A Much Needed Rest
Rest (Restricted Environmental Stimulation Technique) is a form of sensory deprivation as one is suspended in flotation tanks. Today, Floatation Rest offers a reduced sensory experience as close to serenity as you can get. The float experience is calibrated so that neural signals from visual, auditory, olfactory, gustatory, thermal, tactile, vestibular, gravitational and proprioceptive channels are minimized, as is most movement and speech.
Most of the scientific literature explores the anxiolytic and anti-depressive effects of floatation rest. However, ongoing studies are looking at changes in the pain centers of the brain utilizing functional MRI in chronic pain patients pre and post floatation REST. The results are positive and believed to help reset the central nervous system from their heightened sensitivity. Preliminary data, which needs replication in larger controlled trials, has shown floatation rest to reduce stress, depression, anxiety, and to increase optimism and sleep quality. Significant pain reductions are reported after using a flotation-REST technique. A meta-analysis concluded that flotation-REST has positive effects on physiology; lower levels of cortisol (the bodies “stress hormone”) and blood pressure. Activity in the autonomic nervous system, responsible for the “fight-or-flight” response, slows down, resulting in a lower heart rate, lower blood pressure, and slower breathing. Production of adrenaline and cortisol decreases, while serotonin, dopamine, and oxytocin levels increase. The electrical rhythms of the brain slow from alpha frequency waves associated with normal waking consciousness, to theta frequency waves that reflect deep meditation or light sleep.
During flotation-REST an individual lies in a horizontal floating posture immersed in highly concentrated salt water in a bathtub like environment. All incoming stimuli are reduced to a minimum during this period (usually 45 minutes), i.e., sound and light, and the water is heated to skin temperature. It is important not to resist what is occurring. Allow thoughts and sensations to enter and exit your mind, like meditation, as this promotes profound relaxation.
The overall intensity of the float experience varies from person to person. Some report powerful emotional experiences, and nearly all subjects report greater relaxation and an elevated mood. Ordinarily, floaters leave feeling a greater sense of well-being than when they came in. They emerge relaxed yet alert. Clients often report feeling more at peace, centered, rejuvenated, present, and optimistic.
In contemporary life, we are bombarded by external stimuli, never detached from the World, never able to sit uninterrupted, rarely allowed to have our minds turn down the volume. This process promotes a welcome reprieve from the external chaos and cacophony of our overburdened, overstimulated lives.
WE CAN ALL USE A REST!
Justin S. Feinstein, S. Khalsa, Hung-wen Yeh, C. Wohlrab, W. K. Simmons, M. Stein, M. Paulus. Examining the short-term anxiolytic and antidepressant effect of Floatation-REST. PLoS One. 2018; 13(2): e0190292. Published online 2018 Feb 2. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0190292
Kjellgren A, Sundequist U, Norlander T, Archer T. Effects of flotation-REST on muscle tension pain. Pain Res Manage. 2001;6:181–189. [PubMed]
Kjellgren A. PhD thesis. : University of Gothenburg, Department of Psychology; 2003. The Experience of Flotation REST (Restricted Environmental Stimulation Technique): Consciousness, Creativity, Subjective Stress and Pain.
Landström A, Kjellgren A, Norlander T. Treating stress-related pain in a clinical sample with flotation-REST: a further report on improvements in pain assessed by the pain area inventory (PAI) Soc Behav Pers. 2007;35:1279–1280. doi: 10.2224/sbp.2007.35.9.1279. [Cross Ref]
Bood SÅ, Sundequist U, Kjellgren A, Nordström G, Norlander T. Effects of flotation rest (restricted environmental stimulation technique) on stress-related muscle pain: are 33 flotation sessions more effective than 12 sessions? Soc Behav Pers. 2007;35:143–156. doi: 10.2224/sbp.2007.35.2.143. [Cross Ref]