Could a Floatation Session Help You Sleep Better?

Investigative research into flotation therapy suggests that it can create states of deep relaxation similar to those achieved by experienced practitioners of meditation. But what is flotation therapy, and how can it help you reach a better quality of sleep?

What is floatation therapy?


Floatation therapy uses a carefully controlled environment, i.e. floating a person in a tank or pool of water, to induce a deeply relaxed state. The process involves a significant reduction in sensory information, including sound, sight, taste, smell, touch, awareness of body position, and even gravity. By calming the activity in the central nervous system, floating relaxes both the mind and the body.


The therapy belongs to what is known by scientists as REST, or Reduced Environmental Stimulation Therapy. The act of floating limits the sources of external sensory stimulation dramatically, leaving little for the body and mind to process. This causes the person in the tank to shift their attention away from external stimuli and allows them to become far more aware of their internal physical and mental states.


Over decades of study, scientists have identified a wide range of therapeutic benefits that can be achieved by REST. It can help with issues concerning physical and mental health, ADHD, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorders, substance abuse, fibromyalgia, and chronic insomnia.


How does it work?


People who have experienced floating often speak of a calm and wellbeing, along with a sense of profound calm. But how can floating in water cause people to achieve this level of relaxation?


Floating therapies take place in specifically designed enclosures. It can be a tank, a pod, a chamber, or a pool. The practitioner is immersed in water that is infused with a heavy dose of Epsom salts. This intense concentration of saltwater serves a variety of purposes. It promotes the buoyancy required for the person to float and creates conditions similar to those found in zero gravity. The saltwater also contains high doses of magnesium.


The air and water inside the flotation pod closely match body temperature. The pods are sound- and light-proof. The practitioner floats effortlessly on their backs, with a typical session lasting anywhere between forty and ninety minutes.


Most people who have tried flotation therapy describe it as a deep-felt experience. They talk about physically letting go, and achieving an unprecedented state of relaxation. They leave the session feeling emotionally refreshed and with a deep sense of calm. But what is going on in the body and brain to create this kind of mental and physical transformation?


How floating impacts the mind and body


Admittedly, the research regarding flotation therapy is still in its infancy, but there is a growing consensus in the scientific community that floating causes a series of positive psychological and physiological changes in the human body. These changes can lead to an improvement in daily performance, overall health, and better sleep, plus a host of other benefits. Here are just a few:


Floating sinks cortisol


Numerous studies show that people who have engaged in floating sessions experience a significant reduction in cortisol levels.  Cortisol has wide-reaching effects on the body and is essential for mental health and physical wellbeing. The hormone helps regulate metabolism, controls inflammation, and plays a major role in the functioning of the immune system. Cortisol levels in the average population are often too high, largely due to poor sleep and stress.


Floating helps combat stress


Further studies document how floatation therapy leads to reductions in all the key signs of anxiety and stress. Float therapy lowers blood pressure, reduces muscle pain and tension, improves fatigue and sinks anxiety levels. At the same time, it boosts positive moods and increases relaxation-quality and energy levels.


Floating creates a more relaxed state


There are several studies which demonstrate that floatation therapy can move people into more relaxed states of consciousness. These states of deep relaxation are able to alter time perception and enhance creativity.


During a floating session, the participant's consciousness adopts characteristics reminiscent of Stage 1 and Stage 2 of sleep. Other studies show that floatation therapy increases the presence of the same low-frequency brain waves that are present during sleep.


Floating could provide benefits of magnesium


The magnesium mineral keeps our nerves and muscles functioning properly. Magnesium regulates sleep/wake cycles and enhances mood. It also promotes all kinds of biochemical reactions that are necessary to keep the human body functioning as it should.


A lack of magnesium causes fatigue, stress, and low energy levels. And while it is still unclear how floating delivers the magnesium nutrient into the participant's body, most scientists contribute the effect to the magnesium found in the intense salt content used in the immersion process.


Other benefits of floatation therapy


As we can see, the research goes a long way to demonstrate that flotation sessions could well be an effective therapy for a number of ailments, from boosting immune function, alleviating stress and anxiety, reducing pain and yes, as a treatment for insomnia.


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