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  • Writer's pictureFloat Well

What the Research Says

Updated: Aug 11, 2023

The question: “What's the point?” is one we hear a lot when we speak to people about float tanks. We live in a time where we are bombarded with information and it’s natural to want to see the cold, hard facts to support beneficial claims, especially in the health and wellness industry. So we’ve collated some scientific literature that supports the immense positive anecdotal testimony. For all you skeptics out there, this is for you!

Stress relief & relaxation It’s no surprise to us that the primary reason people choose to float is to minimise stress and induce a sense of relaxation. Our lives are busy and we are paying attention to the harmful effects of our crazy schedules, to-do lists and demands. There is nothing more satisfying than seeing people come out of their float session with an expression of serenity on their faces and the research supports this testimony.

In Australia, a study was conducted where participants were put in either a control group or a floatation tank treatment group, who floated 12 times over a seven-week period. Results demonstrated that stress, depression and pain were significantly reduced in the floatation treatment group, as well as a reported increase in optimism and sleep quality. Further, a meta-analysis was also conducted in 2004 which suggests that floating can be a useful stress management tool and discovered benefits such as positive effects on physiology, wellbeing and performance.

Mental Health

Dr Justin Feinstein has fast become the world's leading scientist and expert in current, peer-reviewed float tank research. His 2018 study on the effects of floating on 50 patients with a broad spectrum of anxiety and depression disorders was groundbreaking. Not only did the results suggest that floating substantially reduces anxiety, participants also reported significant reductions in stress, muscle tension, pain, depression alongside an increase in serenity, relaxation, happiness and overall wellbeing.

Pain management Floating weightlessly in 500kg Epsom salt and 750L warm water is like nothing you’ve ever experienced before. Some of our naysayers tell us they’ll just have a bath at home – rest assured that having a bath is nothing like floating. Sure, both include tubs of water, but being effortlessly suspended in the float tank provides an incredibly relaxing experience for your muscles and physical body. Many of our clients float specifically to manage a range of pain issues and there is promising research that suggests floatation therapy can be a helpful complement for those experiencing pain and discomfort in the body.

Results of a study in 2012 provide compelling evidence that floating can “greatly improve the lives of people with fibromyalgia by significantly reducing their pain, muscle tension, anxiety, and stress.” The study investigated the effects of three float sessions on patients diagnosed with fibromyalgia and deduced that floating can produce significant temporary relief of symptoms including reduced pain and muscle tension, and increased ease of movement energy and feeling of well-being. One participant commented: “In the first forty minutes of the float session the pain became so hard, like an explosion, but only in my arms and legs. However, after the session I felt so free, like never before – free in the mind, my body so light, now all is going peacefully and I’m humbled. It’s unbelievable.” Sports performance Elite athletes such as Steph Curry and Tom Brady have touted floatation therapy as one of the most useful therapies for their sports performance and recovery. While floating can be beneficial to the average person, for high-performance athletes, the float tank can provide a unique environment to help achieve specific goals and recovery more efficiently from training.

In 2016, a pilot study out of Hamilton, New Zealand was published which examined the use of floatation therapy with 60 elite international athletes following exercise training for their respective sports. Results indicated that even a single float session significantly enhanced the athlete’s mood and lowered perceived muscle soreness.

Even if you aren’t an elite athlete, floating can still be used as a tool for recovery from your exercise regime. Floatation therapy was explored as a method of recovery from intense exercise in a study in 2013. Floating appeared to have a significant impact on blood lactate and perceived pain compared with massage in untrained healthy men.

Enhanced creativity Sensory deprivation has been used as a creativity-boosting environment for many years, as it allows the brain to reach theta-brainwave state more easily and promotes the activation of the parasympathetic nervous system. What happens to your artistic and imaginative potential when left alone in complete darkness, silence and solitude? We’ve had painters, digital artists, musicians, writers, actors and other creatives float with us as a way to tap into a flow-state, which is also being reinforced by scientific literature.

One study from 1992 in Italy reports floating was associated with a decrease in anxiety/tension, depression, hostility and fatigue, as well as an increase in vigour and a maintenance of curiosity. Floating was also found to increase creativity thinking in improvisational jazz musicians compared to those who did not float.

So whether you’re keen to improve your artistic flair, boost your muscle recovery, mitigate pain or simply relax and unwind, the float tank provides an environment for you to customise your experience and reap its many benefits. Still need convincing? Check out this list of over 200+ research articles, case studies and conference presentations that give a scientific foundation to the many benefits of floatation therapy.

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