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Natural Awakenings Fairfield Cty/Housatonic Valley, CT

Flotation Therapy to Support Connection & Recovery: Increases Sleep Quality, Reduces Pain, Anxiety and Depression

Jun 01, 2015 01:29AM ● By David Conneely

Human connection is about having meaningful relationships with others but it also is about being at peace with oneself. Research suggests those without meaningful relationships or a sense of peace with themselves are more likely to become an addict or maintain a drug addiction. One of the first studies on this topic was done by Bruce Alexander, a professor of psychology in Vancouver, Canada. Two groups of rats were separated into a group that lived in a community of rats with a large rat park with tunnels, balls, good food and friends to play with and another group of rats where each rat was separated and lived in a cage alone. Both groups had equal access to two types of water bottles. One bottle was only water. The other bottle was water laced with cocaine. Rats in the rat park did not like the bottle laced with cocaine. The isolated rats liked the cocaine water and became addicted to it. When the addicted rats were put in the rat park, they eventually shifted and stopped wanting the water with cocaine. Being in a healthy environment where they could socialize with other rats seemed to result in them not wanting the drug.

While the rats in the study were isolated involuntarily, many humans voluntarily isolate themselves either physically or in their minds. “Whatever a person believes to be real either is real or becomes real within certain limits to be tested,” says John C. Lilly, the inventor of isolation flotation tanks. There are many people who have beautiful homes, a marriage, children and friends yet still experience life as isolating and lonely. They are not alone but they believe they are alone. Those who believe they are alone go through their day with feelings of sadness and even depression. This can lead to numbing their sadness with addictions ranging from food, alcohol and gambling or hard drugs like cocaine. A study by the University of Chicago showed loneliness also increases cortisol levels, which can contribute to dangerous physiological effects such as heart attacks. In essence, whether loneliness is real or whether a person is making it real, it is dangerous for one’s health.

One of the most effective ways to tackle the problem of addiction is to help people step out of their sense of loneliness. If someone is physically isolated because they live alone or in a remote area, the simple solution is for them to live with other people (either family or even in a communal setting). That might help a segment of the population struggling with loneliness.

New research from Sweden has found that flotation therapy helps increase sleep quality, reduce pain and relieve anxiety and depression. Flotation therapy, sometimes called isolation therapy, consists of floating in a tank of body temperature water with a high concentration of Epsom salts, with minimized interruptions and sensory stimuli.

Researchers from Karlstad University divided 65 people into two groups. One group underwent twelve, 45-minute flotation therapy sessions for seven weeks, while the other group did not. Both groups were given a battery of physiological and psychological tests before and after the treatment period. The therapy was conducted among three commercial flotation therapy centers, which provided sensory isolation systems to promote relaxation as part of the treatment.

Compared to the control group, the flotation therapy group reported significant decreases in pain, anxiety, depression and stress levels and better sleep quality. The flotation group’s average depression scores went from 4.42 to 2.25, while the control group’s scores barely budged. The worst pains among the flotation group dropped from 64 to 40 on the factor’s scale.

Flotation therapy sessions and classes provide relief for those struggling with loneliness and addiction. When people are addicted, they are usually seeking to numb their frustration. Spending an hour floating in warm water without light or sound can decrease brain wave frequencies from fast Beta brainwave activity to slow Theta and Delta brainwave activity. At these slower levels, frustration can disappear and the grip of disadvantageous beliefs is loosened. Floating has also been shown in studies to reduce the levels of cortisol and other stress hormones in the body, which in turn can ease the sense of isolation a person may be experiencing.

Classes on communication, which help people identify and modify limiting beliefs formed at a young age, are another tool many have used to enhance float experiences and make lasting changes resulting in a life free of addiction and full of harmonious relationships.

David Conneely is the owner of iFloat in Westport. He can be reached at or 203-226-7378. See ad, page 63.