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Sensory Deprivation: To Float Or Not To Float?

Float your stress and anxiety away. After all, it may be the exact remedy you have been vigorously scouring the earth for.

September 16, 2021
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Floating in a pool
Photo Credit: Camila Cordeiro | Unsplash

A dreamlike state washes over, and I forget, for an instance, the world still exists all around me. I can hear my heartbeat reverberating through the water as it pounds away in its flawless and sleepy rhythm; it's all I can hear, and it's the only thing reminding me that I am still alive. I slowly breathe in and out, each breath deeper than the one preceding it, swallowing up serenity and expelling any unsavory energy that periodically plagues my blissful spirit, a sort of psychological contest of catch and release resulting in a momentary aura of authentic harmony. It's as if I'm hovering through time and space, free and unbound from all tension and responsibility, drifting motionless, a static state of mind and body. Liberation.

Overview: What Is Float Therapy?

In its most fundamental aspect, float therapy aims to obtain a sensation of pure weightlessness - think floating through space without a thought or a care. It’s an environment devoid of the effects of gravity, sound, and light. This atmosphere is achieved by minimizing all conceivable forms of stimulation that could provoke your mind and body. To further maximize this effort, your physical body temperature corresponds with the air and the highly-dense saltwater in which you are floating. It creates a certain sense of oneness, and in my personal experience, after approximately fifteen minutes of floating, I could not decipher the dividing line between water and air - ambiance achieved!

What Are The Benefits?

There are many reported benefits of utilizing sensory deprivation therapy, ranging from cardiovascular health to anxiety reduction. Personally, all I was initially looking for was an hour out of my week to check out and regroup. Much to my delight, it turned out to be abundantly more than that. I found that my day-to-day stress levels were reduced after a session, and my generalized anxiety was far less noticeable. A study conducted in 2018 involving fifty participants also surmised that after only a single one-hour session, stress was drastically reduced and mood was noticeably enhanced in people clinically diagnosed with anxiety disorders. Furthermore, some more recent studies I’ve read have concluded that floating can help reduce chronic pain associated with headaches, muscle tension, and overall stiffness. So, not only does it cultivate mental health benefits, but it also promotes evident physical advantages.


How Does A Session Work?


The following is a broad outline of how your float session will most likely be carried out. However, this can certainly vary depending on individual facility protocols.

  • When you arrive at the facility, you will be greeted by a staff member and given a release waiver to read over and sign.

  • You enter the room. If it is your first time floating, or your first time at that particular spa, the staff will go over the session process before leaving you alone in the room.

  • You get fully undressed and take a shower before entering the tank.

  • When you are in, pull down the lid and lie down in the water to begin floating. Note: Some places will suggest you leave the cover open if you are sensitive or prone to any bouts of claustrophobia.

  • If for some reason, you turn out to be less buoyant than you had anticipated, the spa usually supplies foam support of some variety to help out. (similar to a mini pool noodle or a boogie board)

  • Relaxing music will begin the session and play for a few minutes to assist you in getting settled. Some tanks give you the option to change the color of the lights inside as well.

  • Enjoy your experience! Clear your mind and let the weightlessness take over. Everybody has a unique and individual experience, so I cannot tell you what yours will be from there on out. It is your session and your chance to let go of life for an hour.

  • After the session ends, you get out of the tank and shower again to rinse off the salt. That’s it! At least that is all there is to it from a logistical standpoint.

Things To Consider

Beforehand:

  • Avoid shaving the day of your session. The high salt content can irritate any cuts or sensitivities which might take away from your experience.

  • Women: If you end up menstruating during the time of your scheduled session, you will need to reschedule.

  • Try not to consume caffeine the day of your float and have something light to eat about an hour or so beforehand.


Afterward:

  • Drink plenty of water! The high salt content in the water can dehydrate you a bit, so rehydrating is recommended.

  • Reflect on your experience and evaluate whether or not it is something to schedule into your life regularly.

So, What Is The Price Tag?

Costs vary, but generally, you can expect somewhere in the ballpark of seventy-five dollars a session. If you have the financial means and floating becomes so integrated into your life that you cannot go another instant without having one on hand, getting a tank professionally installed in your home could run anywhere from ten to thirty thousand dollars. That does not include maintenance or operational costs either. It is undoubtedly a hefty price tag, so generally speaking, locating a spa or facility that promotes sensory deprivation therapy is the way to go, in my humble opinion.


There you have it, a personal experience and a miniature crash course on float therapy. The question remains and is now for you to answer on your own, to float or not to float? My vote - Float!


Disclaimer: I am not a medical professional. This article is based on personal experience and general research. Speak with your doctor beforehand to understand the full scope of sensory deprivation therapy.