The benefits of floatation therapy are numerous and far-reaching. Perhaps the most universally appealing is floating’s proclivity to enhance creativity, learning, and memory.
From students to artists to working professionals, most of us would love to experience a boost in our ability to think, learn, and solve problems. Floating can do just that: study after study has shown that time spent in a float tank enhances our cognitive powers. As usual with floating, more research is needed to understand exactly why this is, but scientists have a few ideas about the ways floating boosts creativity, learning, and memory.
The Brain and Downtime
These days, it’s practically common knowledge that taking a break can boost our creativity and problem-solving. Most everyone has experienced a “Eureka” moment in the shower, or while going for a walk around the block. And it’s not just anecdotal: research backs up these kinds of experiences.
As science journalist Ferris Jabr summarizes in Scientific American, “What research to date also clarifies, however, is that even when we are relaxing or daydreaming, the brain does not really slow down or stop working…many important mental processes seem to require what we call downtime and other forms of rest during the day.”
These important processes take place as part of the “default mode network”, or the network that neurological researchers observe coming to life when we are daydreaming. After those processes have taken place, we think better, we problem-solve better, and we feel better.
Floating as the Ultimate Downtime
This, of course, is where floating comes in. Since all external sources of distraction are removed, floating provides an extreme form of rest, and this appears to amplify the positive effects of letting our default-mode networks take over.
In one study by noted float therapy researcher Peter Suedfeld(1), students who floated once per week for four weeks while enrolled in an improvisational jazz class (a skill which tests both learning and memory as well as creative thinking) scored higher on technical tests and received overall better class grades than students in the same class who did not float.
In another study back in 1992(2), researchers tested college students with a few different scales that measure creativity and mood, both before and after a period of rest. One group spent an hour floating, while the second group spent the hour simply relaxing in a dark room. The students who floated showed “significant increases” on the primary creativity test.
Floating and Sleep’s Role in Memory
Floating also helps promote learning and memory in more indirect ways; primarily, by helping individuals sleep better. Many studies have demonstrated clearly that sleep is critically important to developing long-lasting memories(3), and other research has shown that floating can help individuals suffering from insomnia improve their sleep patterns(4).
Floating and the Effects of Meditation
Another indirect way floating improves memory and learning is through enhancement of meditation, which has been shown to improve our ability to pay attention. In one German study(5), for instance, three groups of individuals were given a special test that measures the ability to pay close attention: a group of middle-aged longtime meditators, a similarly aged group that did not meditate, and young adults who did not meditate. This kind of attention usually declines with age, but the group that scored the highest was the one that meditated—notably.
Looking to boost your own creativity? Preparing for an important exam? Floating can help!
We offer special pricing for students with valid school ID: one 60-minute float for $22. There’s no minimum age required to float, but we do ask that guests under 18 be accompanied by a parent or guardian for their first float to complete some initial paperwork.
1. The effect of the floatation version of Restricted Environmental Stimulation Technique (REST) on jazz improvisation. Oshin Vartanian, Peter Suedfeld. Music and Medicine, May 2011.
2. Creativity enhancement through floatation isolation. Donald G. Forgays, Deborah K. Forgays. Journal of Environmental Psychology, December 1992.
3. Learning, memory, and sleep in humans. Jessica D. Payne, Sleep Medicine Clinics, March 2011.
4. Age effects on attentional blink performance in meditation. Sara van Leeuwen, Notger G. Muller, Lucia Melloni. Consciousness and Cognition, September 2009.
5. The use of floatation rest in the treatment of persistent psychophysiological insomnia, UBC Retrospective Theses Digitization Project, 1989.