Sensory deprivation tanks, also known as isolation tanks or float (flotation) tanks, are sealed, single-person chambers filled with water and used to decrease stress and anxiety. Initially designed by scientists in the 1950s to study the effects of depriving the human mind of sensory information (vision, hearing, touch, taste, and olfactory senses), these flotation tanks are now used as an alternative to medicinal treatment in many locations throughout the world.
How it works
The water in these tanks is infused with epsom salt almost to the point of saturation, which has the effect of making the water considerably more dense than normal. The increased density of the water makes a human body much more buoyant, preventing sinking, turning over, and drowning even while sleeping. The water and air within the chamber is heated to body temperature, making it difficult for a person to sense that he or she is, in fact, floating in water and not in mid air. The chamber itself is sealed off from all light, and is designed to be soundproof. To aid in the deprivation of the senses, tanks are kept in quiet rooms, and earplugs are often utilized to cut back on the discomfort of high-salinity water in the ears. Typically, little to no clothing is worn for the duration of the flotation session, which also increases the sensory deprivation effect.
A sensory deprivation patient will schedule and pay for either a half-hour or hour-long session. When they arrive at the facility, they will disrobe, enter the tank; when the door to the chamber is closed, the patient will begin floating. Oftentimes, a heating ring is in place around the interior of the tank. This causes warmer water to rise, then sink again as it comes in contact with the patient’s body. The resulting current, plus the density of the epsom salt-infused water, keeps the patient in the center of the tank at all times, rather than floating to the edges every few minutes. In the past, chlorine was used to disinfect the water, but was undesirable due to the strong scent of chlorine bleach. Advances in filtration systems and ultraviolet sterilization techniques have rendered chlorine unnecessary.
How it effects you
When done correctly, in well-maintained equipment, a patient in a flotation tank will be almost completely deprived of all sensory information, and this sensation (or lack thereof) has been likened to floating in outer space. Obviously, this type of therapy is not for everyone. Those who suffer from claustrophobia will not find sensory deprivation therapy relaxing at all.
For those who are not claustrophobic, though, flotation therapy offers many physical, psychological, and (some claim) spiritual benefits. Those who suffer from chronic pain issues, including fibromyalgia, arthritis, tension headaches, muscle pain, swelling from injuries, and migraines, will find significant relief from their pain during and after flotation sessions. While floating in the sensory deprivation tank, muscles relax, any tense areas will experience almost immediate relief, and any swelling in joints or injuries will start to go down. The high salt content in the water also promotes magnesium production in the body, so those with magnesium deficiencies may find that they are no longer deficient.
What it can help
Patients suffering from psychological disorders or high-stress lifestyles will also enjoy the anxiety and stress-relieving effects of isolation tanks. Studies have shown that people diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder (again, depending on the person), major depressive disorder, and other stress/anxiety-related disorders reported improved symptoms after several flotation sessions. Lastly, many proponents of alternative medicine and spirit science promote the spiritual benefits gained from sensory deprivation therapy, as flotation tanks provide the best possible atmosphere for meditation, altered states of consciousness, and out-of-body experiences.
Sensory deprivation tanks are not covered by many insurance companies at present. However, as more positive scientific data concerning flotation therapy becomes available, it is likely that we will see this type of therapy become more widely accepted by the scientific and medical communities in the near future. The rejuvenating effects of flotation therapy are undeniable, and advocates of sensory deprivation as an alternative approach to medicinal treatment adamantly defend the health benefits of this increasingly popular therapeutic technology.
Those who have suffered from pain, stress, anxiety, or spiritual issues have found immeasurable relief in flotation therapy, and flotation centers are opening in more and more cities throughout the United States and elsewhere. A quick Google search will reveal flotation centers local to you, along with pricing and appointment scheduling information.
We have also been researching heavily into another natural remedy for stress, anxiety, pain, tension and many of the same ailments that sensory deprivation helps with… you can read about it HERE and it can be a powerful addition to sensory deprivation tank therapy.