Floating away from external stimulation in a sensory deprivation tank is more than just a moment of deep relaxation. The brain and body enjoy a range of scientifically proven benefits that last beyond the session. Reduction of stress, depression, chronic pain, etc. Let’s look in detail at the many benefits you can expect from floating.
When John C. Lilly, a true jack-of-all-trades scientist, invented the sensory isolation tank for an experiment on consciousness, he had no idea of the benefits that the float sessions would bring. He himself played the game by testing his sensory deprivation system first, despite the lack of comfort of the device at the time (the 1960s). The latter gives him such relaxation that he compares it to a state of deep meditation.
By giving the brain and body a moment of unprecedented relaxation, Lilly has invented a new holistic treatment that is effective and totally simple: simply float in water saturated with Epsom salt, at the ideal temperature. The ” procedure ” may seem simple, but the benefits are there for all to see. The scientist would soon see the positive impact of floating on stress, anxiety disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder and addiction.
Years later, float therapy is still being studied by scientists who, little by little, are proving the long list of its benefits to human health.
For the majority of them, the float session is neither a moment of relaxation nor a “well-being” treatment but a real therapy.
Float session: why does it work?
The benefits of sensory deprivation float come from isolation from external stimulation.
The session takes place in a hi-tech float tank that puts all the senses to sleep.
The high concentration of Epsom salt (or magnesium sulphate) in the water makes it possible to feel weightless without any effort. The air and water are at the ideal temperature to erase the sensation of touch. The impression of floating “in the void” is real. The sense of smell and taste disappear, as Epsom salt is neutral. Hearing and sight are no longer alerted: there is total silence and the float room does not let in any light through.
In addition, the ovoid shape of the housing and the comfort of the situation provide an unprecedented feeling of protection and security.
In “real life”, the body and brain are always on the go, even if you don’t realise it, when you are relaxing. Production of hormones, hyperactivity of the hypothalamus, muscle tension, etc. Our body is constantly under tension.
Sensory isolation ‘unplugs’ this system in a kind of ‘reboot’ in which the brain can finally rest and revitalise itself.
What happens during a float session ?
First, let’s focus on the body.
Floating effortlessly facilitates the relaxation of tendons and muscles. The tension on the bones fades away. Blood circulation is facilitated, it accentuates the elimination of toxins and ensures a better diffusion of mineral salts, oxygen, trace elements, etc.
From the very first session, the “floater” regains a physical dynamism, tensions are released and chronic pain is relieved. In addition to the weightlessness and warmth, Epsom salt also acts on muscle stiffness.
The positive effects on the muscular system make it an ideal tool, sought after by top athletes, to lower the concentration of lactic acid and thus promote recovery.
People suffering from fibromyalgia or rheumatoid arthritis experience a reduction in suffering very quickly, according to the study by Drs Borrie and Russel (*). Not only does the pain decrease, but patients regain the ease of movement often diminished by the disease. And the effects last a few days after floating.
The study also shows a significant decrease in stress, which contributes to the overall relief.
For it is difficult, of course, to separate the physical from the mental. Here too, scientific progress is making it much easier to find out more.
The brain is therefore “at rest” but not inactive.
It was possible to measure the electroencephalogram of subjects who were floating. The Beta brain waves of the waking state (but also of stress and anxiety) are gradually giving way to the famous Theta waves, measured in particular on Buddhist monks during deep meditation. They can also be measured during phases of creation, emotional connection, deep sleep, dreams, etc.
Another scientifically proven fact (*) is the decrease in cortisol. This steroid hormone is a known marker of stress. In the overproduction phase, cortisol “replaces” the famous melatonin, well known for its many benefits: sleep, immune system, anti-depressant, etc. A team of Swedish scientists has shown that floating reduces cortisol levels by half. The pineal gland reacts to the context of tranquillity and security by lowering its production.
Also in the brain, at the level of the pineal gland and the pituitary gland, floating releases hormones with positive effects such as endorphins, the famous “happiness hormones”. The production of progesterone, for example, is also boosted and has a positive effect on premenstrual syndromes.
As you will have understood, floating is a quasi-magical moment which really acts on well-being and health in a profound and total way.
Stress, anxiety and fear are reduced. Scientists also show positive effects on eating disorders and drug addiction.
However, sensory deprivation enthusiasts also benefit from much needed effects on concentration, creativity, learning, self-confidence and improved sleep quality.
Finally, one of the scientists specialising in the benefits of floating, Dr Feinstein, is adamant that floating is a natural anti-depressant.
By acting holistically, sensory deprivation seems to be a real panacea and, in the next few years, it will certainly demonstrate that it has a place in therapies, including for severe diseases.
However, of course, you don’t have to be depressed or ill to enjoy the benefits of sensory isolation.
Active living, constant stimulation, noise, etc. do have an impact on our health, even if they do not lead to a problematic disease.
Float therapy is not only simple, but also has a real effect on your well-being and is a unique experience in the world.
The best way to convince yourself of this is to book a sensory deprivation float session at our centres in Bordeaux or Lyon.
(*): to find out more about scientific studies on float therapy, go here.