Float therapy: How to eliminate stress and anxiety with sensory deprivation

Float therapy: How to eliminate stress and anxiety with sensory deprivation
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(NaturalHealth365) Could lying in tub of water with no sound, no light, and an ambient temperature the same as the surface of your skin lower blood pressure and improve mood? Yes, according to research done on float therapy, also known as sensory deprivation.

Surprised? After all, sensory deprivation is often associated with torture and punishment.  But, studies dating as far back as the 1950s suggest that going for a nice “float” may be one of the most natural and soothing ways to boost your mood or even ease chronic pain.

Float therapy proves effective as a natural antidepressant, pain reliever, studies show

Sensory deprivation as a potential therapeutic technique has been explored as early as the mid-20th century by doctors from the National Institute of Mental Health. Today, sensory deprivation is often synonymous with float therapy.

This means lying nude in a large sound and light-proof tank or tub of water that contains an extremely high concentration of dissolved epsom salt (magnesium sulfate). The high salt concentration allows you to effortlessly float on top of the water – which is carefully calibrated to be the same temperature as the surrounding air.

The result?  You feel weightless and are completely devoid of all outside sensory input, including auditory, visual, olfactory, gustatory, thermal, tactile, gravitational, proprioceptive, and vestibular inputs, along with your own movement and speech. And it turns out this can do wonders for your health.

As just one example, a 2018 study involving 50 participants with anxiety or stress-related disorders showed that just one session in a float tank significantly reduced levels of stress and anxiety.

The study participants also reported many other benefits, including significant reductions in pain, depression, negative affect, and muscle tension, as well as significant improvements in a sense of relaxation, happiness, serenity, and overall well-being.  And, yes, these study results were published in PLOS One.

And as far back as 2007, doctoral dissertation research out of University in Sweden revealed that up to twelve sessions of float therapy yielded significant improvements in chronic pain related to multiple conditions including fibromyalgia, depression, and whiplash. The researchers postulated that the sensory deprivation activated the part of the nervous system involved in healing, relaxation, and recovery.

This is correlated with reduced heart rate, blood pressure, and circulating levels of stress hormones, to list just a few physiological changes.  Additional research indicates that float tank therapy may even boost creativity, promote a sense of euphoria, improve mental clarity, support recovery after physical training, and boost heart health.

Sensory deprivation: How often should we do this?

Float therapy isn’t your average bubble bath!  But the technique isn’t the same everywhere you go.

Float therapy clinics vary a lot in terms of design, price, and quality. Some have rooms with a large tub that you simply step into and lie down in. Others have small enclosed pods that you float in.

The overall goal is to find a float therapy center that allows you to relax comfortably in an environment that’s free of all external stimuli. You should follow the instructions provided to you by clinic staff. Most centers recommend showering before and after entering the tank or tub, not touching your face and eyes while floating, and putting water-resistant ear plugs in first.

For optimal effects, you should float for at least 60 minutes – although many people prefer floating for up to 90 minutes.  In terms of frequency, many experts recommend a one or two sessions per week.  But, keep in mind, it can be pricey – with sessions ranging from $50 to $100 or more.

Lastly, to minimize skin irritation, don’t shave or wax in the days prior to your session. Pregnant and nursing women, as well as anyone being treated for a health condition, should check with their doctor first. Otherwise, this technique may be worth a try for you.

Just lie down, relax and float away the negative effects of stress.

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