During flotation the brain is freed from the constant demands of orienting the body in space (proprioception) and processing external stimuli. Freed from these two major cerebral demands the brain can slip into profoundly deep and rejuvenating states of relaxation which eventually leads to slower alpha or theta brainwave patterns. The experience of floating also aids the body in reaching a state of homeostasis where various bodily systems are able to reset themselves and recalibrate for optimum function. Two such systems are the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems, responsible for the fight-or-flight response and the relaxation response. Modern research has thoroughly documented how chronic activation of the sympathetic nervous system by routine daily stressors is the hallmark of the modern stress epidemic.
Our stress response system was evolutionarily designed to keep us alive in the face of infrequent and transient physical threats, not persistent abstract worries. Over-activation of the stress response and the resulting flood of stress hormones creates the cascade of negative physical and mental effects commonly associated with stress disorders. When these negative factors persist over prolonged periods of time we end up with a whole host of chronic and degenerative disease conditions. Various studies have shown floatation sessions to be an immediately effective and practical tool to reduce elevated levels of stress hormones, such as cortisol and adrenaline, as well as immediately lower blood pressure without any drug intervention, special techniques or training.
The intentional activation of the relaxation response through floating not only eliminates the negative effects of stress by reducing elevated levels of stress hormones and relaxing the nervous system. It also positively effects our biochemistry by naturally increasing pleasing and beneficial dopamine and endorphin levels, the combined effects of which contribute to a whole host of benefits including: increased performance, longevity, intelligence, memory and wellbeing.
There are a number of quite different approaches to floating. While each successfully “explains” some of the remarkable effects of floating, none of them purports to offer an overriding theory, a superordinate explanation of exactly how and why floating works. None of these explanations, that is, is the explanation. However, when we see them not as competing theories but rather as integral parts of a single system- parts that interact synergistically, dynamically, to create a whole that is greater than the sum of the parts- we begin to perceive the real nature of the unified-field theory of floating.”
-Michael Hutchison, The Book of Floating