pregnant mommies. They give an awesome talk all about it: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g9oZhbSMtSQ
Can i float if I recently dyed my hair?
No. In best interest of your hair and also the salt water solution, please no floating unless water runs clear through hair.
Will my ears be salty after floating?
Salty ears can be avoided by wearing ear plugs and washing out your ears post float.
Are there situations in which i will not be permitted to float?
We will not allow you to float if you have any of the following conditions:
Infectious skin or respiratory disorders
Epilepsy or serious mental conditions
A high-risk pregnancy
Have colored or permed your hair within 2 weeks
Under the influence of any drug or alcohol
Under 18 without parental presence
We expect you to inform us of any conditions for your own safety and the safety of other floaters! We reserve the right to refuse service to anyone at any time.