Athletes are using it for recovery or focus, police officers are using to help them beat PTSD, spa goers are using it as a form of relaxation and others are using it to help with physical ailments like arthritis or mental issues like anxiety… it’s Floatation therapy.
Floatation therapy or sensory deprivation is a fast-growing treatment that is sweeping the globe.
What is Floatation therapy?
Floatation therapy involves floating in a foot or less of Epsom salt-rich water in an enclosed and soundproofed tank, designed to cut out all external stimuli. It is like floating in the Dead Sea as your body is completely buoyant.
This form of therapy was founded in 1954 when American neuroscientist John C Lilly designed the very first tank because he wanted to study the origins of consciousness by cutting off all noise and distraction. His research became quite controversial in the 1960s when he started researching the effects of sensory deprivation under the effects of LSD and Ketamine.
The first commercial float tanks were launched in the 1970s when doctors started to research the possible health benefits of this type of therapy. But it has been in recent years that Floatation therapy has become mainstream, being adopted by spas, health centers and athletes – all for very different needs.
In scientific terms, by restricting all of the senses it slows down the nervous system and switches the mind from its usual alpha or beta state and into theta hypnotic state. Some people have actually reported having hallucinations in a sensory deprivation tank and studies have been conducted to see how sensory deprivation can cause psychosis-like experiences.
Who uses Floatation therapy?
Today Floatation therapy or sensory deprivation is used by a wide range of different people. The New England Patriots American football team started using Floatation therapy to help them with recovery and mindset training, The team medics said the effects of this type of treatment had helped players to relax their minds completely by cutting out all external distractions and as a result it had helped them to achieve total relaxation of their bodies.
In the UK, ten police officers who were experiencing post traumatic stress disorder started using the technique to help with their recover. The pilot program was so successful the police force continued to offer the service to its officers. It is already used widely in Scandinavian countries for the treatment of PTSD.
Tennis player Novak Djokovic and US basketball player Steph Curry are all said to be using the technique to help relax the muscles and the mind very quickly after a match, training session or workout.
It has also started being used for immune health, cardiovascular health and for those with muscular illnesses or arthritis.
How to prepare for a Floatation therapy session
You can wear a swimming costume in a sensory deprivation tank, but experts recommend wearing nothing at all so there are no distractions to your floating experience.
Another top tip is not to shave or wax on the day of a therapy session as the salt water might agitate the skin.
You should only eat a light meal before a session and avoid stimulants like caffeine and alcohol so your experience is not inhibited or endangered.
How often should you use sensory deprivation therapy?
There are no side effects or disadvantages of using Floatation or sensory deprivation therapy regularly. It is basically a relaxing and rejuvenating experience for the body. Experts suggest two sessions a month can really help with mental health, physical health and immune system support. Though, it will depend what you are using the therapy for.
Is it safe?
Bacteria generally does not grow in highly salty water, but most countries have created strict float tank standards around cleaning, water maintenance and sanitation. It is recommended that the water should be changed every 1,000 floats or every six months.
In between these times, the tank is cleaned regularly, water is filtered, and the water is treated using UV light and bromine or chlorine. All tank users should shower before they use the tank.
Is it claustrophobic in the tank or could I get trapped?
This is a big fear with a lot of people. The tanks can all be opened and closed from the inside and they have internal alarm / call mechanisms if anyone feels ill or gets into trouble. There are lights inside all tanks too. The facilities that run the tanks have special measures in place to monitor the people using the tanks but without compromising their privacy. Whilst drowning in the very small amount of water is possible, it is highly unlikely as the salt water keeps you afloat, even if you fall asleep.
Taking drugs, alcohol or medication that has a sedative effect could be dangerous and increase the risk of drowning.
What to do after a Floatation therapy session
When you finish a sensory deprivation session, you are in such a state of relaxation that it is not wise to jump straight back into the craziness of daily life. It is recommended to carve out some extra time, around 15 to 30 minutes, to maximize the experience and ease yourself back into normal routine.
Meditation is a great way to transition your mind from the trance-like state that sensory deprivation therapy gives you into real life. It helps you to extend the period that you are feeling calm and restful.
Because your muscles are so relaxed after a session, this is a great time to do some stretching. It will allow your body to come round to being normal again and it will help with flexibility and post sports muscle recovery. Yoga would be a great activity to follow a Floatation therapy session.
Herbals teas or antioxidant rich drinks will help to flush and toxins out of the body that might have been created by the Floatation experience. Green tea is a good option or berry or green vegetable blended drinks as they are high in antioxidants.
How much does Floatation therapy cost?
A one hour Floatation therapy session could cost between $50 and $100, it just depends on the facility you use.