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Does Floating Relax Us? What Science Says

Floating in a sensory deprivation tank has become a therapeutic way to manage and treat a wide variety of psychological conditions. People experiencing posttraumatic stress, anxiety, depression, and other conditions have sought effective relief with float therapy. Although float therapy has been shown to help induce relaxation and reduce stress, it has remained one of the most challenging forms of therapy to measure due to challenges in gathering data on test subjects. Fortunately, through technological innovations and creativity on behalf of researchers, it is possible to collect reliable biometric data on floaters.

The Laureate Institute for Brain Research (LIBR) is a clinical neuroscience research institute located in Tulsa, Oklahoma. There is a state-of-the-art float tank research facility housed within the LIBR. Researchers at this institute study the impact of floating on the body. They measure physiological factors like blood pressure and heart rate, which are impacted by stress, as well as relaxation.

The point is to determine if floating can help induce a relaxation response. When we are relaxed, it causes blood pressure and heart rate to drop. Scientists at this lab use state-of-the-art monitoring tools to collect biometric data from subjects while they float.

Let’s take a look at the research.

The Science

To determine if floating is helpful for managing stress and inducing relaxation, researchers look at biometric data like blood pressure and heart rate. The reason that they do this is because stress produces a physical or physiological response in the body. It raises blood pressure and heart rate. Relaxation, on the other hand, produces an inverse response. Blood pressure and heart rate decrease.

The Past

According to Colleen Wohlrab, a doctoral student in the Integrative Neuroscience program at the University of Chicago, most of the research conducted on floating from the 1980s was based on biometric data that was collected from very low-tech methods. For instance, researchers would collect blood pressure data by having participants stick their arms out of the tank. This was a very inaccurate way of collecting data. Continuous monitoring couldn’t be done, so researchers could not determine the ongoing impact of floating.

The Present

Researchers at the Laureate Institute for Brain Research (LIBR) use state-of-the-art wireless technology to collect biometric data today. This technology is wireless, waterproof, saltproof, wireless, and non-invasive. This allows researchers to continuously monitor things like blood pressure, posture, movement, and heart rate.

The Findings

One of the studies at the LIBR examined the results of 90-minute float sessions on blood pressure and heart rate. They looked at data over 25 float sessions. They found that floating resulted in significant decreases in blood pressure and heart rate, suggesting that it induces a relaxation response.

The Future

Researchers at the LIBR hope to conduct future research that will answer the following questions.

● How is floating different than other forms of relaxation?

● How floating might impact PTSD and other clinical issues.

● What is the Impact of Floating on Anorexia?

What are the Implications of the Research?

Collecting this data shows the impact of floating on mental health. It can help researchers determine if floating can be helpful for mental health. This research is essential to show that floating really is effective.

Improving a person's psychological wellbeing through the use of floatation tanks is a noninvasive and relatively inexpensive supportive therapy that can help complement traditional mental health treatments.

By measuring biometric data on floaters and collecting evidence of its efficacy on subjects who are experiencing psychological distress, further measures can be taken to improve access to flotation tanks for those who could most benefit from this form of treatment.

These studies can help make floatation therapy a larger component of mental health treatment in the future.

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