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A list of scientific studies & publications on the effectiveness of Floatation REST (Restricted Environmental Stimulation Technique).


Pain management

Sensory Isolation in Flotation Tanks: Altered States of Consciousness and Effects on Well-being

Kjellgren, A; Lyden, F; Norlander, T; The Qualitative Report, vol 13, #4, 2008

Abstract: A qualitative analysis (The Empirical Phenomenological Psychological method) of interviews involving eight patients (depression, burn-out syndrome, and chronic pain) was carried out in order to obtain knowledge regarding the effects of flotation tank therapy. This knowledge might be helpful for both professionals and potential floaters. The analysis resulted in 21 categories, which were summarized as four themes: (a) experiences during flotation, (b) perceived effects afterwards, (c) technical details, and finally (d) the participants ́ background, motivation, and expectations. Floating was perceived as pleasant. An altered state of consciousness was induced, varying from a milder state including profound relaxation and altered time perception, to more powerful with perceptual changes and profound sensations such as out-of-body experiences and perinatal experiences.

Results: The results of the study showed that floating is a method generally perceived as pleasant and comfortable, that actual pain relief may be achieved, and that very deep relaxation may be obtained. Furthermore, we showed that altered states of consciousness (ASC) are induced during the session. Examples of experiences during ASC are visual imagery, acoustic, perceptual phenomena, an altered sense of time, a changed bodily sense, perinatal experiences of the fetal stage and birth, and even transpersonal experiences. Some of these experiences may be both powerful and profound, but they are most often viewed as positive and desirable.

Effects of flotation-REST on stress-related muscle pain

Bood, Sundequist, Kjellgren, Nordstrom, and Norlander; Pain Research and Management, Vol 10, No 4, Winter 2005

Abstract: The purpose of the present study was to examine the potential effects of attention-placebo on flotation tank therapy. Flotation-restricted environmental stimulation technique is a method whereby an individual lies in a floating tank and all stimuli are reduced to a minimum. Thirty-two patients were diagnosed as having stress-related muscular pain. In addition, 16 of the participants had received the diagnosis of burnout depression. The patients were treated with flotation-restricted environmental stimulation technique for six weeks. One-half of the patients were also given special attention for 12 weeks (high attention), while the remainder received attention for only six weeks (normal attention).

Results: The participants exhibited lowered blood pressure, reduced pain, anxiety, depression, stress and negative affectivity, as well as increased optimism, energy and positive affectivity. The results were largely unaffected by the degree of attention-placebo or diagnosis. It was concluded that flotation therapy is an effective, noninvasive method for treating stress-related pain, and that the method is not more affected by placebo than by other methods currently used in pain treatment. The treatment of both burnout depression and pain related to muscle tension constitutes a major challenge for the patient as well as the care provider, an area in which great gains can be made if the treatment is effective. Flotation therapy may constitute an integral part of such treatment.

Altered consciousness in flotation-REST and chamber-REST: Experience of experimental pain and subjective stress

Kjellgren, A., Sundequist, U., Sundholm, U., Norlander, T., Archer, T.; Social Behavior and Personality, 2004

Abstract: Twenty-three sportsmen were given one 45-minute exposure to flotation-REST and one exposure to chamber-REST on two occasions, incorporating random assignment to either flotation-REST followed by chamber-REST or vice versa. On each occasion, the Restricted Environmental Stimulation Technique (REST) procedure was followed immediately by testing experimentally induced pain to one arm using a blood pressure cuff.

Results: It was found that flotation-REST induced a significantly higher degree of altered states of consciousness (ASC), as measured with an instrument assessing experienced deviation from normal state (EDN), than did chamber-REST. Participants experiencing High EDN in the flotation-REST condition reported higher levels of both “experienced pain” and “experienced stress” than did those experiencing Low EDN. These results suggest that the particular distinguishing features of flotation-REST and chamber-REST may cause selective deviations from normal levels of consciousness, under experimental conditions, that may underlie the subjective experience of pain and stress thresholds.

Effects of flotation-REST on muscle tension pain

Kjellgren, Sundequist, Norland, Archer; Pain Research and Management, Vol 6, No 4, Winter 2001

Abstract: The purpose of the present study was to investigate whether the floating form of the restricted environmental stimulation technique (REST) may be applied within the field of pain relief. Flotation-REST consists of a procedure whereby an individual is immersed in a tank filled with water of an extremely high salt concentration. Thirty-seven patients (14 men and 23 women) suffering from chronic pain consisting of aching muscles in the neck and back area participated in the study. They were randomly assigned to either a control group (17 participants) or an experimental group (20 participants). The experimental group received nine opportunities to use the flotation-REST technique in the water tank over a three-week period.

Results: The results indicated that the most severe perceived pain intensity was significantly reduced, whereas low perceived pain intensity was not influenced by the floating technique. Further, the results indicated that circulating levels of the noradrenaline metabolite 3-methoxy-4-hydroxyphenylethyleneglycol were reduced significantly in the experimental group but not in the control group following treatment, whereas endorphin levels were not affected by flotation. Flotation-REST treatment also elevated the participants' optimism and reduced the degree of anxiety or depression; at nighttime, patients who underwent flotation fell asleep more easily. The present findings describe possible changes, for the better, in patients presenting with chronic pain complaints.

REST-Assisted Relaxation and Chronic Pain

Fine,T.H., Turner J.W.; Health and Clinical Psychology, 1985

Abstract: In the past decade relaxation training has been one of a number of behavioral approaches to the treatment of chronic pain. Recently, flotation REST (Restricted Environmental Stimulation Therapy), which consists of floating in buoyant liquid kept at skin surface temperature in a sound-proof, light-free enclosure, has been used to induce deep states of relaxation and assist in the relaxation training process. This report presents data on patients receiving multimodal treatment for chronic pain, including REST-assisted relaxation training. The patients received individual stress-oriented psychotherapy, biofeedback-assisted relaxation training and REST-assisted relaxation training. The use of flotation REST will be discussed through a comparison of the subjective effects of REST relaxation of biofeedback assisted relaxation specifically regarding the perception of pain.

Results: The results presented here are taken from the patients' clinical records at the end of treatment and a follow-up conducted at least three months post treatment except for two patients still in long term treatment. For the 13 patients with chronic intractable benign pain there was a difference in intensity but no differences in frequency or duration of pain after treatment. For the two patients with chronic recurrent pain, all three subjective pain rating measures changes. (See Table 1). Twelve patients stated that they regularly used relaxation to affect their pain, and were able to reduce it. Patients subjectively rated the REST relaxation as more relaxing and more pain relieving than the Biofeedback Assisted Relaxation (Fig. 1). Patients were asked to rate whether or not they became pain free during biofeedback or REST. Eight patients rated themselves as pain free after REST, one patient rated himself as pain free after biofeedback and 2 patients did not become pain free (Table 2). Twelve patients were not able to work because of their pain. Three of these patients are now working and one is being retrained for a less physically stressful career.

The Effects of Consecutive Floats and Their Timing on Premenstrual Syndrome

Jessen, W; Clinical and Experimental Restricted Environmental Stimulation pp 281-288

Abstract: Dalton (1987) defines Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS) as “any symptoms or complaints which regularly come between ovulation and the early phase of menstruation, but are absent at other times of the cycle.” These symptoms run the gamut of depression or irritability to asthma, epilepsy and homicide. Although no woman suffers from all of the symptoms, any symptom can be so severe and so debilitating as to warrant extreme medical and/or psychiatric measures, only to quietly end at menses. Dalton (1987) documented that PMS is due to a hormone dysfunction, i.e., progesterone is either not secreted in an abundant supply or not long enough starting at ovulation. This can throw the woman into internal chaos both mentally and physically. If there was a way to naturally alter this hormone dysfunction without having to be conscious of diet or take progesterone this could make a big difference.

Results: Goldstein and Jessen (1989) determined that flotation REST, during PMS, radically reduces reported symptoms. The study examined the effects of one float on one cycle. Turner and Fine (1985) used flotation REST to examine its effects on hormones. They found that it has a normalizing effect on the body by significantly reducing the hormonal activity of the pituitary adrenal axis. Although not statistically significant, they did note an increase in the luteinizing hormone.

Treating stress related pain in a clinical sample with flotation-REST: A further report on improvements on pain assessed by the Pain Area Inventory (PAI)

Stress, Anxiety, Depression

Promising effects of treatment with flotation-REST as an intervention for generalized anxiety disorder (GAD): a randomized controlled pilot trial

Abstract: During Flotation-REST a person is floating inside a quiet and dark tank, filled with heated salt saturated water. Deep relaxation and beneficial effects on e.g. stress, sleep difficulties, anxiety and depression have been documented in earlier research. Despite that treatments for generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) are effective; it is till the least successfully treated anxiety disorder, indicating that treatment protocols can be enhanced. The use of Flotation-REST as a treatment of GAD has not been researched. The aim of the present study was to conduct an initial evaluation of the effects in a self-diagnosed GAD sample.

This study was a randomized, parallel group, non-blinded trial with 1:1 allocation ratio to waiting list control group (n = 25) or to a twelve session treatment with flotation-REST (n = 25). Inclusion criteria’s were: 18–65 years and GAD (as defined by self-report measures). The primary outcome was GAD-symptomatology, and secondary outcomes were depression, sleep difficulties, emotion regulation difficulties and mindfulness. Assessments were made at three time points (baseline, four weeks in treatment, post-treatment), and at six-month follow-up. The main data analyses were conducted with a two-way MANOVA and additional t-tests. Forty-six participants (treatment, n = 24; control, n = 22) were included in the analyses.

Results: A significant Time x Group interaction effect for GAD-symptomatology [F (2,88) = 2.93, p < .001, η p 2  = .062] was found. Further analyses showed that the GAD-symptomatology was significantly reduced for the treatment group (t (23) = 4.47, p < .001), but not for the waiting list control group (t(21) = 0.98, p > .05), when comparing baseline to post-treatment scoring. Regarding clinical significant change, 37 % in the treatment group reached full remission at post-treatment. Significant beneficial effects were also found for sleep difficulties, difficulties in emotional regulation, and depression, while the treatment had ambiguous or non-existent effects on pathological worry and mindfulness. All improved outcome variables at post-treatment, except for depression, were maintained at 6-months follow. No negative effects were found.

Flotation REST as a stress-management tool: A meta-analysis

Dierendonck, Dirk van; Nijenhuis, Jan Te; Psychology and Health, Vol 20, Number 3, June 2005

Abstract: In this study we investigated the value of flotation Restricted Environmental Stimulation Therapy (REST) as a stress-management tool. We focused on the physiological effects of REST, its influence on well-being, and on performance. Twenty-seven studies published in 25 articles or book chapters were included in a meta-analysis. The total number of participants was 449, with a mean age of 29 years (ranging between 20 and 45). Sixty-four percent was male and 36% was female.

Results: The results showed that REST has positive effects on physiology (e.g., lower levels of cortisol, lower blood pressure), well-being, and performance. The pre–post mean effect size and the overall randomized control group effect size were relatively strong. This suggests that despite some limitations of the original studies, flotation REST can be a useful stress management tool in addition to or instead of other stress management tools.

Effects of flotation therapy on relaxation and mental state

Hu Pei-cheng, Su Ying.; Chinese Medical Journal, 2004, Vol 117, No 10. 1579-1581

Abstract: The purpose of this research was to find out the effect of flotation therapy on the basic psychological and physiological function of ordinary Chinese, focusing especially on the effectiveness of promoting relaxation and improving emotion states.

Results: The results of this study show flotation could improve mood state and reduce anxiety and depression level significantly. Results include lowered heart rate, lower EMG, reduced stress and reduced depression after floating.


Autobiographical memory and affect under conditions of reduced environmental stimulation

Suedfeld, P. and Eich, E. Journal of Environmental Psychology, 1995, 15. 321-326.

Abstract: Two experiments were conducted to study the effects of 1-hour sessions of flotation REST (restricted environmental stimulation technique) on mood and autobiographical memory.

Results: In Study 1, flotation was shown to produce a significant decrease in self-rated anxiety and arousal. Subjects in Study 2, who experienced similar changes in mood and arousal, reported that autobiographical memories retrieved in REST were more pleasant and intense, and had been more frequently recalled in the past, than those recollected in a control environment.

Flotation REST in Applied Psychophysiology

Fine, T.H., & Borrie, R.; Biofeedback, Spring 1998

Abstract: Flotation REST has proven to be a technique with predictable psychophysiological effects and powerful clinical and performance applications. This article will provide the reader with an introduction to the basic research into Flotation REST's psychophysiological effects, and a brief overview of the clinical and performance applications currently in use by REST clinicians and researchers. The article will examine in greater detail the use of Flotation REST as an intervention for chronic pain.

Results: Flotation REST can have an important role at several stages of the pain management process. By reducing both muscle tension and pain in a relatively short time and without effort on the part of the patient, flotation provides a dramatic demonstration of the benefits of relaxation. Relief is immediate and, although temporary, offers promise of further relief from REST and other relaxation-based strategies. Symptom reduction gained from flotation can increase a patient's motivation and interest in the remainder of the therapy plan. Pain patients generally come into treatment feeling suspicious and skeptical, requiring a clear demonstration that they can be helped. Flotation can be the vehicle for that demonstration.

Effects of Flotation REST on Creative Problem Solving and Originality

Norlander, T., Bergman, H., and Archer, T.; Journal of Environmental Psychology, 1998

Abstract: The purpose of the present study was to explore whether or not flotation restricted environmental stimulation technique (REST) facilitates the creative problem-solving ability and originality. Sample 1 consisted of 40 subjects, 20 men and 20 women, randomly assigned in equal numbers to either a nonREST group (armchair-sitting) or to a floating REST group. Both groups worked on a `chain puzzle' for 5 min and were then interrupted with 45 min of sitting or floating. The subjects were then given the task of continuing with the creative problem-solving test. Sample 2 consisted of 54 subjects, 27 men and 27 women, randomly assigned in equal numbers to either a nonREST group (armchair-sitting), a dryREST group (lying on a couch in a dark room) or a flotation REST group. The groups then had to fill in a couple of paper-and-pen tests and were given scores on fluency, obvious answers, original answers, elegance and deductive thinking.

Results: The present study produced three main results: (1) Subjects in the floating group in the first experiment used more test time (latency) than the nonREST group; (2) The shorter the test time latency by the subjects in the first experiment required for the creative problem-solving test, the greater the heart rate variability; (3) In the second experiment, subjects in the floating group were scored as more original in comparison with the dry REST and nonREST control groups. The results (impaired creative problem-solving ability and higher originality for the floating group) were interpreted as an indication of cognitive function where the primary process still dominates over the secondary process.

Clinical and Experimental Restricted Environmental Stimulation: New Developments and Perspectives

Barabasz, A., and Barabasz, M.; Springer Science & Business Media, Dec 6, 2012 - Psychology - 336 pages

Abstract: A dozen years ago, Peter Suedfeld introduced the world to the term "REST' to describe the modern technique or therapy involving Restricted Environmental Stimulation. At the time, REST was still equated with "sensory deprivation". Textbooks in psychology and psychiatry cited primarily the work of the 1950s and 60s which suggested that reduction of normal levels of stimulation was, in a sense, a form of torture producing severe psychological disturbances and subjugation of the hapless participant to the whims of an experimenter working in the service of a sinister government. In contrast to this perception, other psychologists and psychiatrists held the unsubstantiated belief that apparent REST effects were merely the result of awe inspiring experimental settings and subject expectancies. Suedfeld was not persuaded by either of these unscientific positions. He (Suedfeld, 1980) argued that REST, when stripped of anxiety producing melodrama, was simply a powerful way to positively alter a variety of psychological and behavioral processes. Research continued. More and more data were published and presented. Research scientists and clinicians began to correct misconceptions. The First International Conference on REST was held in 1983 and IRIS, the International REST Investigators Society, was founded that same year. REST has outlived misconstrued perceptions. The beneficial effects of the technique are now recognized in the majority of scientific texts.


Primary process in competitive archery performance: Effects of flotation REST

Norlander, T. and Bergman, H.; Journal of Applied Sport Psychology, 1999

Abstract: The purpose of the present study was to investigate whether or nor the floating form of Restricted Environmental Stimulation Technique (REST) may be exploited within the field of competitive archery to reinforce primary process (inner-directed) orientation and thereby enhance the quality of coaching and training. Floatation REST consists of a procedure whereby an individual is immersed in a water-tank filled with saltwater of an extremely high salt concentration. The experiment was performed over the course of two weekends with a 6-week interval. Twenty participating archers, 13 male and 7 female, were recruited. The between-group factor was “adjudged skill.” The within-group factor was provided by an Armchair condition in which the participants sat in an armchair for 45 min after which they were required to shoot four salvo series of three shots each, as a comparison to the Flotation-Rest condition whereby the participants were required to lie in a floating-tank for 45 min just prior to shooting.

Results: Results indicated that: (a) the participants experienced less perceived exertion during marksmanship in the floating condition, (b) the elite archers performed more consistently in the Flotation-REST condition, (c) the least and most proficient archers had lower muscle tension in the Extensor Digitorum in the Flotation REST condition.


Restricted Environmental Stimulation and Smoking Cessation: A 15-Year Progress Report

Suedfeld, P; International Journal of the Addictions, Volume 25, 1990 - Issue 8

Abstract: The first successful use of restricted environmental stimulation therapy (REST) as a method of smoking cessation was reported in this journal in 1972. Since then, close to 20 papers and articles have further investigated this application.

Results: The results have been consistently positive and have further shown that-unlike most techniques-REST combines synergistically with other effective treatment modalities. The effect of REST seems to target primarily the major problem with other known treatments in this area: It substantially reduces the relapse rate among clients who quit smoking at the end of treatment. Furthermore, REST is safe, has no known adverse side effects, and is easily tolerated by most participants. Nevertheless, the method has not found wide acceptance among practitioners. This paper explores and answers some of the concerns that may be involved in its relative lack of popularity.

Restricted Environmental Stimulation Therapy and Behavioral Self-Management in Smoking Cessation

Suedfeld, P and Best, J Allan; Journal of Applied Social Psychology, October 1982

Abstract: The relative impacts on smoking behavior of restricted environmental stimulation therapy (REST), behavioral self-management, and the combination were compared. Fifteen smokers from the community were treated in each of the three conditions and followed over a 12-month period.

Results: The combined treatment was very successful compared to standard smoking interventions (a mean of 66% reduction from baseline smoking rate and 53% of subjects completely abstinent on the 1-year follow-up), and subjects in this group smoked significantly less than those in either the REST or behavioral self-management only condition. Furthermore, subjects receiving REST, alone or in combination, were significantly less likely to relapse following treatment. The results were taken to support the importance of addressing multiple change objectives in smoking cessation programs.

The Use of Restricted Environmental Stimulation Therapy in Treating Addictive Behaviors

Borrie, R; International Journal of the Addictions, Volume 25, 1991 - Issue 7

Abstract: Successful treatment of addictive behaviors is difficult because of the complexity of relevant contributing variables. Restricted environmental stimulation therapy (REST) is offered as a useful, flexible tool that can facilitate change in addictive variables at each level of complexity, from habitual acts through attitudes to self-concept and spirituality. The nature of REST is discussed in terms of processes and effects. Basically two processes, refocusing and rebalancing, contribute to the various physical and mental effects of restricted environmental stimulation. These effects include profound relaxation, relief from pain, and a shift in consciousness to a state that is more introspective, less defensive, and more receptive.

Results: Research in treating addictive behaviors with REST is reviewed with smoking, overeating, alcohol consumption, and drug misuse. There is a substantial body of literature demonstrating the effectiveness of REST in modifying smoking behavior. Very little research has been done on REST and drug misuse. Each of the other areas has a small number of preliminary studies that suggest REST as a promising treatment. In general, chamber REST proves to be effective in facilitating attitudinal and behavioral change, and maintaining those changes. The scant research with flotation REST show it to be less effective in modifying behavior but more relaxing and pain alleviating than chamber REST. The characteristics of the REST experience that make it effective in treating addictions are discussed as follows: (1) the induction of a general relaxation response, (2) substance misusers find serenity and relief by nonchemical means, (3) internal refocusing to concentrate on personal problems, (4) disruption of habits through removal of trigger cues and response possibilities, (5) increased feelings of control over addictive behaviors, and (6) enhanced learning processes. REST is a versatile, cost-effective treatment modality with demonstrated effectiveness in modifying some addictive behaviors and promising applications with others.


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