If you know someone that floats, you may often hear him or her refer to theta brainwaves, but what exactly are theta waves? Are they good or bad? Why do we want them? And what do we really know about the effect of regular floating on our mental state? We pride ourselves on providing float therapy – The Science of Feeling Great – so let’s take a look at the science behind this phenomenon.
What are brainwaves?
First things first – what are brainwaves? The neurons in our brain are constantly producing oscillating patterns of electrical energy, which can be measured with what’s called an “EEG” (electroencephalography). The measurement is taken via small electrodes placed on the scalp to measure the frequency and amplitude of this electrical pattern. (fun fact: the research team at LIBR has been working with salt-proof and water-proof electrodes to capture this data during floats). Scientists have created four basic categories for the major types of brainwaves we produce.
1. Beta Waves: 14-40HZ
The most “normal” brainwaves we produce during the day. Our brains are in a beta wave pattern when thinking, problem solving, and performing activities throughout the day.
2. Alpha Waves: 9-13HZ
Just a bit slower than Beta Waves, Alpha waves are experienced in flow states, times of peace or reflection. These are typically experienced during your favorite relaxing activity.
3. Theta Waves: 5-8HZ
Slowing down further, Theta waves are observed just before falling asleep or right after waking up. The theta brainwave pattern is associated with lucid dream states, creativity, meditation and daydreams.
4. Delta Waves: 1-4 HZ
Slowing all the way down, delta waves are produced during deep sleep only.
Reflect on the feeling just as you start to drift off to sleep, or when you start to stir in the morning and aren’t quite consciously thinking yet. That is the theta state. If you can remember anything from these moments, you sometimes experience vivid images (called hypnagogic images) and a kind of openness where you think of things you usually don’t think about. These are your unconscious thoughts coming into your conscious experience, which is why you can remember them.
Scientists have also observed theta states being reached by Buddhist monks during zen meditation, but only by experienced practitioners for long periods of time. This is where the Float Pod comes in – quickly access the elusive theta state in the first 15 minutes of your float!
Existing and recent float research has demonstrated that individuals do produce theta waves in the float tank – without 20 years of meditation experience. Why is that? Science has yet to answer the exact mechanisms for why floating helps us reach this state so easily, but it’s easy to see how a quiet, distraction-free, gravity-free environment can help our brains reach a profoundly deep state of relaxation. You may have heard floating referred to as “training wheels for meditation”
What are the benefits and why does it matter?
So what’s so good about theta? Well, the theta state has been found to be associated with feelings of well being, creativity, improved relationships, social adeptness, decreased stress and other negative emotions such as anger, anxiety, etc. This in turn helps decrease your chances of stress-related illnesses such as heart disease and stroke, and mental problems such as depression and anxiety disorders.
Why? It’s because the theta state allows for the production of positive neurotransmitters, such as endorphins (our feel-good chemical), and reduce the production of stress-related neurotransmitters, such as adrenaline and cortisol.
Being in “theta” doesn’t just feel good; science has revealed strong links between theta waves and how we learn and form memories, especially personal memories. This may explain the links found between float therapy and learning (super learning), or why many individuals report reliving childhood memories in vivid detail.
While additional research on floating and brain waves is needed to learn more about this phenomena, it’s easy to see why floating has worked for so many to create peace and well being in their lives. Simply put, when we float, our brains are able to slow down and reach a profound level of calm that can be difficult to replicate in daily life.
*If you’re looking for more floating research, head over to Clinicalfloatation.com.