The effects of short term flotation REST on relaxation: a controlled study

Health Psychol. 1984;3(2):99-112. doi: 10.1037//0278-6133.3.2.99.


The purpose of this study was to compare the effects of restricted environmental stimulation using a flotation tank (Flotation REST) to the effects of a normal sensory environment on relaxation. All of the subjects were first introduced to a simple relaxation program to be used during the experimental sessions. The program consisted of guided point-to-point relaxation, breathing techniques, and visual imagery techniques. Subjects were then pre-tested on measurements of electromyogram (EMG), galvanic skin response (GSR), peripheral skin temperature, and systolic and diastolic blood pressure. The experimental group experienced ten 45-minute sessions practicing the relaxation program in a Flotation REST environment. The control subjects practiced the same relaxation program in a similar body position for 45 minutes in a normal sensory environment. All subjects answered a five-question Subjective Relaxation Questionnaire on trials five through ten and were then post-tested on EMG, GSR, skin temperature, and blood pressure. The results indicated significant differences between groups from pre-test to post-test on systolic and diastolic blood pressure; the experimental group showed greater reductions. Significant differences also were observed on three of five questions on the Subjective Relaxation Questionnaire; the experimental group reported greater subjective relaxation and trends in a similar direction on the remaining two questions. The results of this study indicate that flotation REST enhances point-to-point relaxation, breathing techniques, and visual imagery techniques and, when combined with these techniques, can be an effective means of teaching normal subjects to lower systolic and diastolic pressure and heighten their subjective perception of relaxation.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Blood Pressure
  • Electromyography
  • Female
  • Galvanic Skin Response
  • Humans
  • Hydrotherapy
  • Male
  • Relaxation Therapy
  • Relaxation*
  • Sensory Deprivation / physiology*
  • Skin Temperature