By definition sensory deprivation or otherwise also referred to as Restricted Environmental Stimulation Therapy (REST), is a concept that circumvents around restricting sensory input such as light, sound, smell, etc. to very minimal levels.
The objective of the therapy is to encourage deep levels of relaxation via the reduction of ‘brain chatter’. The therapy is executed using what has come to be known as floatation pods or tanks filled with highly concentrated warm Epsom salt solution without sound or light upon which ‘floaters’ are suspended in. Based on various clinical studies, this therapy actually results in a significant level of physical and mental benefits.
The origins of this therapy can be traced back to the 1950s when sensory deprivation experiments were almost considered a fad and were conducted by quite a number of psychologists to study the impact of restricted environments on mental and physical functions.
Initially, floatation tank therapy was conducted on subjects for periods of up to 24 hours where subjects were basically confined in cubicles with a bed after having their vision and hearing blotted out via a variety of different techniques. The studies did not go well mainly due to the harsh conditions.
Citing this as a factor, Dr John Lilly who was a neurophysiologist developed the concept of Floatation and later commercial floatation therapy by using Epsom salt solution which basically even removed the impact of gravity for the most part in a more comfortable which turned things around. Over the following years the technique was refined and the floatation tank made its debut.
Initial studies by Lilly revealed that by the removal of external stimuli which included light, sound, gravity and even touch which accounted for approximately 90% of the average human’s central nervous system workload, the brain was able to alter its state and ease into a deep state of relaxation that was equivalent to that of those practicing meditation for years. Lily found that although sensory deprivation was harmful when it is prolonged, shorter periods of time within a day actually reduce stress levels significantly.
This was only the beginning as over time other researchers came to find that when subjects undergo float tank sessions and their brainwave frequencies are altered because of the therapy, their bodies did a lot of things that was beneficial to the subjects health which included the reduction in production of stress chemicals and the enhancement of production of ‘feel good’ chemicals which included serotonin, dopamine and endorphin among others.
This in turn enhances the subject’s moods and also ‘tweaked’ their overall sense of well-being due to the heightened state of their autoimmune response systems. Since then, and off lately the consistent positive findings of numerous studies and clinical trials has resulted in the incorporation of REST into a variety of physical and mental health care programs by medical institutions.
Apart from that fitness and training professionals and as well as professional athletes have become the biggest proponents of REST due to the fact that it enhances muscle healing duration and increases the ability of athletes to focus and perform better at their track meets.
Since its debut, floatation tank therapy has gone around the block repeatedly and the only thing that matters about it is that it actually works!