Imagine yourself floating in salt water that is literally supporting your weight with no fear of drowning or turning over. You wear a sleep mask; your ears are underwater so your hearing is reduced; your arms and legs are spread so you are completely unaware of any boundaries or limitations. Welcome to the world of sensory deprivation tanks that is taking the world by storm.
Inside The Tank
The tanks themselves are all usually plastic as well as glass reinforced resins. It’s coated on the inside with acrylic or medical stainless steel, which can’t be affected, by the high salt concentrations or disinfectants. All tanks are equipped with plastic plumbing facilities for changing of the water.
On the inside, it’s basically a soundproof tank filled with lukewarm water that’s only about 12 inches deep with a high magnesium sulphate (Epsom salt) content. Floating tanks are usually filled with 280 gallons of water and close to 900 pounds of Epsom salt, which makes for a super dense salt water content. A small amount of hydrogen peroxide is added as an antibacterial agent.
The temperature of the air and water are the same as your skin temperature, which allows you to fully relax. All body boundaries fade slowly as you extend your arms to the side. Your face is above the water, and even if you start to doze off, which is quite normal, the water’s high density will make it impossible for you to turn over.
It’s important to know that your ears will be submerged, so bringing your own ear plugs will come in handy, even though most centers and spas will provide you with a pair. The fact that your ears are underwater further enhances the whole experience.
If you have a fear of dark or small places, you’ll be pleased to know that recent chambers are big enough to stand and walk around in to give you a sense of control. In addition, most tanks have a light switch, which is easily accessible at arm’s length. Remember that you are the one in charge and things should go at your own pace.
It may take a while to get used to the fact that you’re not using your senses, but once you’re there, you’ll only feel complete relaxation and a freeing sense devoid of any restrictions. It promises head to toe rehabilitation, and the best thing is that the water does all the work for you.
The sensation of floating in itself can have great benefits on the body and mind. The tank is filled with water up to 25 cm and Epsom salt is added accordingly to help remove the effects of gravity in the body when they come in contact with each other. The salt also helps replenishes any lack of magnesium you may have without overloading your body with it.
A lack of this mineral may cause the following:
- Heart disease
- Joint pain
- Digestive ailments
- Chronic fatigue
- Stress-related disorders
How It All Started
First used by John C. Lilly in 1954 to test the effects of sensory deprivation. It was taken a step further in the 1970s by a team from the University of British Columbia who renamed it Restricted Environmental Stimulation Therapy, or REST for short. In the US and Sweden, this floating technique has been studied thoroughly with results showing a reduction in pain and stress. This intense relaxed state also been proven to lower blood pressure and maximize blood flow.
Since then, float tanks have been manufactured on a large scale for commercial use. There have been a big number of flotation centers popping up in various areas around the world and have been given many names, such as sensory deprivation tanks have been known by many others names, such as float tanks, floatation tanks, sensory deprivation chambers, isolation chambers, floatation chambers, REST tanks, float spas and sensory attenuation tanks.
It’s widely advertised as a form of alternative medicine with high health benefits.
How It’s Done
You enter a spa or sensory deprivation center. You’re asked to remove your shoes and sign a waiver. Then, you’re taken to a room where your tank is and a private shower. Inside the room, you’ll find a towel, earplugs, and a jar of Vaseline to cover up any small cuts you may have to avoid stinging.
You undress, shower to help get rid of oils, sweat or skin flakes. Then, put in your earplugs and enter the tank, which looks like something from the future, you lay back in the water and close the tank door. Most bathers opt for floating in the nude since most tank filters are made to handle only hair, skin flakes and bacteria. In addition, swimsuits may unknowingly throw your stress points off balance while floating.
Once you familiarize yourself with the fact that you’re lying in salt water without any external stimulations, you’ll find yourself quickly drifting away. You won’t find any problems staying in one place as you float because these tanks have a heating system to keep the temperature of the water constant.
The water goes around the edges of the tank then moves towards the center and under you before moving towards the edges again. This movement of the water will keep you centered and in place.
Soon after about 15 – 20 minutes, your theta waves start kicking in and you’ll enter a dream-like state in which you’re relaxed and your blood pressure starts dropping. Theta waves are associated with meditation and a deep state of relaxation, which makes them fundamental to your sleep cycle.
When you’re dreaming, this means you’ve reached the theta state. Finally and for the next hour, you let yourselves enter a high level of consciousness and simply float.
When your time is nearly over, you’ll hear music signaling the end of your float. Just remember when you’re ready to get out, ease into it gently. Don’t overwhelm your senses all at once to avoid disorientation. Wash yourself again to get rid of any Epsom residues on your skin and hair. Then, give your mind and body time to adjust, anywhere from 10 – 15 minutes should do the trick.
Floating can help decrease stress by lowering levels of cortisol allowing for an even deeper state of relaxation.
Once you’re relaxed, endorphins start coursing through your body allowing you to feel happy, thus opening the doors for creativity and the ultimate state of resetting all your buttons.
Here Are Some Of The Benefits:
- Relieves chronic pain and illnesses
- Helps release endorphins
- Improves skin tone
- Lowers blood pressure
- Concentration issues
- Relieves joint inflammations
- Reduces migraines
- Improves spinal issues
- Helps restore hormonal imbalances
- Increases magnesium absorption
- Improves quality of sleep
- Reduces symptoms of stress, depression and anxiety
- Improves athletic performance; helps athletes get a mental edge
- Enhances body’s abilities to heal
- Increases focus
- Harnesses creativity
- Higher levels of consciousness is reached
- Positively recharges your body
- Recovery from training fatigue
Tips For The Ultimate Floating Experience
- Make sure to eat at least 2 hours before using the float tank
- Make sure to shave the day before using the tank to avoid any stinging of the skin
- If you wear contacts, remove them before entering the tank
- If you have a big wound, it’s best to wait until it has fully healed before using a tank
- It’s not recommended for women to use the tank if they’re menstruating
- Pregnant women should wait until their second or third trimester before using the tank
- Air enters the tank through an oxygen circulation vent
- Try to avoid getting water into your eyes as much as you can
- It’s best not to have any physically or stress-inducing work after your float; just enjoy the rest of your day without any worries or restrictions