HealthZette

Float in the Closest Thing to the Dead Sea

These dark, salty baths claim fabulous health benefits

Is it any wonder “Floating Centers” are popping up all across the country? They allow users to float in a private tank with all the benefits the salty Dead Sea claims to provide.

For those in need of a refresher, here’s the back story: Herod the Great had the world’s first recorded health resort built on the shores of the Dead Sea. The Roman king knew about the salt lake’s restorative and therapeutic benefits and wanted to reap them — and have others reap them as well.

Now, thousands of years later, millions of people regularly travel to the Dead Sea, which borders Israel, the West Bank and Jordan, for its history and health benefits. The lake’s high salt level makes the water “heavier” than a human, which pushes people up and allows them to float on the surface. In addition to the weightless floating sensation people experience in the water, the Dead Sea has been found to help with conditions like psoriasis, osteoarthritis, and rhinosinusitis (inflammation of the nasal and sinus cavities). 

Enter the flotation tanks, which provide all the benefits without the travel.

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In a study done in 2014 and published in the European Journal of Integrative Medicine, “Curing the Sick and Creating Supermen: How relaxation in flotation tanks is advertised on the Internet,” researchers examined this very issue. Flotation-REST (Restricted Environmental Stimulation Technique) is a complementary and alternative medicine therapy, they found, with evidence-based beneficial effects like pain and stress reduction.

“During flotation-REST, a person is lying in a supine position inside a quiet and dark tank, filled with salt water maintained at skin temperature. The water is high in buoyancy, which makes it possible to float comfortably on the back. The method induces deep relaxation through minimization of sensory input,” the report states.

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However, the researchers also found that the benefits advertised for Flotation-REST may exceed actual results. “Although the advertisements described many evidence-based effects resulting from floating, information tended to be exaggerated, could be misleading to consumers, and was not always substantiated by published scientific studies.”

Whether you have physical ailments and pain, or stress that is weighing heavy on your mind (or body), it’s worth understanding that sensory overload can harm both mind and body. This is partly why proponents and other sources confirm that the REST tubs that provide sensory deprivation aid in relaxation. 

In a Swedish study, “Sensory Isolation in Flotation Tanks: Altered States of Consciousness and Effects on Well-being,” users reported that the baths provided them with visual imagery, acoustic and perceptual phenomena, an altered sense of time, a changed bodily sense, and even perinatal experiences of the fetal stage and birth. 

“Some of these experiences may be both powerful and profound, but they are most often viewed as positive and desirable,” the researchers said. 

“You’re literally resting your brain in a way you haven’t done since the womb, and people have epiphanies in the tank,” says Allison Walton, owner of a California-based center, Float.

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Pricing varies, but at one floating venue in Marlton, New Jersey, called the Float Flotation Therapy Center, a user’s first time visit for 60 minutes costs $49 (it’s regularly $75). Packages include couples saunas and even pregnancy packages.

Kriss Brooks, co-founder of Northwest Float Center in Tacoma, Washington, said that floating had such a profound impact on her life that she decided to open her own center. “We want to educate everyone we can about how flotation therapy can make them happier and healthier and less stressed,” Brooks said in a statement. 

The proof may lie in the tub, literally. Whether you have physical pain or mental and emotional anguish, it might be worth spending 60 to 90 minutes in a dark, quiet, salt-filled tub to see for yourself. It might relieve your ailments, bring peace of mind and possibly provide breakthroughs to altered states of consciousness.