Relax and sensory deprivation seem like two odd things to put together in a sentence, you’d think they were polar opposite until you’ve hopped into one of these tanks for an hour and had the most relaxed experience of your life.
So how can one be sensory deprived and experience true relaxation? Well, read on.
SO WHAT IS A SENSORY DEPRIVATION TANK?
Also known as a isolation tank, floatation tank or floatation chamber consisting of a light-free, sound-free environment filled with water and mass amounts of Epsom Salt (so you float!) kept at a particular temperature as to remove the sensation of touch.
To delve deeper, the following is a breakdown of how all senses are removed.
- Sight deprivation – completely void of light (trust me, it’s PITCH BLACK)
- Hearing deprivation – you’re given earplugs, and the chamber is generally sealed to block out all external sound (besides the water splashing sound when you get in)
- Vestibular/Gravitational deprivation – The water is so saturated with Epsom salts that you literally float no matter how much you weigh (Dead Sea anyone?)
- Touch deprivation – The water is kept at a temperature (roughly 35 degrees) equal to your skin, so after about 5-10 minutes or so you don’t actually realise you’re floating.
WHY DID I WANT TO FLOAT IN ONE OF THESE?
I heard about float tanks on various podcasts like The Tim Ferriss Show and Bengreenfield Fitness and discovered it had many benefits including stress reduction, anxiety relief, pain relief, sports recovery and a whole bunch more. I was completely sold and had to try it.
I’m also one to partake in things that are considered “woo-woo” as one I find it fascinating and two I do practice in the field of natural health.
WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF A SENSORY DEPRIVATION TANK?
Besides getting away from the world for a short while (which can be a benefit in itself) studies have shown sensory deprivation tanks to be beneficial for:
- Decreasing & managing stress.
- Decreasing anxiety & depression.
- Improving sleep quality, quantity and sleep on-set (falling asleep faster) – This is a fairly important one considering sleep deprivation has shown to be a huge contributor in many serious health issues including hypertension, heart disease and diabetes (1).
- Assist in maintaining a state of relaxation through day-to-day life.
- Increased feeling of mindfulness – which is the state of active, open attention to the present moment (and not dwelling on the past or future), which could also correlate back to a decrease in anxiety and stress (1).
- Pain relief – Magnesium is abundant in Epsom salts, which is shown to reduce muscle ache, inflammation and cramping (which is great for sports recovery) (2).
- Super soft skin (ooh la la).
I tell you that after I did my first float, I felt pretty damn relaxed. It’s no surprise though, considering the water is supersaturated with Epsom salts, which is abundant in magnesium; a mineral in charge of healthy nerve function, muscle contraction and relaxation (3).
SO HOW DOES IT ALL WORK? HOW WAS THE EXPERIENCE?
1. You’re taken to a room. De-robing time! (don’t worry they close the door) where you can begin to place your valuables in a safe area. At first, I thought it was a little odd, but I mean you have to float in the nude to do it (did I not mention this earlier? Whoops).
The session ends when you hear two knocks from the rear of the room.
2. Opening of the chamber door. Filled with supersaturated Epsom salt water. The chamber I was in roughly fit two people so it was a fairly big room, I can’t actually remember how deep it was, but probably not deeper than your knees.
3. Into the water and close the door. Pitch. Black. I didn’t think it could actually ever be that dark until I closed that door, it was like I had suddenly understood what true darkness felt like. I was a little worried if I could find the way out when it finished, but they had actually tied a rope onto the handle for this reason.
4. Lay back, and float. It’s as simple as that, put your arms out and begin to give in to the sensory deprivation that is the tank. At first, you will still feel the water and then it will suddenly melt away. The one thing I experienced initially was the sound of my heart-beat, my heart was going a million miles an hour because it was like (Oh crap, what if you never get out?!).
5. Start-float session. “I can still feel the water?” “What do I do now?” *heart-beat sounds* “why are my eyes closed it makes NO DIFFERENCE” *further heart-beat sounds*.
6. Mid-float session. This is where I began to give in to my mind, let go and relax, blood pressure regulated, at one point I swear I was drifting around and rotating yet in-fact I never rotated at all. There’s something about being in a space with zero sensory input that’s almost indescribable, you’re present in a state of consciousness in an environment you can’t feel, see or hear.
7. End-float session. Towards the end, I started to listen for knocks to get out, to the point my mind began making them up. Eventually, the knocks came and I panicked to find the door, don’t worry you find it quite easily.
8. Post-float session. Is this what true relaxation actually feels like? You’re given plenty of time after leaving to shower, wash off the salty residue the water may leave and put back on your clothes.
I think that about summarises my experience, it’s really something you just have to try out.
One thing to note before you try this is cut back on caffeine or any stimulant-based beverage prior to floating, this will make it a lot harder to relax.
WHERE CAN I FIND A SENSORY DEPRIVATION TANK?
Google “Sensory deprivation tank” and I can guarantee you’ll find one that’s local to you.
Alternatively you could use this website, mind you it’s a pretty horrible website to look at (hey at least I’m honest).
I recommend though, if you live locally in Brisbane, booking a float with Float HQ Brisbane, they are amazing (formerly Float Brisbane).
If you’re looking for new ways to improve your relaxation, stress management or you’re into woo-woo based therapy, I highly recommend this. They’re not that hard to find, I think I paid $75 for an hour session, but you can buy multiple sessions at a discounted rate at most places.
If I have missed anything or you’d like a further explanation of my experience in floating in a sensory deprivation tank, feel free to get in touch and ask me anything.
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1.Kjellgren, K. (2014). Beneficial effects of treatment with sensory isolation in flotation-tank as a preventive health-care intervention ? a randomized controlled pilot trial. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4219027/
2.Healthline – Epsom Salt Detox. (2017, March 7). Epsom Salt Detox: What Are the Benefits? Retrieved from https://www.healthline.com/health/epsom-salt-detox#Benefits2
3. Dechent, W. J. (2012, February). Magnesium basics. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4455825/