Detox Mondays | Float Your Stress Away In a Sensory Deprivation Tank

Photo: Tannis Toohey / Getty Images.

Sensory deprivation tanks are a fad with both eastern and western-minded individuals as a way to relax both their bodies and minds without any former training in meditation or using any prescription drugs or vitamins. A sensory deprivation tank is a sound-proof, light-proof room with a pool of Epsom salt heated to exactly 93.5 degrees with an air temperature of exactly 93.5 degrees, where you can float effortlessly without any external distraction. After a heavy weekend of partying, this can be just what you need to reset your body and mind for the week.

The Logic

The chamber is so dark that there is no difference in floating with your eyes open or closed. It’s so quiet that all you can hear is your breath as you float in the water. The water and air are the exact same temperature – skin temperature of 93.5 degrees Fahrenheit, which means you can float around without ever feeling cold. In terms of comfort, it doesn’t get any better than this. The high salt concentration in the water lets people up to 400 pounds float around comfortably without fear of sinking into the water. When you allow yourself in an environment like this for an extended period of time, you may experience “Flotation REST” – reduced environmental stimulation therapy – which triggers your physiological ability to relax, without the need to meditate, focus on your thoughts or take any sort of drug.

The Experience

IMG_1694When you arrive, the attendant will go over how the tank works and any rules you need to be aware of. From there, you’re welcomed into your personal room complete with a shower, mirror and deprivation chamber. Before entering the chamber, you take a shower and dry off entirely so you can enter the bath without anything on your skin. When you’re ready, you open the chamber door and float in a pitch-black and perfectly silent Epsom salt bath. You can stay in the chamber up to 2 hours.

The Results

IMG_1696We live stressed out lives. Maybe not everyone, but the majority of people in school or careers tend to be constantly over-stimulated, stressed out and hyper-aroused. This means our brain is either a. trying to keep us back at neutral or b. so used to our hyperactive state that it now contributes to the pattern, running dramatic stories and situations through our mind that stress out even further. It’s constantly in the news that stress takes a harmful toll on our bodies and minds, so by taking the time to literally “do nothing” and just float in a comfortable pool void of all external distraction, we are giving our brain a time out from its normal disturbances. Floating can reduce anxiety, improve sleep, physically relax the body and even let you hallucinate and have an out of body experience if you come often enough.

On your first time, you spend around 45 minutes trying to acclimate yourself in the new environment, and the rest of the time floating in bliss. I also found that my mind was really talkative when it doesn’t have those external distractions to keep it occupied, but the longer I floated in the tank, the more I felt my mind quiet, until I found what I can only assume to be a sense of pure contentment in the silence.

Tips Before You Try

Go in with an open mind! The chamber itself is pretty intimidating when you first see it, and when you start to float you might experience involuntary muscle twitches, worry or feelings of paranoia. That’s totally normal and they go away the longer you float. Know that you can get out of the tank whenever you want, and that you’re always in control of your experience. 

For an easier transition from distraction to deprivation, avoid drinking coffee or eating a big meal before you go. 

Personal Recommendation

I would recommend a sensory deprivation tank to anyone who has trouble turning off their mind, or anyone with a lot of stress or anxiety going on. I attended my first session at the Float Lab in Westwood, California. Sessions start at $41.