It’s well known that float therapy is a proven elixir for many diverse types of ailments. Float therapy is used to treat everything from chronic pain, to sleep quality, to improved creativity. But now, a collective of universities around the world are conducting research to dramatically further what is known about floating, mental health, and physical well-being.
‘Sensory deprivation’ or ‘isolation’ tanks were first invented by John Lilly in 1954 as part of his research at the National Institute of Mental Health. Since then, float therapy has had a relatively slow 65+ year progression. For the first 35 or so years, the technology wasn’t well known beyond Lilly and his scientific colleagues. By the late ‘70s and early ‘80s refinements to tank designs began to slowly broaden floating’s appeal. In the ’90s and 2000s, scientific research started to percolate.
Today float therapy is a booming industry experiencing rapid growth across the globe. In 2010 there were just 50 float centers in the United States. Today, there are estimated to be over 500. This explosive growth is fueled by an increased understanding of what happens to the mind and body during 60+ minute float sessions.
For the past several years, Dr. Justin Feinstein at the Laureate Institute for Brain Research in Tulsa, Oklahoma, has been a leader in float research. His work has already demonstrated floating’s substantial ability to treat high anxiety and depression. His current work includes research into float therapy’s ability to treat PTSD and Anorexia.
In Sweden, at Karlstad University’s Human Performance Laboratory, researchers have been studying floatation since the late ’90s. Their studies have shown effects such as “diminished pain from chronic muscle tension, reduced anxiety, depression and stress, and increased energy.” Their research demonstrates that floating increases happiness and sleep quality while reducing the desire or need to consume alcohol and medicine. Current research hopes to uncover the impacts of stress-related pain, burnout, and insomnia.
Such research is gaining in popularity as major institutions such as Ohio State University are jumping on board. Dr. William Kraemer is studying how float therapy improves muscle recovery in athletes as well as recovery time from traumatic brain injuries (TBI). Meanwhile, Doctors James R. Borchers and Josh Hagen are partnering with the Air Force Research Laboratory to investigate if float therapy reduces recovery time in athletes and soldiers suffering from concussions.
And there’s much more float research on the horizon. West Virginia University is also examining Concussion and TBI, the Hannover Medical School in Germany is looking at chronic pain, the University of Toledo is studying addiction, the Medical College of Wisconsin is researching trauma and PTSD, Washington University in St. Louis is onto mindfulness, Chapman University in southern California is exploring consciousness and the University of Waidato in New Zealand is evaluating performance enhancement and exercise recovery.
All this academic activity proves just how cutting-edge floating is and if you already float, you’re way ahead of your time! Scientific evidence is sure to inspire waves of health experts and enthusiasts alike to see for themselves how effective floating is for treating maladies and everyday stress.