What Is a Sensory Deprivation Tank?
Sensory deprivation is achieved through floating in a type of isolation tank that cuts off all sources of sensory experience: sound, sight, smell and touch. Another way floating is referred to in research studies is “Restricted Environmental Stimulation Technique,” or floating-REST.
Float tanks that are used for inducing sensory deprivation are filled with water that is almost the exact same temperature as the floater’s body, along with high amounts of Epsom salt (made from magnesium sulphate). The salts allow you to remain restfully floating at the water’s surface in complete silence and stillness. During the entire session, floaters generally feel light and peaceful, without needing to exert any effort to stay afloat.
As you’ll learn below, flotation-REST’s positive effects impact physiology, including lowering levels of cortisol, lowering blood pressure and promoting positive feelings of well-being. Studies show that increased mindfulness and decreased stress during float session reduce markers of bodily distress syndrome (BDS). Researchers often use the term “BDS” to describe negative physiological changes that take place when someone is under a lot of stress. These BDS signs are now tied to things like fibromyalgia symptoms, chronic fatigue syndrome and somatization disorder.Click here to Read More
How Does a Sensory Deprivation Tank Work?
Sensory deprivation tanks help induce a deep state of relaxation (also called a “relaxation response” or RR) by turning down the body’s “fight or flight” stress response. Evoking a natural relaxation response is considered an effective remedy for stress-related symptoms because it activates the parasympathetic nervous system, while at the same time decreasing activity of the sympathetic nervous system. Essentially, floating helps lower cortisol levels and calm the nervous system, bringing the immune and hormonal systems back into balance.
These beneficial effects help lower the heart rate, normalize blood pressure levels, restore a normal breathing rate (respiratory frequency) and normalize digestive functions.
In stressful or busy situations, we’re best able to induce a relaxation response by decreasing sensory input and bodily movements as much as possible. During a floating session, nearly all incoming stimuli and sensations are reduced or completely eliminated. There is no music playing, no guided meditation or directions and nothing else to hear besides your own breath. There are no lights — tanks are kept very dark. Floaters don’t even feel water on the skin because it’s heated to nearly exact skin temperature. Time in a sensory deprivation tank is similar to solo or guided meditation in that the mind tends to become very peaceful, allowing stress to melt away.