Floating REST


Floating-REST (Restricted Environmental Stimulation Technique) is a relaxation technique that reduces sensory input to the nervous system through the act of floating supine in a pool of water saturated with Epsom salts. The float experience is calibrated so that sensory signals from visual, auditory, olfactory, gustatory, thermal, tactile, vestibular, gravitational and proprioception channels are minimized, as well as most movement and speech.

Sensory System


Sensory systems detect stimuli, such as light and sound waves, and transduce them into neural signals to be interpreted by the nervous system. In addition to external stimuli detected by the senses, some sensory systems detect internal stimuli, such as the proprioceptors in muscles and tendons that send feedback about limb position.

Sensory systems include the visual, auditory, gustatory (taste), olfactory (smell), somatosensory (touch, pain, temperature, and proprioception), and vestibular (balance, spatial orientation) systems. Each sensory system sends signals to the brain, to interpret these signals and formulate a response. To do this, the brain often combines information from multiple sensory systems in a process called sensory integration.

Sensory systems interact with memory in a few different ways; the brain can pull in information from memory as it decides how to respond to incoming sensory information. Sensory information is also stored in memory. When we remember, sensory processing areas in the brain activate. Sensory input can also cause us to remember; tasting food, smelling an odour, or seeing a photo can trigger the brain into remembering through association (www.learn.genetic.uta.edu)


Effects of Floating-REST


Stress management

A meta-analysis study was conducted on the value of Floating REST as a stress management tool. 27 studies published in 25 chapters were included; the total number of participants was 449, ranging between 20 and 45, with a mean age of 29 years. 64% were male and 36% were female. Results showed that the treatment had positive effects on physiology (i.e., lower cortisol levels, lower blood pressure), well-being, and performance. The pre–post mean effect size and the overall randomized control group effect size were relatively strong. This suggests the potential of Floating REST as an effective tool for stress management.

Athletic performance

Research suggests that Floating-REST can boost an athlete’s performance in threefold; through stress management, elevation of mental training and decreased recovery time after demanding workouts.

For athletes especially, stress management is of utmost importance. When athletes experience an abnormal amount of stress, they have the potential to experience depression, apathy, decreased self-esteem, irritability, weight loss, increased vulnerability to injuries and impaired performance.

Floatation therapy has been used successfully in clinical stress management and has been found to reduce blood pressure, cortisol levels, and other stress-related neuro-chemicals such as norepinephrine, adrenaline and Adrenocorticotropic hormones (ACTH) (1)(2). By eliciting the relaxation response, flotation therapy puts the athlete in a calm, unshakable, steady, centred, alert, totally concentrated state of mind that allows them to work at peak efficiency. Researchers have known for quite a long time that an athlete’s mental health plays an extremely important role in performance. Floating REST works to enhance athletic performance through providing a profoundly relaxing experience in an environment conducive to greater amounts and better quality of sports-related imagery, planning strategic thought processes than possible in most other environments (7).

The floating chamber allows the athlete to control every aspect of the desired athletic experience. They are able to walk through each step of the technique or match and fully focus on the visual, auditory, tactile and olfactory imagery.

Floating REST reduces the total amount of recovery time needed by increasing blood circulation, lowering lactic-acid levels and alleviating the pain of injuries. By relieving gravitational pressure, blood is able to circulate more freely and reach joints, tendons, muscles, and ligaments that may be sore or injured. This increased circulation allows the body to effectively carry away waste and biochemicals such as lactic acid. Lactic acid accumulates in the muscles during intense physical activity and can cause pain, tightness and cramping. In addition to reducing the amount of negative biochemicals and increasing the favourable ones, Floating REST can also provide athletes with pain relief. The release of endorphins, coupled with heightened mental capacity to focus and be aware of knots, tensions, and painful spots allows for athletes to heal faster and overcome fatigue (1)(10).

By reducing stress and recovery time and providing an extremely relaxing environment, this treatment provides undeniable advantages to both high-level athletes and recreational exercisers.


Pain management

37 patients (14 men and 23 women) suffering from chronic pain consisting of aching muscles in the neck and back area participated in a study where they were randomly assigned to either a control group (17 participants) or an experimental group (20 participants). The experimental group received nine opportunities to use Floating REST over a three-week period. Although low perceived pain intensity was not influenced by the floating technique, the most severe perceived pain intensity was significantly reduced. Furthermore, results indicated that circulating levels of the noradrenaline metabolite C9H12O7S were reduced significantly in the experimental group but not in the control group following treatment, whereas endorphin levels were not affected by floating. Floating REST treatment also elevated the participants’ optimism and reduced the degrees of anxiety or depression; at night time, patients who underwent the treatment fell asleep easier. The present findings describe possible changes, for the better, in patients with chronic pain (2).

Another pioneering study explored the different effects of Floating REST on gender, among patients diagnosed with stress-related pain.  88 patients (69 women and 19 men) underwent the treatment 12 times during seven weeks. They had been diagnosed by a physician as having chronic stress-related muscle tension pain. The analyses indicated that the treatment had beneficial effects on stress, anxiety, depression, sleep quality and pain management, with very few differences across the board. Results also showed that both sexes had improved ability to endure experimental induced pain (higher for upper pain threshold) following successful Floating REST treatment (3)

Several case studies and academic research points to Floating REST as a reliever for symptoms of fibromyalgia. A 2012 study from the Fibromyalgia Flotation Project found that flotation therapy provided 81 fibromyalgia patients with a significant temporary reduction in pain, muscle tension, stress, anxiety and sadness, as well as significant increases in relaxation, sleep quality, energy levels and ease of movement. Fibromyalgia is a disorder that affects approximately 2% of the population, and those who suffer from it often report experiencing some combination of a dull ache, stiffness, and/or tenderness across their entire body—usually in the muscles. As a result of living with chronic pain, people with fibromyalgia also frequently experience insomnia, headaches, fatigue and stress (6).



In a 2005 study, five psychology faculty members each spent six 90-minute sessions sitting alone in their office and six 1-hour float sessions. The order of environments was counterbalanced. During the office sessions and for 30 minutes after each float session, subjects recorded their ideas and thoughts. Subsequent self-ratings showed that novel ideas generated after REST were ‘better’ (more creative) than those developed in office sessions. Interview reports identified experiences compatible with the hypothesis that floating induces a ‘twilight state’. Mood ratings showed that the treatment was associated with newfound vigour and decreased tension, anger, depression, fatigue and confusion. These findings support the prediction that Floating REST facilitates advanced creative behaviour (4).

Floating REST has been associated with improving perceptual-motor skills in sports and creativity in the sciences. Researchers examined college students enrolled in an intermediate-level jazz improvisation class (N 8), an activity involving perceptual-motor coordination and creativity. The group (N 8) was also subjected to Floating REST treatment for an hour per week for 4 consecutive weeks. The comparison group (N 5) consisted of student volunteers enrolled in the same class who did not engage in floatation therapy. The dependent variables were (a) blind ratings of improvised pieces collected before and after treatment, (b) instructors’ ratings of perceived change in improvisational ability, and (c) final class grades. Both blind and perceived change measures demonstrated higher scores on technical ability in (N 8); they also had higher final class grades, with results suggesting that Floating REST can improve perceptual-motor skills (5).




  1. Dirk van Dierendonck & Jan Te Nijenhuis (2009), Flotation restricted environmental stimulation therapy (REST) as a stress-management tool: A meta-analysis Kjellgren A, Sundequist U, Norlander T, Archer T., (2001), Effects of flotation-REST on muscle tension pain SÅ Bood, A Kjellgren, T Norlander, (2009) Treating stress-related pain with the flotation restricted environmental stimulation technique: Are there differences between women and men?
  2. Peter Suedfeld, Janet Metcalfe, Susan Bluck, (2005), Enhancement of scientific creativity by flotation rest (restricted environmental stimulation technique
  3. Oshin Vartanian, PhD1 and Peter Suedfeld, PhD ( 2011), The Effect of the Flotation Version of Restricted Environmental Stimulation Technique (REST) on Jazz Improvisation
  4. Www.fibromyalgiaflotationproject.com
  5. Richardson, S.O. (1998). Imagery, progressive muscle relation and restricted environmental stimulation: enhancing mental training and rowing ergometer performance through flotation REST 
  6. Kellmann, M. (2010) Preventing overtraining in athletes in high-intensity sports and stress/recovery monitoring. Scandinavian Journal of Medicine and Science in Sports. 20(2):95-102
  7. Rhea, M.R., Alvar, B.A., Burkett, L.N., & Ball, S.D. (2003). A meta-analysis to determine the dose response for strength development. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 35(3):1601-1607
  8. Bood, S.V., Sundequist, U., Kjellgren, A., Norlander, T., Nordstrom, L., Nordenstrom, K., Nordstrom, G. (2006). Eliciting the relaxation response with the help of flotation-rest (restricted environmental stimulation technique) in patients with stress-related ailments. International Journal of Stress Management. 13(2):154-175
  9. 11.www..learn.genetic.utah.edu