The Benefits Of Flotation Therapy

In today’s fast paced society, it can be almost impossible to get away from all of the demands being placed on our time, energy, and attention. Flotation therapy is one way that people step back from all of the outside stimuli and truly relax.


Flotation therapy has its roots back in 1954 when Dr. John C. Lilly began to study sensory deprivation. There are two types of sessions, active and passive. Active flotation therapy is when a person uses the lack of physical stimulation to focus all of their energy on their mind, either for creative purposes or some form of meditation. In a passive session, the user takes advantage of the absence of sensation to let their mind rest completely.


Flotation therapy involves floating in a tank of salt water. The water and air in the tank are carefully regulated to match the user’s skin temperature. This removes awareness of your body’s boundaries. When ear plugs are used as protection against the salt water and the ears are allowed to rest below the water level, the tank becomes completely soundless as well. Some facilities sanitize their water with chlorine, which does have a strong scent, but in places where UV light or some other cleansing agent is used, the session is odorless.


This relaxed state is very conducive towards healing, especially for people suffering from stress, anxiety, pain, insomnia, and jet lag. The salt water can also help reduce any swelling. These benefits were discovered accidentally during Dr. Lilly’s research, which was primarily concerned with sensory deprivation’s effects on brain activity.


The tank in which flotation therapy takes place was originally called a sensory deprivation tank or sensory deprivation chamber. Today it is most commonly known as an isolation tank or a flotation tank. In the 1970’s, researchers in British Colombia called their work Restricted Environmental Stimulation Therapy from which the term REST tank came.


Originally, users were completely submerged under water and fitted with a tight mask for breathing. These users reported fear of drowning inhibiting the relaxation, as well as the uncomfortable sensation of the mask. The flow of air through the mask also made a hissing sound that made complete sensory deprivation impossible.


Since then, salt has been added to the tank to increase the water’s density. This is what enables users to float with their ears under water to create a sound barrier but their nose and mouth above the surface for easy breathing without any artificial respiration.


Sessions in an isolation tank are usually one to two hours long. After approximately forty minutes, the user’s brain waves change to theta, which is the frequency that occurs briefly before and after sleep. This extended theta period has many mental benefits, including increased creativity and problem solving skills. The more often a person enters an isolation tank, the quicker they can reach theta state and the longer they can stay there.