As described in our sections on Meditation & Creativity and Stress Relief & Relaxation, floatation therapy has incredible impacts on the brain while inside the float tank. But a perhaps overlooked area might be on the ongoing effects of floating on how the brain performs after a float session. Does floating actually induce physiological changes in the brain that improves mental performance?
The short answer is: yes.
FLOATING & VASODILATION
Michael Hutchinson, author of “The Book of Floating,” describes how an increase in full body circulation and oxygen delivery to all the cells in the body directly aids the brain’s capacity for higher mental function. “Floating promotes vasodilatation, facilitating blood flow to all the parts and systems of the body, including the brain. It creates a whole body healing effect.”
Vasodilation has a number of beneficial health effects, including reducing hypertension, angina, congestive heart failure, and erectile dysfunction. For the brain, though, floating produces a vasodilation effect similar to that created by supplements you may be aware of for brain health:
“A float session could be compared to taking a cocktail of all of these brain enhancing substances all at once.”
Though you may not know them as such, these are all vasodilators, aimed at increasing blood flow to and oxygenation of the brain. A float session could be compared to taking a cocktail of all of these brain enhancing substances all at once, but in a way that is more direct-effect and “natural”, without the body having to ingest and process supplements through the digestive system.
THE EFFECTS OF STRESS ON THE BRAIN AND BODY
Stress itself, of course, also has a physiological effect – an increase in what are called corticosteroids – that has been associated with the cognitive deficits seen in human aging. That is, stress fuels the degradation of cognitive functioning. The effects of an excess of corticosteroids are pervasive:
Neuropsychiatric: anxiety, depression, sleep disorders.
Cardiovascular: hypertension, kidney dysfunction, fluid retention.
Metabolic: dysfunctions in movement of body fat, diversion of amino-acids to glucose
Endocrine: hyperglycemia, insulin resistance, diabetes mellitus, erectile dysfunction, hypogonadism, amenorrhoea.
Visual: cataracts, retinopathy
Immune: predisposition to infection, such as candidiases
Pregnancy: teratogenic effect, sometimes causing birth defects
This isn’t to say that floating is a cure for any of these conditions. But regular floating is a proven way of reducing stress, which is directly associated with all of the health conditions described above.