What is Floating?

As you may have gathered by the name, it involves floating in a pod or room that is designed for short term sensory deprivation. This is typically done within a large tank of super-saturated magnesium water that makes you completely buoyant.

Float tanks are also called Isolation tanks or Sensory Deprivation Tanks. While they sound like something out of an old-school war movie, they have recently gained popularity among elite athletes, those who struggle with stress, and people with various health problems. In our facility at the Serenity Float Centre we have float rooms instead of the standard tanks most other centre’s have.

On a practical level, floating is typically done for 60 minutes or more in body-temperature salt water in a room devoid of light and sound.

Why is Floating Beneficial?

The basic concept is that floating reduces external stimuli as much as possible to help the body achieve a natural restorative state. Some people compare the experience of floating to meditation or yoga.

Float tanks are specifically designed for sensory deprivation or floating was created in the 1950s but gained popularity in the 1970s when it became known as Restricted Environmental Stimulation Therapy (or REST). Dr. John Lilly, a neuroscientist who worked for the National Institutes of Health and specialized in cognition and brain activity helped pioneer the research during this time.

Since then, floating has been used for a variety of reasons, both anecdotal and scientifically backed:

  • Stress reduction
  • Anxiety relief
  • Sports recovery
  • Pain relief
  • To promote relaxation
  • Reduce headaches
  • Increased circulation
  • For more restful sleep
  • To learn to meditate
  • Or just need a little quiet time…

Small scale studies provide some initial scientific backing for the idea of floating and sensory deprivation. One study showed increased activity in the visual cortexes of participants while other studies found increased creativity in university professors and students (measured by standardized tests for creativity).

A more detailed study in the 1980s found reduced levels of stress hormones and blood pressure after floating and noted that these effects were sustained for weeks after the actual REST experience.

A 2005 meta-analysis confirmed that floating is an effective stress-relief activity and that it was at least as effective (or more effective) than relaxation exercises and some types of meditation, while a 1999 study showed an increase in Theta waves during floating (the same waves found in REM sleep and meditation).

Bonus Benefit: Magnesium

Our float rooms use an epsom salt (magnesium) solution to make the water extremely saturated. In fact, the water in a float room has a relative density of about 1.25, making it essentially impossible not to float. Almost a thousand pounds of epsom salt is dissolved in a couple hundred gallons of water, creating an almost zero gravity environment.

This allows anyone to be able to float effortlessly in the rooms, plus the usual benefits of using magnesium on the skin or soaking in a magnesium bath apply.

In particular, magnesium is known to help balance calcium levels in the body, reduce stress, balance hormones, normalize blood pressure, reduce risk of cancer and other diseases and much more.