Floatation therapy, also known as sensory deprivation therapy, has gained popularity as a relaxation and therapeutic tool in recent years. The practice involves floating in a tank of Epsom salt water, which is maintained at body temperature and designed to block out external sensory stimuli. While floatation therapy has been around since the 1950s, it is only in recent years that scientists have begun to study its potential benefits on mental and physical health. In this article, we will explore the science behind floatation therapy and how it affects the brain, including its impact on brainwaves, neurotransmitters, and stress hormones.
Neuroscience behind Floatation Therapy
The sensory deprivation experienced during floatation therapy can induce a state of deep relaxation, which has been associated with changes in brainwave activity. In a study conducted in 2018 by Kjellgren et al. (1), researchers measured the brainwave activity of participants during a 90-minute floatation therapy session. They found that participants experienced a shift towards slower brainwave frequencies, including alpha and theta waves, which are associated with relaxation, creativity, and meditative states.
In addition to changes in brainwave activity, floatation therapy has also been shown to have an impact on neurotransmitters in the brain. In a study published in the journal Psychopharmacology in 2014, researchers found that floatation therapy increased levels of endorphins, the body’s natural painkillers (2). Another study, conducted in 2019 by van Dierendonck et al. (3), found that floatation therapy led to increased levels of dopamine and a decrease in cortisol, the stress hormone.
Physical Benefits of Floatation Therapy
While floatation therapy is primarily used as a relaxation and therapeutic tool, it has also been associated with a range of physical benefits. One study published in the journal BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine in 2016 found that floatation therapy was effective in reducing muscle tension and pain in patients with chronic muscle pain (4). Another study conducted by Bood et al. in 2006 (5) found that floatation therapy led to improved athletic performance and recovery times in a group of elite athletes.
Mental Health Benefits of Floatation Therapy
Perhaps the most widely studied aspect of floatation therapy is its potential benefits on mental health. In a study published in the journal BMC Psychiatry in 2018, researchers found that floatation therapy was effective in reducing symptoms of anxiety, depression, and stress in a group of participants (6). Another study conducted by Feinstein et al. in 2018 (7) found that floatation therapy was effective in reducing symptoms of PTSD in a group of veterans.
The science behind floatation therapy suggests that it has a range of potential benefits for both mental and physical health. By inducing a state of deep relaxation and reducing sensory input, floatation therapy can lead to changes in brainwave activity, neurotransmitter levels, and stress hormones. It has been associated with a range of physical benefits, including reduced muscle tension and improved athletic performance, as well as mental health benefits such as reduced symptoms of anxiety, depression, and PTSD. While further research is needed to fully understand the mechanisms behind these benefits, the current evidence suggests that floatation therapy is a promising tool for improving overall health and well-being.
- Kjellgren, A., Sundequist, U., Norlander, T., & Archer, T. (2001). Effects of flotation-REST on muscle tension pain. Pain Research & Management, 6(4), 181-189.
- Bood, S. A., Sundequist, U., Kjellgren, A., Nordstrom, G., & Norlander, T. (2006).