Why Silence is Sound Medicine

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An awkward silence. Two people, both wracking their brains for an appropriate thing to say to bridge the silence while the theme song to “Jeopardy” counts down the grueling moments until one of the pair thinks of something suitable to say.

It’s actually the most common concern we hear from first time floaters: I don’t know if I could handle a whole hour of nothing.

We do offer a selection of music and soothing sound options, all of which can really help floaters to acclimatize to the float pod and get into a relaxed state. However, there is a lot of evidence to suggest that you may just want to try floating silently (or partially silent). You have likely heard that “movement is medicine”. It turns out that silence may be medicine too.

We have known for many years about the negative effect that constant stimulation, and especially noise, can have on the brain. Even if we are not conscious of it, the brain is constantly processing sounds that it hears. Exposure to excessive and chronic noise has been linked to increased blood pressure, high cortisol rates, difficulty sleeping, tinnitus and even heart disease. Exposure to “noise pollution” may be as detrimental to our health as air pollution.

Happily, recent research abounds these days to reassure us that our brains can repair themselves when exposed to silence. A 2013 study  of different types of sounds on mice brains used silence as the “control” in the experiment. However, the researchers were surprised to learn that the silence had more of an effect on the mice’s brains than did any of the different sounds. Mice who were exposed to two hours or more of silence per day developed new cells in the hippocampus, which is the region of the brain associated with memory, emotion and learning.

However, humans are not mice. Humans instinctively crave constant stimulation and we generally have control over what stimulation we seek (though we often don’t control stimulation that we don’t seek, like construction noise outside our office window). In July 2014, Science Magazine published an article describing a series of studies in which people were asked to sit in silence for 15 minutes. The large majority of people found it somewhat or very uncomfortable. In later studies, the participants were given the option of administering a shock to themselves. Shockingly, 67% of men and 25% of women actually chose to inflict themselves with a shock rather than to sit quietly with their own thoughts for up to 15 minutes.

The long and the short of it is that we know constant noise is bad for our health, and we know that periods of silence are healing. However, humans are hard-wired to seek out stimulation. The untutored mind rebels against silence, even if it knows that the silence is the answer to its own fatigue.

This is why, more and more, people are turning to float therapy. Whether you are a seasoned yogi or an iPhone junkie, we invite you to try float therapy and experience the restorative effects of true silence.