Is Flotation Therapy the Cure-All You’ve Been Looking For?

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The increasing popularity of flotation therapy has me wondering: are the purported health benefits worth the buck? Doctors weigh in on the trend to give you the definitive lowdown. Here’s what you need to know about floating for one hour in salt water.

What is Flotation Therapy?

Flotation therapy involves floating supine in an isolation tank with neither light nor sound. The water is maintained at skin temperature and has a high Epsom salt content, which enables easier floating and the absorption of magnesium by way of the skin. The tank is also commonly referred to as a “sensory deprivation tank”, “float tank”, “flotation tank”, or “sensory attenuation tank”.

In 1954, American neurophysiologist Professor Dr. John C. Lilly developed the first flotation tank. Dr. Lilly was keen on examining the conscious activity of the brain and wondered if it needed external stimuli to keep its conscious states active. His goal was to design a tank that allowed as little environmental stimulation as possible. In the process of perfecting the tank, Dr. Lilly realized that salt water kept floaters more buoyant and the installation of water heaters, air pumps, and water filters stabilized the experience. His ultimate design is what modern-day float tanks resemble. NASA has even incorporated Dr. Lilly’s tanks into its testing program for astronauts.

Flotation Therapy Benefits

The restriction of a sensory experience is what is said to give the floating tank its mind-body-soul perks, which stem from deep relaxation, or what is induced by the Restricted Environmental Stimulation Technique (REST). Flotation-REST supposedly enables one to enter the elusive Theta brain wave frequency, which is what is experienced during deep meditation, light sleep, or the REM dream state.

But where’s the proof? Before I spend some $50 (or more) for an hour of floating in a dark room, I need more meat to the argument that flotation therapy works wonders for my stress…

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