Floating is the most rapid and effective method of getting into a deeply relaxed state that I know of. Relaxing and lowering stress is an effective way to drain your migraine bucket.

I love floating and have used it on and off as a relaxation tool since the late 1980’s. Decades!

The alpha state is a deeply relaxed state where the brain is very relaxed and very receptive to any stimulus. This is easy to achieve by lying in a float tank.

I usually take my personal blood pressure monitor to the float centre and take readings before and after the float.

Blood pressure readings dropped 25 points & 17 points in 50 minutes

During a recent float my blood pressure readings showed a 25-point drop in systolic and 17-point drop in diastolic in 50 minutes. Take your own monitor and test yourself should you decide to try floatation.

Floating has been recognised and used for centuries as a therapeutic treatment in the mineral-rich waters of the Dead Sea, and other inland lakes. Minerals from streams have fed these lakes for tens of thousands of years to the point where they have very dense concentrations of minerals, so much so that one can lie in the Dead Sea and float unaided by any buoyancy aids.

The modern floating phenomenon was discovered and initially publicised and made popular by American neuroscientist Dr John C. Lilly who was experimenting with sensory deprivation and its effects on the human body.

He wanted to cut off all sensory feelings to the body and see how the body and mind reacted.

Being unable to hover in vacuum in space, he decided to try floating in water saturated in mineral salts, while blocking out all light, noise and outside stimuli. At that time, in the 1950s it was thought that depriving the body of all feeling would send the mind insane. But instead of that he found that floating in a dark environment led him into a deeply relaxed, meditative state.

Floating became popular in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s and is seeing a bit of a revival now.

The Alpha state is a deeply relaxed state

Many commercial float centres exist around the world where you can float for 40 minutes to 60 minutes and drift into a deeply relaxed state. Perfect for letting those stresses melt away, lowering blood pressure.

Physical stress is drained from the body and the mind goes into a deeply relaxed state with the brainwaves smoothing out into the alpha state of around 8 to 12 cycles per seconds (or hertz).

Your brainwaves normally oscillate at 13-25 hertz which is called the beta state, and this is the frequency at which our brainwaves oscillate during most of our days as we go about our daily lives.

Deeper down the end of the spectrum, below the alpha state we find the theta state which is even slower than alpha.

When the brainwaves are in the theta state there is an even deeper sense of relaxation. In the alpha state however, one’s mind is sharply alert, and able to absorb new learning information.

As a result, you can "superlearn" any subject in a float tank as your brainwaves in the alpha state are more receptive to learning material.

What does a float tank look like?

The typical float tank is like a very large covered bath - a pod, if you will.

The bath is filled with warm water to about 50 or 60 centimetres in depth. Into the water about 600 kilograms of Epsom Salts is poured and allowed to dissolve.

The Epsom salts, which are magnesium sulfate flakes, dissolve to make the water extremely dense. You step into the bath and then lie in it and your body floats in the water unaided, and without the need or kick or do any strokes to stay afloat.

Usually you would close the door to the float tank to block out any light and external sounds. Ideally the tank should be in a soundproof room.

Initially the sounds of the water are very loud, and as you relax into it, the sounds of your breathing and heartbeat become the focus of your thoughts. They are very loud, as you cannot hear a lot else because your ears are under water.

Some people like to use ear plugs, which commercial float centres often provide. These block the water from entering the ears.

You can use an inflatable pillow around your neck - like those used on aircraft to stop you getting a crick in the neck while trying to sleep while sitting up.

In the float tank, physical stress drains out of your body as physical sensations are taken off the body. The mind, being deprived of outside stimulus ‘focuses inward’ and quickly goes into a deeply relaxed state.

Relaxation allows the body to dissipate adrenaline and cortisol and other stress hormones and stimulates the release of ‘feel-good’ hormones like serotonin, melatonin, endorphins and oxytocin.

This allows your body and brain to lower your migraine threshold.

Many float tanks have audio speakers fitted. These can be hooked up to a sound system which can be used to play music or any learning material that you may want to listen to while you float in a deeply relaxed and meditative state.

Magnesium sulfate absorbs transdermally into the body while floating

One of the key health benefits from the float tank comes from lying suspended in its 600kg of dissolved Epsom salts, also known as magnesium sulfate.

Following extensive research, I would go as far as saying magnesium is a miracle mineral. It is responsible for over 700 enzymatic reactions in the body, making it one of the most important minerals that your body needs.

Magnesium is known to aid relaxation, and many scientific research studies have shown that magnesium supplementation is highly effective at reducing the frequency and intensity of migraines for many migraine sufferers.

Magnesium sulfate is one of the most absorbable forms of magnesium and when you float in it, the magnesium enters the body through the pores of the skin (transdermally) and then into the tissue.

(Doctors at the New York Headache Clinic found that injecting 1 gram on magnesium sulfate into someeon struck with a migraine saw 85% achieve rapid relief, such is the power of magnesium, for some people in the mitigation of migraine. Particularly effective is pico ionic magnesium).

Floating once a week is highly recommended as a stress-buster to lower your migraine threshold and your blood pressure. Record your own readings and track the results for yourself. I think you will be positively surprised.

Further Reading

Why Use Epsom Salts by Enzyme Stuff

By Kevin Crocombe

Migraine researcher
Photo credit: Jernej Graj, Unsplash