Something in the world of floating have you stumped?
Every once in a while, during a talk that a researcher is giving, or when pouring over old data about sensory deprivation, it’s easy to come across something called “Chamber REST”. The REST part is an acronym for “Restricted Environment Stimulation Therapy”, and a lot of float research will be called Float REST. But what is Chamber REST exactly and how does it relate to floating?
Ashkahn and Graham take the time to fill us all in on the nuances of old sensory deprivation research and how it helped influence float tank research, as well as the important differences between them.
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Transcription of this episode… (in case you prefer reading)
Ashkahn: Hey, welcome everybody.
Graham: Hey there.
Graham: Audience. I am Graham.
Ashkahn: I am Ashkahn.
Graham: And today’s question for you is, “What is Chamber REST? I’ve heard you mention it before and I’m unsure of the details.”
Ashkahn: Yeah. Chamber REST.
Graham: R-E-S-T. I guess that’s also how the other one is spelled. Capital R, capital E, capital S, capital T.
Ashkahn: So, okay, let’s quick recap. That stands for well it’s mostly restricted environmental stimulation therapy, although sometimes you hear, reduced environmental stimulation therapy.
Ashkahn: It was a term coined by Peter Suedfeld and Rod Borrie back in the early days of research into what everyone was calling sensory deprivation back then, to try to create kind of a friendlier/more accurate term for that sort of research. So kind of when you talk about rest it covers a number of different types of things. Float tanks as we know them, these things called dry float tanks, and what is called Chamber REST. They’re all basically kind of variations on a theme.
Graham: Yeah, and so you’ll sometimes hear Chamber REST in distinction with flotation REST, or float REST, is kind of usually how it’s described.
Ashkahn: Yeah, and dry REST I guess.
Graham: Yeah. Which is kind of like yeah, almost dry float rest I guess is kind of-
Ashkahn: Or like very small Chamber REST.
Graham: Sure. Yeah, but yeah, mainly Chamber REST and flotation REST are kind of two distinctive things. There are even some studies that kind of cross over between both of them, which is kind of cool. Chamber REST some, or back in the day, the research at some point I feel like, kind of transitioned from being mostly Chamber REST studies coming out to being mostly flotation REST studies coming out.
Ashkahn: Yeah, so you may have come across those crazy pictures of like a guy with his arm in cardboard tubes lying on a bed that are grainy and from the ’60s.
Graham: Its in our About Float Tanks Guide too, so if you go and Google just, about float tanks guide, and download that from the website, you can see some cool old photos of REST history. The cardboard guy.
Ashkahn: The basic concept is the same idea of trying to remove all sensory stimulation from someone, so completely dark, completely quiet, and even trying to remove physical stimulation by wrapping peoples bodies in things to not allow them to even feel their own body making contact with itself. There was no water, or salt, or anything like that. You’d get into a whole room and this room would be made to be quiet and dark, and you’d put-
Graham: In a pretty small room. Like-
Ashkahn: Pretty small room. Not huge. There’d be a bed in there-
Graham: Yeah, and people would spend most of their time laying down.
Ashkahn: Probably a bathroom. Yeah, I think like a desk or something for you to sit on sometimes. Yes, the ways that people would have stuff wrapped around their body varied. It ranges from those crazy literally cardboard tubes with cotton around your fingers and arms and stuff like that, to sometimes I think people weren’t wrapped in anything at all.
Graham: Or as I like to call them, my usual pajamas.
Ashkahn: It was just about being by themselves and in the room. Certainly the modern Chamber REST stuff, I don’t think involves wrapping peoples bodies in anything. I think it’s just a dark, quiet study.
Graham: Yeah, they were really trying to get to that point of neutral feeling but without going the water route, like the water, air, temperature route as much.
Ashkahn: This stuff, some of this research was from before wet flotation even existed, I think.
Ashkahn: Back in the day. This is the stuff that’s kind of like, weirdly mixed in sometimes with that MK-ULTRA and like, government research, and “brainwashing” sort of stuff. When you hear about this kind of like overlap of sensory deprivation and things like that. Sometimes it’s not. Sometimes they’re talking about weird, crazy, like playing insane white noise at people for hours at a time.
Graham: It’s a good distinction too. That stuff is usually labeled as sensory deprivation research which is, yeah, same thing, it’s on our research list if you Google the research list, flotation research list, it’ll turn it up. Yeah, same thing on there it actually goes back to even the early days of the general published, you know, some of it’s behind governmental walls and stuff like that so you can’t get at it, but at least published early sensory deprivation research predates even the first float tank that John Lilly invented.
Ashkahn: Then there was a transition you know, there was a separate kind of amount of this Chamber REST research that was being done that was not associated with brainwashing or any of that sort of stuff, and you know at the time, got a really bad rap for even just the perception of its association. I think the researchers back in the day had a very difficult time with public perception with this while they were doing things that were showing great results and helping people.
Some of the earliest research and some of the studies that you think are about floating, actually are about Chamber REST. Like you gotta kind of look at them. Like the studies about helping people quit smoking were Chamber REST studies.
Graham: One other big thing too, which is important to note as we’re kind of getting into talking about the studies too, is just length of time that people spend in these devices. You know, so, a typical float is 60, 90 minutes. Typical research time in a Chamber REST kind of, whatever it is, not cell, but Chamber REST study-
Graham: Yeah, Chamber REST chamber, would be around 24 hours was the usual length that they’d be in there and certainly rarely less than 12 hours or something like that. So we’re talking much longer term exposure to that environment.
Ashkahn: You know, some of the results they had successful data from like smoking cessation and Chamber REST, they couldn’t replicate in float tanks but you know again, that, to me at least, I think our opinion is that time is a big factor there. Like, having someone 24 hours in one of those and then throwing them for one hour into a float tank and not seeing the same results across some of the things feels a little-
Graham: Yeah, it seems like kind of not a fair-
Ashkahn: It just seems like a huge variable.
Graham: A fair test you know.
Ashkahn: But you know, there was a lot of that. Like there was Chamber REST research facilities set up at a couple universities back in the day, and then for a long time there really wasn’t anything, you know? There wasn’t Chamber REST going on for many, many years until recently when, and somehow in the Czech Republic, this popped back up as a thing. Like an actual Chamber REST facility opened there and it started becoming really popular. I think like some celebrity there made it famous and did it, and spread it, and now there’s like these Chamber REST centers.
Floating is not a huge thing there yet but there’s these Chamber REST facilities that are popping up where people book these retreats to go be in them for two to three weeks, or a month, or you know, much longer periods of time. They’re in there, and there is a little desk, and they have food brought to them, and there’s a bed, and a bathroom, and all that sort of stuff. They’ll be in there for weeks at a time and these places get booked up for months ahead of time with these Chamber REST facilities. They’re starting to do some new Chamber REST research out of there too.
Graham: Don’t they call it something else too?
Ashkahn: They call it dark therapy? Darkness therapy?
Graham: Yeah, yeah. Yeah, so while there’s this big flotation or you know, flotation REST kind of resurgence that’s going on the US, and Canada, and Australia, over there in the Czech Republic, Chamber REST is on the rise. It’s crazy.
Ashkahn: There’s a conference. One of the main researchers from there came and spoke at the conference a couple years ago. His name is Marek Malus, it’s spelled, M-A-R-E-K M-A-L-U-S, so you can find that conference video and-
Graham: Yeah, and we’ll link it in the show notes too.
Ashkahn: And if you want to learn more about what’s going on over there in the Czech Republic, and the research they’re doing, and stuff like that. Outside of that I don’t know of any specifically Chamber REST stuff that’s happening in the US or, I don’t know of any facilities really in the US.
Graham: Yeah, so if you know of anything send it in, but yeah, also as far as I’m aware it’s even as of the, kind of going into the late ’80s and ’90s-
Graham: It was very much like not happening as much, you know?
Ashkahn: Uh-huh. Then there’s dry flotation which is basically kind of like a float tank, it’s the same general size as a float tank and the concepts of lightproof, soundproof, all that’s the same across all these. Basically the difference is the salt water is in a giant bladder, so it’s kind of like a water bed, except it’s much looser so you really sink into it in the same way that you would sink into water. There’s still salt water in there. Apparently they tried it with normal water and you would hit the bottom too easily, of the device, so they had to-
Graham: Yeah, salt water actually the buoyancy still kind of does the same thing even contained in a bladder which still doesn’t quite make sense to my brain, the physics of how that works, but yeah, I guess that’s what’s going on.
Ashkahn: The salt water, it’s heated. The devices are, the dry flotation tanks are soundproof and you put them in a lightproof room and stuff like that. It’s pretty much like floating except there’s a membrane between you and the liquid. It’s just a little, I guess like, easier to get in and out of. You don’t have to shower and deal with all that sort of stuff.
Graham: Yeah, and then there’s some studies on that too which you can look up.
Graham: Mostly run by Arreed Barabasz.
Graham: Is the researcher.
Ashkahn: Yeah, he’s had a lab set up at the University that he works for in Pullman Washington, for years.
Ashkahn: Decades. Yeah, quick little side note here, we happen to own one of these.
Ashkahn: Arreed really, he was retiring and closing his lab down and he’s had this research dry tank in there for decades and he was trying to find something to do with it and he talked us into buying it off of him even though we have no idea what to do with it or, or where to set it up. If you’re listening to this and you want to buy a dry tank, please get in touch with us.
Graham: Yeah, reach out. We’ll cut you a good deal on it.
Ashkahn: It’s a really nice, very nice model. It seems very fancy.
Graham: The wood is cured with this lemon oil.
Ashkahn: Lemon oil. It’s-
Graham: It is actually really nice. It is really nice.
Ashkahn: Man, it is nuts man. There’s sand. There’s wood paneling that makes this whole thing and the wood is filled with sand as an insulator.
Graham: Oh my god, it was so heavy to move.
Ashkahn: Yeah, I mean this was an insane thing we had to go deconstruct.
Graham: The cool thing that came as a result of this though, was that we got to go out to Pullman to actually help Arreed tear down his lab. Which means we not only got to see this dry tank set up in the original lab where the research is being run, but he still had a Chamber REST room which-
Ashkahn: Just casually. Like, down the hall. He just mentioned to us, he’s like, “Oh yeah, like the Chamber REST room down there,” and I was like, “Wait, say that again? Like you still have a Chamber REST room?” He’s like, “Yeah it’s just been there for all these years.” We go and look at it and like legit-
Graham: It’s got the bed in it.
Ashkahn: Yeah, the bed-
Graham: It still had like the blackout goggles and intercom-
Ashkahn: It was nuts.
Graham: Which I convinced him to give me so I also have an intercom for one of the original Chamber REST research if I’m not getting rid of that on there, so. I’ll throw it in with the dry tank if you guys decide that you want to make a bid on that one.
Ashkahn: Yeah, but I mean they did some really interesting stuff with it. He was telling us about a study he ran in the Chamber REST room where they were trying to see if it could curb addiction of foods. They got other professors in the university to go and like they had someone who had just like a weakness for wine and chocolate. This professor, they had them go into the room and they just fed them through the wall, supplies of wine and chocolate the entire time to see if just that overabundance of it and the environment made them just sick of it. It did. They were like, “Okay,” and they didn’t for a long time. Definitely did not consume as much of it. So-
Graham: It’s pretty cool.
Ashkahn: Interesting stuff they’ve done back in the day. I think Arreed even went down to Antarctica to do some of this research. He did like isolation research down in Antarctica along the same vein as this sort of idea of Chamber REST. Like, taking people and putting them into isolation in a part of the world that was extremely isolated and ran research on it.
Graham: He talks a little bit about that too I think in his conference talk that he gave.
Graham: Specifically the Antarctica stuff too, so yeah. If you’re interested in hearing it from his mouth, he’s just a real cool guy too.
Graham: It’s well worth just watching his talk for his crazy stories.
Ashkahn: Yeah, so more than anything, when you’re looking into float research, pay attention. It’s easy to glance over when you don’t know that there’s these like three separate methods really, of research that have been done over the years. You’ll be surprised to find that a lot of research from the ’80s and ’70s, when you look at it you’re like, “Oh, this was in a dry tank,” or, “Oh, this was like, Chamber REST.” When you go back to that sort of era of research, it’s all over the place. It’s almost like a third, a third, a third. The float research didn’t even start until Tom Fine and John Turner started doing it in like, the very end of the ’70s or early ’80s or something like that.
Graham: Yeah, I think that, that’d be the earliest float research, yeah.
Ashkahn: There was years before that of research where that wet float tanks were not even a part of it. It was all just dry tanks and Chamber REST and mostly Chamber REST for that beginning part. A good thing to keep an eye out for.
Graham: Another reason to go check out the research list if you haven’t recently, is that as of 2018, we actually have another column in there that labels all of the studies for whether they were Chamber REST, dry REST, float REST, sensory deprivation, or some combination of those.
Graham: So it’s really easy to just kind of sort and actually get a sense for what research was going on and for what time, and stuff like that. Which is actually probably my favorite change that we’ve made to that.
Ashkahn: That’s the research list on our, for some context, sometimes we’re bad at giving context about stuff like this, but yeah-
Graham: Yeah, that’s true. We just sort of assume that everyone lives-
Ashkahn: at floattanksolutions.com we have a full list of scientific research that is broken down in a spreadsheet across.
Graham: I’m Graham.
Ashkahn: Yeah. You’re listening to the Daily Solutions Podcast.
Graham: So that’s what Chamber REST is.
Graham: It’s pretty cool.
Ashkahn: Yeah, it is pretty cool. Definitely a fun thing to dig into some day.
Graham: If you have your own questions that you want us to answer, go to floattanksolutions.com/podcast and ship them on over.
Ashkahn: That’s right, they’ll ship right over to us and we’ll answer them.
Graham: As we do with all ships.
Ashkahn: Yeah. All right. Talk to you tomorrow.
Graham: By everyone.
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