Everything You Need To Know About Float Therapy

Pregnant woman in float therapy

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These days, many people find their stress and anxiety levels at an all-time high. Alternative therapies like float tanks have become very popular over the last few years. Floating therapy is a sensory-deprivation practice that’s touted to reduce stress and anxiety, improve circulation, and reduce small aches and pains.

If you’re among the many people intrigued by the idea of float therapy, here’s all you need to know about it, including how it works, its benefits, and what to expect if you’re new to float therapy.  

What Is Float Therapy?

Float therapy involves “floating” in a water-filled sensory deprivation tank, also called a floatation tank or isolation tank. The tank is filled with warm water saturated with Epsom salt, which gives the water buoyancy, allowing you to float effortlessly. The salty water is heated to match the temperature of your body. Float tanks are designed to cut out outside stimuli like fluctuations in:

  • Sound
  • Light
  • Temperature

The darkened silence can help the mind can become calmer and quieter, which may be helpful for relieving stress and anxiety. 

Float therapy sessions typically last around one hour, though some flotation therapy practices recommend longer sessions of 90 minutes or more. You may be able to find a floatation therapy location in your area. 

Why It Works

The goal of float therapy is to calm the mind and the body. REST is at the root of floatation therapy’s efficacy. It stands for “restricted environmental stimulation therapy.”

Studies have shown that during float therapy, you become more aware of your breath and heartbeat, and your ability to control them. This helps you relax, which reduces anxiety, blood pressure, and heart rate.

Benefits of Float Therapy

Research shows that float therapy may offer a variety of health benefits which include:

  • Stress and anxiety relief
  • Reduction of depression symptoms 
  • Relief from headaches
  • Release of muscle tension and muscle pain
  • Enhanced relaxation
  • Reduction of blood pressure and heart rate 
  • Better sleep quality
  • Improvement of muscle tension

One study found that people with anxiety and stress-related disorders reported significant reductions in their levels of stress, pain, muscle tension, and depression after a one-hour float session. They also reported significant increases in feelings of relaxation, happiness, and overall well-being.

However, more research is needed to understand how flotation therapy affects overall health, especially when float therapy is used long-term.

Tips for Your First Session

When you begin your session, avoid touching your face because the salt may irritate your eyes or get in your nose. Find a still position that feels comfortable and focus on breathing slowly and intentionally. 

If you find yourself becoming nervous or anxious during the float therapy session, do your best to return your focus to your breath and breathe deeply from your diaphragm. 

Using mindfulness techniques, observe any fearful thoughts that may pop up while you’re in the sensory deprivation tank, and then allow them to float away. 

Who Should Avoid Float Therapy

Even though flotation therapy is considered relatively safe, certain people shouldn't participate in floatation therapy.

People with epilepsy should not try float therapy due to the potential risks involved if they were to have a seizure in the sensory deprivation tank. Also, because it can decrease blood pressure, people with low blood pressure or hypotension should speak with a healthcare provider before trying float therapy.  

You shouldn’t use float therapy if you have open sores or active infections. You’ll also want to avoid float tanks if you have claustrophobia or an extreme fear of enclosed spaces. 

A Quick Review

Float therapy has been shown to reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression and enhance feelings of happiness and well-being. It may be a good supplement to other tools, such as therapy or counseling. 

If you’re curious about float therapy and want to give it a try, search for local float therapy session providers near you.

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  1. Feinstein J, Khalsa S, Yeh H, Wohlrab C, Simmons W, Stein M, Paulas M. Examining the short-term anxiolytic and antidepressant effect of Floatation-REST. PLoS One. 2018; 13(2): e0190292. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0190292

  2. Feinstein J, Khalsa S, Yeh H, et el. The elicitation of relaxation and interoceptive awareness using floatation therapy in individuals with high anxiety sensitivity. Biol Psychiatry Cogn Neurosci Neuroimaging. 2018 Jun;3(6):555-562. doi:10.1016/j.bpsc.2018.02.005

  3. Kjellgren A, Westman J. Beneficial effects of treatment with sensory isolation in flotation-tank as a preventive health-care intervention - a randomized controlled pilot trialBMC Complement Altern Med. 2014;14:417. doi:10.1186/1472-6882-14-417

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