Float REST Research
Perhaps the most well known effect of flotation is a reduction in stress from pre- to post float. This effect was first discovered in the early 80s by researchers at the Medical University of Ohio, Drs. Thomas Fine & John Turner (Turner, John W., 1983). Since their discovery, the effects of floating have been studied on many stress related conditions (McGrady, Angele, Turner, John W., Fine, Thomas H., 1987), including hypertension (high blood pressure) (Turner, John W., 1983), and tension headaches (Rzewnicki R., 1990), a reduction in plasma cortisol (Turner, John W., Fine, Thomas H., 1991).
A 2005 meta-analysis confirmed these findings by studying the effects of flotation REST across 27 studies with a total of 449 participants. The analysis showed that the impact flotation REST had on physiology, well-being, and performance was significant and, in some cases, it was even more effective than other popular stress management techniques. It also found that healthy people who floated regularly experienced greater benefits the longer they kept up the practice (Dierendonck, 2005).
As recently as 2016, studies from Dr. Annette Kjellgren at the Swedish Research Center have corroborated this evidence with self reporting, finding that flotation is generally very therapeutic for those with stress disorders (Jonsson, Kjellgren, 2016). It should be noted that this is one of the few research studies done so far on Float REST with a clinical population.
Scientific reports have also indicated significant increases in mood (Kjellgren, Anette, 2003) (Ewy G., Sershon P., Freundlich T.,) and reductions in insomnia (Ballard E.,1993).
Chamber REST Research
The link between Chamber REST and stress is a complicated one. In the earliest experiments, chamber REST was seen as comparable to other sensory deprivation studies that were studying brainwashing and torture techniques. Because of this, the practice was widely associated with severe distress. Many researchers saw this as a consequence of sensory deprivation in general and not just of the testing environment. (Solomon, 1957).
In 1969, Dr. Suedfeld studied the variables involved in these early REST studies and found that there was a direct correlation to how the REST environment was presented and whether or not it was considered stressful (Suedfeld, P., 1969).
A 1982 pilot study incorporated biofeedback for hypertension and other stress-related health problems. It found that across four subjects there was universal improvement in all areas when chamber REST was combined with relaxation training (Suedfeld, 1982).
In 1990, Dr. Suedfeld compiled an analysis of chamber REST studies, attempting to isolate which variables caused stress, hallucinations, and other unpleasant side effects. What he found across studies was that both the testing environments and the definitions of negative effects were inconsistent. He found that hallucinations were irregularly reported, and that they were often over-emphasized by the studies. Perhaps most strikingly, he found that studies that provided an open and friendly environment had sharply reduced reports of stress within the REST chamber (Suedfeld, 1990). His conclusion was that negative stress was more likely an attribute of how the researchers presented the testing environment, as opposed to the environment itself.
Stress relief is easily one of the most common reasons that people cite for regular floating. Many customers at float centers go in specifically to unwind and de-stress. Many regular users across the globe find floating in the tank helpful in dealing with high-stress jobs, getting through breakups and divorces, and to just get a night away from the kids.