90 Minutes in a Sensory Deprivation Tank

When I first heard about float tanks I thought it just sounded like a relaxing thing to do on a Sunday afternoon. However, once I started reading more about it I realized that it would be an unique experience.

A float tank is essentially an isolation or sensory depravation tank. All sound and light is completely omitted and you have no concept of the passage of time. The tank is filled with approximately 1000 lbs of water and epsom salt. The density of the salt water allows you to float above the water without touching the tank, a bit like the Dead Sea. The water and air temperature are the same as your body temperature so you cannot perceive where your body ends and your surroundings begin.

This weekend I went to Nashville Float & Massage to submerge myself in the darkness for 90 minutes. When I got there I had a private room with a shower and a Tardis-like float tank. It’s bigger on the inside. I took a shower, turned off the lights, and then hopped in the tank and shut the door behind me.

Float Tank

This is what it looked like once I got inside and shut the door:

Inside Float Tank

There was about a foot of water in the tank. I didn’t expect that to be enough to keep me afloat (I usually sink like a stone), but it was. The tank was surprisingly roomy. I was able to fully reach my arms above my head to stretch my neck and back without touching the sides of the tank. The water felt thick and viscous and clung to my skin. I was expecting to be cold in there, but the air and water were just the right temperature to keep me happy.

My brain spent some time trying to make sense of where I was. I had no sensory cues about my surroundings. There was no light and the only sounds were my breath and heartbeat. It felt like I was floating in circles, but I knew that couldn’t be the case.

The salt water lets you float with the feeling of 85-90% of gravity removed. You are lying there completely unsupported. At first, my neck and back hurt (as they often do), but after a while everything started to loosen up and relax.

Float OnIt was nice to have 90 minutes to escape from the world. No phone. No internet. No emails. No stress. While I wasn’t able to completely turn off my brain, I was able to work through a few things that had been on my mind and bothering me. Granted, you can work through life’s problems at any time . . .  but how often do we really give ourselves that time? Float tanks reportedly have a variety of health benefits, but the most interesting effect is that it apparently can alter your brain waves. In fact, many people use float tanks as a form of meditation.

When my time was up, I got out of the tank and showered to get all of the salt off of me. It took a few tries to get all of the salt out of my hair. Afterwards, I felt completely relaxed and euphoric. I spent some time chatting with Mark and Amy (the owners) and sipping delicious cinnamon tea. Once I got home I passed out and took a lovely mid-day nap. (I had the same reaction to my first time doing acupuncture and fire cupping).

If you have one in your area, I definitely recommend giving a float tank a try.

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25 thoughts on “90 Minutes in a Sensory Deprivation Tank

  1. Hey :)

    Thanks for this, really interesting. I’ve really wanted to experience a flotation tank for a lonnnng time, but never quite gotten around to doing it. This may just be just the nudge I need.! :)

    Cheers, Mike.

  2. […] 90 Minutes in a Sensory Deprivation Tank […]

  3. Mark says:

    Sara, So glad you came and enjoyed the experience! It was great meeting you and I love the post! Please come back soon. Mark

  4. mandrake9 says:

    Well, you’ve certainly destroyed all my interest in float tanks, but maybe saved me some money, so thanks. No hallucinating? No interesting brain reactions at all? Sigh. I am totally disillusioned.

    • Misheal Crocker says:

      Some people do get the interesting brain reactions Mandrake9. I had a friend that heard music the whole time. I’ve seen lights playing. As Mark and Amy have said it take about 3 floats for your body to really adapt to it. It really is worth a try everyone reacts differently to floating.

  5. ChicagoMike says:

    We have one of these in Chicago, SpaceTime Tanks on North Lincoln Avenue; the first time I floated, I had auditory hallucinations and a profound sense of calm. It was very cool and the people there are very nice. The effect it has on your joints, too, is really great – with no gravity on your bones, you can really achieve a high state of relaxation.

  6. Jason W. says:

    Okay – I’ll be that guy and ask it…is the water changed/filtered for each person? I’m cool with public pools and even the occasional hot tub at a friend’s house. But the knowledge that those spaces, even chlorinated, contain a measure of things we’d all rather not think on leaves me hesitant. So being in a small space where the water barely moves using the same wet as one or two or many others before me kinda spoils the idea for me. I understand you shower first and after. That’s helpful. And I’m near Nashville and would love to take the wife and both of us try this. We’ll even give Mark above a tip. But with this caveat – how is the water treated?

    • According to their site, the water is filtered 3 times and sanitized between guests. Apparently, Metro was very involved with making sure they were up to code when they opened. We talked a bit about it while I was there, but I can’t remember all of the details.

      They do massages there too. You guys should make a day of it!

    • The salt content of the water is so high that it is not at all a hospitable environment for bacteria. They also sanitize the water with special UV lights. There’s more info about the process on their website, I think. There’s also the fact that everyone is required to shower before getting in the water.

    • Amy says:

      Hi! Amy from Nashville Float and Massage, here. If you were to compare pool/hottub water to float tank water in a lab – the pool water would make you never want to swim again. The float tank water, however, would make you happy :-) We spent 16 months working out regulations with metro-nashville public health and our tanks are considered “swimming pools” and treated as such as far as frequent inspections. For more information, you can check out this blog post regarding why our water is so clean: http://nashvillefloatandmassage.com/blog/faq-how-often-do-you-change-the-solution-in-the-tank

      We are always open to more questions! Feel free to contact us any time.

  7. zastros says:

    I remember an article in an early ’70′s ‘Popular Mechanics’ on the same subject, but the author was a little less positive about the experience. The title, as I recall, was “90 MINUTES IN HELL”

  8. This sounds great. However, before you start doing this more frequently, you need to remind yourself now: “I am not an extraterrestrial… I am not an extraterrestrial…”
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Simon_(1980_film)

  9. Mike Hall says:

    I vaguely remember a movie with a float tank and some mind altering drugs that culminated in a really bad ending.

    • GW says:

      Altered States. Probably 1978, saw it in college with some buddies. It turned into a catch phrase for when we were in altered states.

  10. I have been floating there twice now and can’t wait for my third. My second float was definitely even better than my first. I kind of go into a meditative state while in the tank. It’s so profoundly relaxing! I feel AMAZING for the rest of the day after a float.

  11. Amy says:

    Can I just say that I LOVE the Doctor Who reference. It made my heart happy!

  12. alohaleya says:

    i also just tried a 90 minute float for the first time – i had such a rough time turning off my brain though – it was actually quite stressful! though i didn’t think of myself as claustrophobic, i definitely had that come up during the float.
    that said, i felt incredibly relaxed for a couple days after that – and yes, the best sleep ever. i am going to give it another try – i think once i get past the fear/anxiety of a non-stop mind, the mental relaxation will be profound and amazing. thanks!

  13. gregharper17 says:

    I have always wanted to try this but I also think it might make me feel claustrophobic and panicky. Did you have any anxiety? Did you ever feel like you wanted to get out before your time was up?

    • No anxiety whatsoever. It was very relaxing. Towards the end I was ready to get out, but I think that was because it felt like it was “time” to get out, and not because I didn’t want to be in there anymore. Within a few minutes of feeling “ready” music began to play signaling my float was over.

  14. sk says:

    I came across your blog…such a great idea and so inspiring. Out of curiousity, have you been doing all these activities yourself or are you doing them with friends? like horseback riding, belly dancing, etc…it’s a bit intimidating to think about doing it on your own…just wondering your experience.

  15. […] One way: “The salt water lets you float with the feeling of 85-90% of gravity removed. You are lying there completely unsupported.” […]

  16. krw4freedom says:

    Good morning.
    Thanks for the feedback on the float tank experience. I’ve never tried it but might have to consider it.

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