Restricted Environmental Stimulation Therapy

Restricted Environmental Stimulation Therapy
Posted on 09/21/2021

Restricted Environmental Stimulation Therapy (REST)
Caitlin Stirgwolt LAT, ATC
Mountain Vista HS and Thunder Ridge HS
Are you an athlete suffering muscle soreness that just won't go away? Tired and stressed about being tired and stressed? Meditation, progressive relaxation, and imagery don't seem to work? Wish you could just float on a cloud and turn your brain off?
Maybe sensory deprivation could be your answer! Also known as isolation tank and floatation tank or clinically referred to as restricted environmental stimulation therapy (REST) has been shown to increase creativity, concentration, and athletic performance as well as relieve pain and aid in treating anxiety (Santos-Longhurts, 2020). Initially REST was developed in the 1960s by an American physician and neuroscientist as an alternative to treating behavioral and health disorders (Driller & Argus 2016). It was in the 1970s when float tanks began being studied for other possible health benefits (Santos-Longhurts, 2020).
What the research says for athletes:
In a 2005 meta analysis by Van Dierendonck & Te Nijenhuis, researchers reported that FLOAT has positive physiological effects like lower levels of cortisol and blood pressure, while also increasing personal well being and performance.
Morgan et al., (2013) also found that REST therapy had a significant impact on blood lactate and perceived pain compared to passive rest recovery in untrained healthy subjects.
In a 2016 novel study performed by Driller & Argus, researchers essentially found that REST therapy may be an effective tool for both physical and psychological recovery in elite athletes. Napping during the REST session was encouraged but not required. Driller & Argus found that there was a significant reduction in perceived muscle soreness and the feeling of being more relaxed. For the athletes that reported napping, they reported feeling more “at-ease” and “fresh” while also feeling less “worn-out”, “tense”, and “exhausted” (Driller & Argus, 2016).
What the research says for stressful jobs:
Kjellgren, A. & Westman, J. (2014) found that the REST subjects showed a reduction in stress, anxiety, depression and pain while increasing their sleep quality and optimism.
Bood et al. (2006), set out to find the long-term effects of REST therapy. The REST group realized a decrease in pain, stress, anxiety, and depression, and also an increase in sleep quality and optimism which were maintained for four months after treatment (Bood et al., 2006).
Overall, the research suggests that restricted environmental stimulation therapy (REST) helps the body physiologically (i.e., lower levels of cortisol and blood pressure) and psychologically (i.e., decreased anxiety, depression, and stress, while increasing sleep quality and optimism). If mediation, progressive relaxation and imagery don't seem to work and you have about an hour of time to spare, try REST!
Santos-Longhurts, A. (2020, April 13). Everything you need to know about sensory deprivation tank therapy. Healthline.
Van Dierendonck, D. & Te Nijenhuis, J. (2005). Flotation restricted environmental stimulation therapy (REST) as a stress-management tool. Psychology & Health, 20 (3), 405-412.
Morgan, P. M., Salacinski, A. J. & Stults-Kolemainen, M. A. (2013). The acute effects of floationion restricted environmental stimulation technique on recovery from maximal eccentric exercise. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 27(12), 3467-3473. doi: 10.1519/JSC.0b013e31828f277e.
Kjellgren, A. & Westman, J. (2014). Beneficial effects of treatment with sensory isolation in flotation-tank as a preventive health-care intervention - a randomized controlled pilot trial. BMC complementary and alternative medicine, 14, 417.
Bood, S. Å., Sundequist, U., Kjellgren, A., Norlander, T., Nordström, L., Nordenström, K., & Nordström, G. (2006). Eliciting the relaxation response with the help of flotation-rest (restricted environmental stimulation technique) in patients with stress-related ailments. International Journal of Stress Management, 13(2), 154–175.

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