Benefits of REST: Floating for Better Health

Due to its effects on the mind and body, floating is a highly effective method to reduce stress.


What Is REST?

REST stands for Reduced Environmental Stimulation Therapy. It is also referred to as “floating” or “float sessions.” It involves being face up in a tank filled with 10” of water. The water itself contains magnesium sulfate, better known as Epsom salt. The amount of Epsom salt added makes the difference — 1,000 pounds of it causes the individual to float like they are suspended in air. It is the closest to no gravity most humans will ever experience. The tank is closed and creates an atmosphere void of noise, sights, smells, motion, temperature change, etc. 

“The float experience is calibrated so that sensory signals from visual, auditory, olfactory, gustatory, thermal, tactile, vestibular, gravitational, and proprioceptive channels are minimized, as are most movement and speech.” Feinsteinab, Khalsaab, Yeh, et al.

A Long Term Solution

Notice, the T in the acronym REST stands for “therapy.” Flotation REST is not something that can be done once and then never again. It must be repeated. If you desire long term results, sessions should be done frequently; the effects are cumulative. Researchers who recorded significant benefits had participants float twice a week for 6 to 12 weeks before concluding their results. 

If floating is something you want to try, be prepared to attend multiple sessions. Before deciding if it is helpful for you, it’s important to give yourself a chance to adjust. Although immediate results are possible, the best occur over time. It is important to realize that each float is different.

Not Naptime

Most people assume being placed into a quiet setting with restricted sensations will instantly put them to sleep. But on the contrary, the brain becomes stimulated and the individual experiences a strong sense of wakefulness. Not only are people more awake; they are also more aware.

If you desire long term results, floating should be done frequently; the effects are cumulative.

Now that we have determined what Flotation REST is and how it is done, let’s explore it’s most reputable benefits.

Mindfulness

Mindfulness is a hot topic lately. The mental health support it can lend is hard to beat. But it isn’t the easiest to achieve. When stress has us tied up in knots, it’s often impossible to consider clearing our mind and focusing on the present moment. The good news is, floating guides us into this state automatically! All you have to do is lay down and let yourself exist. It’s that simple!

The drastic reduction of stimuli produces natural mindfulness without any training necessary. The altered state of consciousness achieved is so striking, it has been compared to those who are adept in reaching a trance.   

The awareness of themselves is so impressionable; it can shock first-time floaters.  During sensory isolation, the present moment is readily observable. Creative and problem solving thought processes are provoked. Ideas flow. Theta brain waves are at work. Some people report pleasant, vivid imagery, much like a dream while fully awake. These specific brain waves are known for their uplifting experience, eliciting a positive mood.

Reduce Chronic Pain

The change in the state of our consciousness during floating may have even more health benefits, including pain management. Researchers concluded that “both sexes improved their ability to endure experimentally induced pain (higher scores for upper pain threshold)” Bood, Kjellgren, et al.

Not incidentally, study participants demonstrate deep relaxation, especially releasing tension in the upper and lower back. Being suspended by the highly buoyant water creates a zero gravity effect for the body. This has a tremendous impact on pain relief during flotation REST.

Lower levels of cortisol have also been detected after sessions. This is likely due to the presence of the magnesium sulfate added to the water. Cortisol is not only a stress hormone; it also affects your rate of recovery from strenuous physical activity, exercise, and the general muscle soreness caused by tension. 

Blood Pressure

Systolic blood pressure was recorded to drop 5 mm Hg on average within the first 15 minutes, and diastolic blood pressures dropped up to 13 mm Hg after only 5 minutes. It then remains at this level until the end of the session. For some people this lasts significantly after the float.

“[By] five minutes into the float, you’ve dropped 10 points in diastolic blood pressure. That’s a tremendous drop. These aren’t subtle effects when you study things like physiology. You rarely see effects this large. It was immediate and rapid, and it lasted the entire float.” -Dr. Justin Feinstein, Float Conference 2018


Blood pressure has a very large impact on our ability to relax, improving blood circulation and mental clarity. 

Stress Relief

Between its effects on the mind and body, REST is a highly effective method to reduce stress. Individuals with any level of anxiety will find relief. 

Because flotation REST assists in total relaxation so well, people with mental disorders have found sessions extremely helpful. Researchers are continually exploring this alternative. The conditions involved in studies which found consistent success include:

Whether you desire a peaceful retreat from the fast-paced modern world or a drug-free alternative for stress management and chronic pain, floating offers a place of solitude to rest your body and mind. It rejuvenates your senses by giving them a much needed break. Who doesn’t want to soothe away the tensions of life and rediscover themselves? Flotation REST is a solid method that can achieve these goals.  

Our four float tanks in Boulder, CO offer a place of solitude to rest your body and mind.

Resources

Bood, Sven A et al. “Treating stress-related pain with the flotation restricted environmental stimulation technique: are there differences between women and men?.” Pain research & management vol. 14,4 (2009): 293-8. doi:10.1155/2009/298935

Feinstein, Justin S., et al. “The Elicitation of Relaxation and Interoceptive Awareness Using Floatation Therapy in Individuals With High Anxiety Sensitivity.” Biological Psychiatry: Cognitive Neuroscience and Neuroimaging, vol. 3, no. 6, 2018, pp. 555–562., doi:10.1016/j.bpsc.2018.02.005.

Herrmann, Ned. “What Is the Function of the Various Brainwaves?” Scientific American, 22 Dec. 1997, https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/what-is-the-function-of-t-1997-12-22/.

Jasmine Aguayo is a Professional Freelance Writer. She studied Psychology at Loyola University Chicago.


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