Tag Archives: sleep

Floating and pregnancy

“It’s just that I am feeling so heavy, cumbersome and sore this pregnancy that I would love to feel weightless if only for an hour.”

by Shinichi Moriyama
Float inspired art by Shinichi Moriyama, from the Float On artist project

As always, check with your health care provider first, for any conditions that might be specific to you.  Many women, though, report that they find wonderful relief from the stress of pregnancy in a tank. The dense Epsom salt-laden water gently takes up all the unaccustomed weight you’re bearing, and gives respite to your strained joints.

“I was eight months pregnant when I floated for the first time. Pregnancy takes a toll on every muscle in your body, especially your torso. Ironically, the times when you get a chance to rest is when the baby becomes more active and its weight continues to put stress on your muscles. While floating, I expected the baby to be very active, but was pleasantly surprised. Since there was no pressure from any side, the baby didn’t feel the need to kick or roll around. It was the best rest I’ve had in several months. I would recommend floating to anyone, pregnant or not, for a time of physical and mental renewal.”
(Heather Warren, Oakland, CA)

Here’s a great ten-minute talk from a pair of midwives discussing some of the reasons a pregnant woman might consider floating.

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Floating and stress-related pain

One of the benefits you’ll most often hear claimed for float tanks is their powerful relaxing effect. Subjectively, people use descriptions like “I felt more rested than if I’d slept for 16 hours on a pile of tranquilized chinchillas,” or “the way you phys­i­cally feel after­wards is like get­ting a mas­sage, doing a full work­out, and get­ting 8 hours of sleep all at once”.

We're Floating in Space, ©Felicia Simion
We’re Floating in Space, ©Felicia Simion

Many scientific studies have attempted to quantify this effect.  Does it have measurable biochemical effects? Does everyone experience it? If a person has tension headaches, for instance, does this relaxation effect actually help them? And if so, how long does the effect last?

One study done recently in Sweden says the answer is yes, and the effects seem to last for months.

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Floating and fibromyalgia

Fibromyalgia is a disorder characterized by widespread musculoskeletal pain, described as a constant dull ache, typically arising from muscles. It effects 2% of general population and women are much more likely to develop it than are men by a ratio of 9:1.

We are made of stars, by Gianni Cumbo
We are made of stars, ©2013 Gianni Cumbo

Sufferers can be chronically tired, bedridden much of the time and suffer pain that feels like body-wide bruising. It can hurt even to be touched by another person. Restful sleep is difficult.  Many people who have fibromyalgia also have tension headaches, temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorders, irritable bowel syndrome, anxiety and depression.

Fibromyalgia is not well understood at all. It can develop gradually, or have a sudden onset triggered by a traumatic event like a car accident. Its cause is not known. The best current explanation of what happens is that somehow the sufferer’s brain simply becomes more sensitive to pain (“central augmentation of pain sensitivity”), but how or why that happens is more or less anyone’s guess.

[UPDATE!  New research suggests fibromyalgia may actually be a problem with blood vessels in the skin.]

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