Article at a Glance
- Float tanks immerse the floater in a fully dark tank of heavily salted water in order to deprive all the senses.
- Floating sessions are good for one’s mental and physical well-being, but may not be suitable for people with certain medical or psychological conditions.
- Being prepared for a float tank experience makes it more enjoyable and relaxing.
Float tanks, sometimes known as sensory deprivation tanks, are becoming more and more popular. The idea of being deprived of one’s senses may seem unpleasant, but it actually has a number of benefits. However, it may not be suitable for everyone. In this article, let’s explore the pros and cons of float tanks, and help you decide if they’re right for you.
What are Float Tanks?
Float tanks are large tanks of salted water, where no light or sound can enter, in which people lie partially submerged. The water contains Epsom salt, which makes it easier for one to float. These tanks are also called sensory deprivation tanks because when properly submerged, the floater cannot see or hear anything, and they often don’t feel much sensation, due to the water temperature matching the floater’s body temperature. The floater will also not smell anything as the Epsom salts neutralize any odor in the air.
Benefits and Risks of Float Tanks
Float tanks provide a number of benefits to one’s well-being. Studies have shown that floating in a sensory deprivation tank has positive effects on mood, pain levels, muscle tension, creativity, depression, and anxiety [R]. These effects are long-term in some people, even if they don’t float often.
Sensory deprivation induces a deep state of relaxation in many people. Float tanks are said to be good for conditions such as anxiety, depression, muscle aches, and chronic pain, though the long-term effects have not been comprehensively studied [R]. Sessions in the tank can also be enjoyed by healthy people who wish to switch off from the world and reduce stress [R].
That being said, float tanks do have their risks. Saltwater going into one’s eyes or any small open wounds can be unpleasant. Saltwater can also enter the ears when the floater is submerged, and if the salt is not removed right after the float session, it can sediment inside and cause some discomfort, sometimes lasting for a week or more.
In addition, sensory deprivation can cause hallucinations in some people, and it may induce or worsen anxiety [R]. Also, since the magnesium from the Epsom salts may be absorbed through the skin, those who have kidney issues want to avoid float tanks to prevent disturbing their electrolyte levels [R].
Who Should Avoid Float Tanks
As alluded to above, certain people should avoid float tanks, including but not limited to:
- Those with kidney deficiencies, as they may not be able to tolerate the absorbed magnesium properly
- Those with wounds or cuts on their body
- Those with severe anxiety that can be triggered by claustrophobia or exposure to water
- Those with incontinence
- Those who have undergone chemotherapy/radiation recently
- Those with epilepsy/seizures
- Those with infectious diseases like gastroenteritis, or those that have had this type of disease in the last 2-3 weeks
- Pregnant women who may have gestational health issues
- Those with motion sickness/vertigo or tinnitus
- Those prone to ear infections, as salt can enter and sediment in your ear canal, causing irritation
- Those with sensitive skin, which may be irritated by the high concentration of Epsom salts
- Those who are under the influence of drugs/alcohol, as being under the influence can lead to drowning
This is just a brief guideline, and it is always wise to consult with your physician before going for a float session. It may also be helpful to open up to the staff at the floatation center or spa if you have any medical conditions, so they can let you know if it is unsuitable for you to undergo a session [R].
What Is the Float Experience Like?
The float tank experience starts with the pre-float process, which includes removing all clothing and any accessories worn on the body, followed by a shower. After the shower, it’s time to put in earplugs (a must to avoid saltwater ear), get into the tank, and close the door in order to seal out light and sound. Closing the door is optional; one may choose to leave it open if they are uncomfortable in an overly enclosed space.
After that, the floater slowly lays back and starts to float in the water. This should be relatively easy as salt water allows the floater to be more buoyant than in regular water. The floater’s face should remain above water, but ears should be submerged for the optimal sensory deprivation experience.
The floater continues to lay like this for the allocated time, which can be between 45 minutes and 2 hours. Sometimes, music is played at the beginning and end of the session to relax the floater and ease them in and out of the experience. Once the floater gets out of the tank, they need to shower once more before getting dressed again to leave.
Recommendations for Before and After a Float Session
Before a float session, it is best to take measures to calm one’s self and mentally prepare for the session. The calmer the person is and the more they understand the process, the less likely it is for them to panic or have an anxiety attack when they are in the tank.
After a float session, shower properly to remove all traces of the salt from the body. It is especially important to flush out the ears with fresh water after the floating session to avoid saltwater ear. Before you leave the session, the floatation center may offer a liquid solution to further flush out the ears; this liquid solution is usually vinegar, rubbing alcohol, or hydrogen peroxide dissolved in water. The solution functions to dissolve any salt sedimentation in the ear.
While the skin should not wrinkle due to the emollient effect of Epsom salts, it may still end up dry after the session, so it is recommended to apply lotion or moisturizer generously to rehydrate the skin.
The recent explosion in the popularity of float tanks is well-founded, as they have been found to be beneficial for physical and mental well-being. Float sessions may be worth a try for those who want to temporarily block out all the senses and the hustle and bustle of the external world. If this piqued your interest, check out the Prime directory for the location of a float tank center near you.
The information on this website has not been evaluated by the Food & Drug Administration or any other medical body. Information is provided for educational purposes. You should consult your doctor before acting on any content on this website.