Floatation therapy enthusiasts are accustomed to skeptical responses from friends and family unfamiliar with floating. Laying in salt water? In a dark tank for an hour? Sensory deprivation? Does it really work, or is it just a fad?
A new academic study published in the peer-reviewed journal BMC Complementary & Alternative Medicine backs up what many have learned through firsthand experience: floating helps relieve stress, depression, and anxiety, and insomnia.
To conduct this sensory deprivation research, psychologists from Sweden’s University of Karlstad partnered with a workplace wellness program to study the effect of floatation therapy in generally healthy adults. The participants were all retail employees or managers who volunteered to take part in a wellness program sponsored by their employer; all filled out questionnaires about their levels of energy, stress, anxiety, physical pain, sleep quality, and optimism.
Approximately half of the individuals were randomly selected to participate in a series of 12 floatation therapy sessions (about two per week for seven weeks), while the other half were placed in a control group that did not include floating.
At the end of the seven-week period, all of the participants completed a second round of questionnaires—and the results were very noticeable in five areas. Individuals who had experienced floatation therapy reported significant increases in sleep quality and optimism, while their levels of stress, depression, and anxiety levels dropped notably compared to those who did not float.
And beyond the numbers, as many floatation enthusiasts can identify with, the participants who experienced floating loved it. The authors write, “Many of the participants wrote comments, without being asked to do so, on their individual questionnaires. They continuously emphasized how their pain…was practically gone after the 12-session floatation program. They mentioned further how they felt relaxed, slept better, and were overall happier and healthier.”
Sound familiar? To those who are already devotees of floatation therapy, the results of this sensory deprivation research aren’t surprising. But academic studies can go a long way in helping the skeptics around us realize that floating isn’t just a strange pastime. It’s a powerful, scientifically-supported tool for reducing stress and depression, and improving the quality of our sleep—and our daily lives.