What is the deal with floating?

What is the deal with floating?

It’s probably not what you think. Sensory-deprivation floating has been depicted in pop culture for decades going back to the 1980 sci-fi movie “Altered States” (floating’s really nothing like that), and more recently in a Simpson’s episode (ok, floating is kind of like that).

Sometimes called Floating Restricted Environmental Stimulation Technique (REST), it was first developed in 1954 at the National Institute of Mental Health. Since that time, hundreds of scientific studies have confirmed the validity of floating as a treatment for a host of medical conditions. Recently the Swedish Research Council confirmed that it is a side-effect free way to alleviate stress and chronic pain.

Floating has been found to treat depression and other mental illness, to help with cessation of smoking, to aid weight loss, improve blood pressure and cardiovascular health, and to help elite and recreational athletes improve their performance.  

In “The Book of Floating: Exploring the Private Sea” Michael Hutchinsons explains

Floating promotes vasodilatation, facilitating blood flow to all the parts and systems of the body, including the brain. It creates a whole body healing effect.

So how does it work?

You float in a tank filled with 850 pounds of epsom salt in the water. The result is that you are super-bouyant, and you feel weightless. You float in total darkness, and you wear ear plugs, resulting in a true sensory-deprivation experience.

It turns out that when you are deprived of your senses, amazing things can happen, both physically and mentally. Your mind is free of distraction, and floaters report improved mental clarity and insight. States of mind achieved by experienced meditators are reported routinely in those who float. The “theta state” associated with memory, learning, and creativity, has been documented by EEG study in floaters.

In addition to the documented evidence and scientific support for floating, there are countless anecdotal experiences reported by real-life floaters who claim life-changing spiritual experiences during and after floating.

Blogger Daniel Finfer described his experience with three of his friends this way:

After all four of us had gone in the iso­la­tion tank for one hour each, we all had com­pletely dif­fer­ent expe­ri­ences and expla­na­tions — but we all agreed it was one of-if-not-the-single-most life-changing feel­ings we’d ever felt.  And seri­ously, the way you phys­i­cally feel after­wards is like get­ting a mas­sage, doing a full work­out, and get­ting 8 hours of sleep all at once.

Wow. Imagine if there was a drug that delivered the physical, mental, and spiritual benefits of floating?

People would be going nuts for that stuff.

At Total Zen Float, we invite you to explore the benefits of floating for yourself, drug and side effect-free. Give it a try and let us know about YOUR floating experience using the comments below.


“Eliciting the relaxation response with the help of flotation-rest (restricted environmental stimulation technique) in patients with stress-related ailments.”  Bood, Sven Å.; Sundequist, Ulf; Kjellgren, Anette; Norlander, Torsten; Nordström, Lenneart; Nordenström, Knut; Nordström, Gun. International Journal of Stress Management, Vol 13(2), May 2006, 154-175.


“The acute effects of flotation restricted environmental stimulation technique on recovery from maximal eccentric exercise.” Morgan PM, Salacinski AJ, Stults-Kolehmainen MA. J Strength Cond Res. 2013 Dec; 27(12):3467-74.