Floatation, flotation or float therapy is one of the most effective natural remedies for high blood pressure. Floatation therapy is also known as Restricted Environmental Stimulation Therapy, or REST, as it creates an almost sensory-free environment in which the effects of gravity, temperature, light and sound sensations are removed. This frees your brain from interpreting incoming messages so it can focus on resetting the body’s physiology back to normal levels – including blood pressure.
What is floatation therapy
Floatation, flotation or float therapy involves lying in a light-proof, sound-insulated tank containing a shallow, ten-inch deep pool of warm water in which around 700 lbs of Epsom Salts (magnesium sulphate) are dissolved. This forms a super-saturated solution of saline which is kept at a constant skin temperature of 93.5 oF (34.5 oC).
The float solution is more buoyant than the Dead Sea and you remain suspended on top rather like a Champagne cork bobbing on the ocean, to neutralise many of the effects of gravity.
It’s estimated that 90% of all brain activity is concerned with the effects of gravitational pull on the body, such as correcting posture, maintaining balance and constricting arteries to prevent blood pressure from dropping when you are standing.
The floatation water is kept at a constant skin temperature and the tank screens out all light and sound. This frees your brain from most of its usual sensory distractions and allows it to more easily generate the Theta waves associated with profound relaxation, meditation, creative thought and feelings of serenity.
Most people prefer to float naked, but you can wear a bathing costume if you wish.
Floatation therapy has been described as like a return to the womb as you are floating in a warm solution in an enclosed, dark yet safe place from which you will eventually have to emerge into the world.
Floatation therapy for high blood pressure
Early studies during the 1970s and 1980s, involving Restricted Environmental Stimulation Therapy (REST), asked patients to spend 24 hours lying on a bed in a completely dark, sound-proof chamber (with water, liquid food and chemical toilet provided!)
In these cases, uncontrolled high blood pressures of 180/100 mmHg to 190/120 mmHg came down into the normal range of below 140/90 mmHg and remained low for up to nine months!
Obviously this extended REST is not acceptable for many people in the modern world, and floatation therapy was developed to shorten the time needed.
Floatation can significantly improve hypertension even after a single float session lasting 45 minutes. This effect is maintained for up to three weeks after a single session, so continued improvements in blood pressure will occur across repeated weekly sessions.
Floatation REST is also used to treat generalised anxiety disorder, stress, and chronic pain.
How floatation therapy lowers blood pressure
Floatation therapy lowers blood pressure through a combination of physiological effects. Floatation therapy:
- Lowers levels of the stress hormones, ACTH and cortisol
- Lowers levels of hormones involved in the regulation of fluid and sodium salt balance
- Reduces secretion of anti-diuretic hormone so you produce larger quantities of urine shortly after a float
- Increases secretion of endorphins – your brain’s natural opiate painkillers – which produce feelings of euphoria and contentment
- Allows blood vessels to dilate as you are suspended in a horizontal position with reduced gravitational pull
- Allows absorption of magnesium through the skin
- Generates relaxing theta brain waves.
During floatation therapy, you can also focus in on your own body – a technique known as biofeedback – to voluntarily regulate body functions that are not usually under your control, such as slowing the heart rate and reducing blood pressure.
The physiological effects of floatation therapy, including the generation of theta waves, last for up to three weeks after a single float. Control studies using subjects reclining in dimly lit, quiet rooms do not show the same effects, so it is not merely the process of relaxation inducing the measured changes.
A typical reduction in blood pressure after a first floatation session is 8/6 mmHg, increasing to 16/14 mmHg or more after repeated sessions.
Many large towns contain a floatation centre. For best results, try a course of 5 weekly floats.
Use the downloadable chart at the following link to record your blood pressure before and after each session. My Blood Pressure Chart
Float at home
You can obtain a similar deep relaxation to floatation therapy at home, using Dead Sea or Epsom mineral salts.
Add at least 250g of these magnesium salts to a warm (not hot) bath and relax for 20 minutes in a bathroom that is as dark and quiet as possible.
When you are ready to bring the experience to a close, wrap yourself in a warm towel, lie on a bed in a warm room for a deeply relaxing experience.
As a bonus, your skin will feel silky soft afterwards, with reduced itching, the magnesium salt will relieve tired aching muscles, and you will enjoy an exceptionally relaxing night’s sleep afterwards.
You need to be relatively mobile to float so you can safely climb in and out of the tank, which resembles a large, enclosed bath.
Ear earplugs to protect your ears from the very salty solution.
Apply petroleum jelly to cuts as the solution will sting if it comes into contact with open skin wounds.
Take care not to get the saline solution in your eyes as it will sting.
If your blood pressure is raised, self-monitoring will help you maintain good control.
Click here for advice on choosing a blood pressure monitor to use at home.