From Sensory Deprivation to REST: The Many Names of Floatation Therapy

For over six decades, researchers and enthusiasts have been exploring the benefits of floatation therapy. Over that time, and in different circles, floating has taken on several different names.

From sensory deprivation to isolation tank therapy to floatation REST, let’s break down the many names of floatation therapy, and when you’re most likely to encounter them.

Sensory Deprivation

Neuroscientist John C. Lilly is credited with first experimenting with early floatation therapy as part of his pursuit to study consciousness and the self. At the time, the technique was just one specific branch of a larger field referred to as sensory deprivation.

While technically accurate, few members of the float community use the term today…mostly because of its loose association with nefarious military interrogations and the 1980 sci-fi/horror film “Altered States”, which depicts a primitive kind of floating as a nightmarish experience.

REST (Restricted Environmental Stimulation Therapy)

Throughout the 1960s and 70s, reputable academic research continued into the positive effects of sensory deprivation techniques, including stress relief and enhanced memory and learning. A few of the emerging leaders in the field, including Dr. Peter Suedfeld and Dr. R.A. Borrie, coined the term REST around 1980 to, in Dr. Suedfeld’s own words, “replace the inaccurate and somewhat scary term sensory deprivation.”

REST stands for Restricted Environmental Stimulation Therapy, and there are two primary categories: lying on a bed in a dark, soundproof room, or floating in saltwater within a dark, soundproof chamber—what we commonly refer to as floating. To this day, when floatation therapy is discussed in academic publications, it’s most commonly referred to as “floatation REST”.

Isolation Tank Therapy

Another common term is isolation tank therapy. This term refers, of course, to the isolation tank that is used during floating. While there’s absolutely nothing incorrect about using the term isolation tank therapy, it does tend to put the emphasis on the tool of the tank itself, rather than the sensation of floating and the inner workings of the mind and body that take place within.

Floatation Therapy

Here at Serene Dreams, along with most of the present day floating community, we prefer the more inclusive term floatation therapy. Floating is so much more than the absence of stimuli: it’s an inclusive, wide-ranging experience that encompasses physicalmental, and even spiritual benefits that differ from individual to individual.

Floating may have many names, but it is a uniquely relaxing and restorative experience. Ready to experience floatation therapy firsthand? Book online for a float at our float center today, or review our Before You Float guidelines for first-time floater to learn even more.