Sensory deprivation tanks, aka float or floatation tanks, float pods or isolation tanks, are found at several Northern Arizona “float centers” and in some high-end homes across the country.
They are usually built for one person and are filled with a solution of water with Epsom salt, which keeps the client buoyant in the water as they float on their back. The float tank is placed in a darkened room isolated from noise and vibration, and the water is heated to match the user’s body temperature.
The client lies back, either wearing a swimsuit or in the nude, in what many compare to a womblike state. It simulates a “zero gravity” environment and allows every muscle in the body to relax while inducing a meditative state, making the user more aware of sensations inside their bodies.
Most sessions in a spa last 60 minutes. Users can lift the top open at any time during the session if they’re experiencing high anxiety or claustrophobia.
Float tanks have been in commercial use since the 1970s, but have grown in popularity in the last 10 years as users seek pain relief and temporary reduction of stress, anxiety and depression.
Professional athletes and fitness enthusiasts report relief of soreness after workouts or while injured after a float session, while those with chronic conditions such as arthritis, lower back pain, bursitis, tendinitis and psychosomatic pain also have benefited from the experience. The zero-gravity environment eliminates stress on joints and muscles, while the Epsom salt may reduce swelling and supply more magnesium to the body.
The conditions inside the tank help to suppress your sympathetic nervous system, the source of the “fight or flight” response. This puts many users in a calm mental state enhanced by the release of endorphins and other “feel-good” hormones. Users who are anxious or depressed report feeling happier and more optimistic during and after a session. It can be especially helpful for those who are highly anxious and have not been able to find relief through other methods.
Multiple smaller studies have reported users experiencing a boost in creative thinking after a session in a flotation tank, likely a result of floating in a relaxed state without distractions.
Floating can lead to higher awareness of the user’s heart and circulation, breathing and other bodily processes, and some report improvements in vision, hearing, touch and other senses. This is why some researchers and spas don’t use the term “sensory deprivation tank.”
Flotation tanks have been found to help those with insomnia, both with quality of sleep and the time spent sleeping.
Beauty and relaxation products are the heart and soul of any day spa, so look for only the best-quality lotions and potions that have worked for you, your skin and your hair — moisturizers, facial and hair masks, eye creams or masks, salt scrubs, body wraps and more. Also, find a minimalistic, attractive organizer you can keep an arm’s reach away.
Float tanks are safe to use for most people but aren’t recommended for those with unhealed wounds or skin irritation, contagious diseases, kidney disease or low blood pressure. Some experience hallucinations inside the tanks, which may or may not be pleasant, especially those with a higher tendency toward hallucination.