You may have heard about float tanks lately. Float tanks go by a number of names; floation tank, flotation tank, and sensory deprivation tank seem to be the most common. Their recent rise in popularity indicates that the health benefits of float tanks are very real. In this article, we explore the benefits of float tanks for sleep health, and their use as an insomnia treatment.
What is a float tank?
You can think of a a float tank as a giant private bath tub full of Epsom Salt. There is so much Epsom Salt dissolved in the tank that the solution becomes more buoyant than the dead sea. Water is maintained at body temperature. This keep’s you comfortable whilst floating. You also have the option of soft lighting, relaxing music, silence or darkness whilst you float.
How does a float tank work?
Being a purpose built device, the floatation tank maintains a constant water temperature. Most float tank devices are also enclosed. This has a dual purpose of providing sensory isolation as well as keeping you warm and comfortable. The solution is filtered with high powered pumps keeping the solution hygienic. Commercial centres also have maintenance schedules, maintaining PH and alkalinity.
Your first floatation experience
The first time you float, your experience will be a bit of a novelty. There really isn’t anything else like it. To experience zero gravity in such a relaxing environment takes a minute to get used to. When you hop in, you’ll find that your legs will bob up to the surface and when you lie flat, you will be effortlessly suspended. It doesn’t matter whether you can swim or not, it does it all for you and it genuinely is effortless too.
The idea behind floating is that you blend with the water. Because it is body temperature, you don’t know where your body ends or where the water begins. You also don’t feel the touch of anything underneath you, so you get to truly rest without pressure or pain.
It is difficult to perceive time when you are in a float tank. It’s so easy to get lost in the experience that some people report an out of body experience.
Relaxing in this environment is guaranteed to be as effortless as floating itself.
The effects of floating
Epsom Salts are magnesium and sulphate. Magnesium is a muscle relaxant and sulphate is a protein builder for the joints. Magnesium helps release muscle tension and calm the nervous system. It is frequently recommended by Naturopaths & GP’s alike to aid sleep. There is also evidence supporting the benefit of magnesium for preventing cardiovascular disease.
When you float you absorb the magnesium and sulphate through your skin. This helps bypass any gut irritation that can occur by taking supplements orally.
Floating is also known as Restricted Environmental Stimulation therapy or REST.
Control groups show that REST positively affects:
- decreased blood pressure
- decreased cortisol levels
- over all well being improvement.
- decreased stress
- improved sleep and feelings of better rest
- improved recovery times in sport
- decreased anxiety and depression
- reduction in chronic pain
Floating and sleep benefits
We’ve demonstrated already that floating is a highly relaxing antidote to our busy 24/7 society. It is also beneficial for your health in many ways.
Quality sleep is determined by many things, but deep relaxation and optimum health certainly play a big part. Sleep difficulties can occur due to chronic pain/illness, anxiety, stress or insomnia. Issues with sleep include falling asleep, staying asleep and quality of sleep.
When you are floating, you are in an environment that is designed to be restful. You are likely to fall asleep whilst in the tank, and if not, you will end up in a highly meditative state.
Research has shown that floating regularly help reduce the symptoms of insomnia. The same study determined that people who use float tanks are able to fall asleep more easily. Some people reported that the benefits lasted for up to 12 weeks after floating.
Floating alters brain wave activity in a way that mimics restful sleep. EEG equipment was used to measure brain waves while people were in a float tank. They found that the experience lead to a deep shift in consciousness, akin to stage 1 sleep. This is where blood pressure and heart rate drops, and you enter a restful state.
Floating is a great way to curb the effects of fatigue with troubled sleep. And help break the cycle to get you back into a positive and restful sleep routine. Not only does floating effect your time during the float, it has lasting effects after your session is up.
With all the surprising health benefits also available during the session, why not give it a go?
Please note: This article is not to be used as medical advice. Please consult a medical professional before using any sleep treatments or float tanks. This post may contain affiliate links.
Anna works at Paramount Health where she helps people manage their stress and minimise injuries. Paramount Health’s expertise, reliability and carefully selected services allow you to feel healthier, work better, train harder and perform at your best.