The Science of Floating
Through the process of sensory isolation Dr. John C. Lilly found that while floating instead of the brain going into a sleep state, the mind in fact becomes more active and increases its imaginative and problem solving abilities.
Scientists have estimated that up to 90 percent of the brain's work is derived from the stimuli of our routine external environment. Gravity, touch, temperature, light, and sound affect the muscles, the nervous system, and the organs of the body. The floatation tank screens out our external physical stimuli, allowing for a pure state of sensory relaxation.
This lack of stimulation of the nervous system triggers a reaction known as the parasympathetic response. Muscle tension, blood pressure, heart rate and oxygen consumption are often reduced dramatically. Stress hormones are reduced as well and are replaced with uplifting endorphins.
The seemingly subtle mental and physical effects of floating can greatly improve your powers of emotional control and sense of wellbeing. Negative emotions and many unwanted habits seem to melt away in the tank, along with any physical tensions and the stresses that accompany them. Smoking, alcohol dependence and weight control problems can be effectively lessened or even overcome--and sometimes these changes can occur spontaneously. Research suggests that compulsive behavior patterns such as these are linked to low endorphin levels in the body. In fact, according to experts at NIMH, the float tank "is the only technique ever shown by controlled studies to be effective over extended periods of time." Studies show success rates of 81 percent in eliminating or sharply reducing smoking, 61 percent in reducing alcohol consumption, with similarly impressive results in combating weight control problems. In the deep theta state that comes with floating, you experience increased access to and control over subconscious mental processes.
Research has shown that the brain activity during floating is nearly identical to the elevated states of consciousness experienced by trained Buddhist monks during meditation. Since many of us are unwilling to spend twenty years of meditation to learn to generate theta waves, it's helpful to know that several studies (at Texas A&M and the University of Colorado) have shown that floating increases production of theta waves. Floaters quickly enter the theta state 'while remaining awake', consciously aware of all the vivid imagery and creative thoughts that pass through their minds; and after getting out of the floatation environment, floaters continue to generate larger amounts of creativity-promoting theta waves for up to three weeks.
Floating creates a bridge between the left and right hemispheres of the brain, which might explain having the experience of a more conscious dream states both while and after floating.Back to top