Catch the Drift: From Toledo’s History of Sensory Deprivation Research To Our First Float Spa, TrueREST

. June 27, 2017.

The Toledo-area has gotten its own Float Spa. Timothy Scott, a doctor, entrepreneur, and Toledoan, and Jamye Whaley have opened a TrueREST float spa at Levis Commons. Tim, a practicing doctor, and Jamye were was looking into business opportunities when a friend introduced Tim and Jamye to floating, and they ran with it.

What is floating?  It’s called REST, an acronym for Restricted Environmental-Stimulation Therapy, or Reduced Environmental-Stimulus Therapy. Kept afloat for 60 minutes or longer in a completely dark and quiet environment on body-temperature water  (buoyant due to 1,000 pounds of epsom-salts), this special environment allows you to relax— a lot.

Floating has become the hip new thing in the past few years. Time magazine recently ran a story and with sports stars like basketball’s Golden State Warrior Steph Curry promoting floating— he took an ESPN film crew with him to the Reboot float spa in San Francisco and talked it up. Curry floats between games.

Floatation spas have been popping up in cities all around the country: Ann Arbor has had the Neuro Fitness Wellness Center for over a year.

The Toledo-area now has its first float spa, TrueREST

The TrueREST float spa is a rather large space at Levis that offers six attractive float pods made by The Float Pod (another Arizona-based company), a comfortable entry “Oasis” room with a couch, an oxygen bar, and a tea and juice bar.


A 60-minute float will run $79, but your first float is only $59, with discounts available (visit TrueREST’s Facebook page and let them know), and members can float for only $59.  New floaters will be introduced to floating by watching a video in a separate room. One float pod room is wheelchair accessible, and veterans float for free on the 11th of every month.

“My first floating experience was not what we call ‘the magic float’,” says Tim, “I spent most of the hour trying to calm myself down. I always tell people, you have to learn how to float. I had to teach my body and my mind what to do in that float tank. By the end I finally had relaxed and started to let go, and time was up. The second float was much better, within 5-10 minutes I was calm, I was relaxed. For me, I prefer everything off except very low music, that allowed my brain to relax. The third float I would say is where I had my magic float, and everything clicked. I need to do this a lot.”

Local Floating History  

In 1980, the strange film Altered States made floating on salt-infused water in a dark tank almost famous. In the movie, a scientist takes hallucinogenic drugs and then floats, which causes him to transform while in the tank.

The movie may have been loosely based on the book “The Scientist,” by the neuroscientist John Lilly, who became known for his use of the drugs LSD and Ketamine while floating in an isolation tank the 1960s.

However, a couple years before that movie hit theaters, Toledo made it onto the floating map: two scientists at the then-Medical College of Ohio (today,  The University of Toledo Medical Center), Thomas Fine*, who then provided biofeedback therapy to people with stress-related disorders, and John Turner, PhD, a physiologist, obtained funding and bought a Samadhi flotation tank for MCO. They conducted some of the first research on how floating affects a person’s level of the stress hormone cortisol. “It was the strongest focus of our research,” said Mr. Fine, “it showed that with repeated floating we saw decreased cortisol levels, that were significantly lower than the cortisol levels of people who were in a [typical] relaxation environment.”

That is to say, “flotation becomes an excellent way for people to train their body to let go of stress,” Mr. Fine, now an Associate Professor in the Psychiatry Department at UTMC,  said.  

MCO maintained its flotation tank on-site for over 30 years, which it used occasionally to help people experiencing anxiety or chronic pain. In the late 1980s and early 90s, high school students from Maumee Valley Country Day School studied floating, making use of MCO’s float tank for research projects, during the school’s 6-week special Winterim period. Several volunteers floated, and students asked them questions about their experience (this writer was one of those volunteers).

An idea that keeps floating

In 2012, A Portland, Oregon-based float spa, Float On, created the Float Conference, where people come from around the world to talk about floating research, floatation tanks, and the floating business.

Ashkahn Jahromi, an owner of Float On, says it was around 2008 that flotation started resurging in popularity. “The Float Conference is definitely evidence of the resurgence of floating,” Mr. Jahromi said, “Our first conference in 2012 had 165 people in attendance. Our most recent one in 2016 had 700 people in attendance. That is due in large part to the explosion in the [flotation] industry that is taking place.” This year’s conference will be held August 12-13 in Portland.

Mr. Jahromi and some of his Float On colleagues recently undertook a Floatation tour of the United States.  “We came to Toledo to visit Thomas Fine and John Turner, and to see where their  float research took place at the university. Toledo is a piece of float history!”

“If you’re looking for something different to try, whether it be overall health and wellness, whether you have pain, stress, or you need to sleep better,” says Tim, “then floating is something you should definitely check out.”

5140 Chappel Dr. (at Levis Commons).

*Note: The writer is Thomas Fine’s son.