The Sensory Deprivation Tank
"What would happen to my mind if I freed myself from physical stimuli?" Dr. John C Lilly - creator of the first float tank in the 50's
What Actually Is Sensory Deprivation?
Sensory deprivation is placing yourself in an environment (in this case, a pod) in which there's as little external stimuli as possible.
It's pitch black, hold your hand infront of your face and you won't see it, as the water inside the sensory deprivation tank is loaded with epsom salts in water that resembles body temperature your body effortlessly floats on top of the water... after a few minutes you'll feel like you're floating mid air.
Relaxation, meditation, recovery and creativity are a few of the reasons why different people preach and practise the art of 'floating'.
Benefits Of Floating In A Sensory Deprivation Tank
Being constantly in a reactive state, reacting to what we see and hear all day every day can become quite stressful over time, the sensory deprivation tank is the ultimate environment for relaxation.
There's nothing to see, nothing to hear and nothing to feel - you're in a pod with nothing except your mind for upwards of an hour... the only thing to do is let yourself go and relax.
There's a few different locations that I find my creativity at an all time high, one of which being aeroplanes, and the other being the sensory deprivation tank.
As I mentioned above, being in a state with absolutely no external stimuli allows for immense clarity of thought, this is why the float tank is quite often a regular experience for authors, artists, professors and entrepreneurs, it's the breeding ground of solutions, new ideas and innovative thinking.
Close Open Loops
Whether you realize it or not, all those projects you've started, ideas you've abandoned, promises you've made... these are all taking up space and are subcsonsciouslly being thought about in your mind all the time. The author of the popular productivity book, 'Get Things Done' refers to these as open loops. Open Loops are like unnecessary mental baggage, they weigh you down. In the sensory deprivation tank as you begin to enter the stage of nothingness your mind races through all of these things - you're able to 'close' these loops by deciding what you're going to pursue, what you're going to abandon and how you're going to move forward.
Something You've Never Experienced Before (Your Brain Without Input)
As sensory deprivation is making a comeback, there's more and more float tank locations popping up, it's something few people have experienced but everyone should try.
I'll detail my experience while floating further on in this article, but you've really got to experience it yourself to understand what it's truly like. Many may dismiss it as new age BS, but just like the epsom salt bath or the infrared sauna it's an easy, quick way to receive a plethora of health and relaxation benefits, however the tank unlike my other methods provides a very experience to go with it.
Recovery For Athletes
the floatation in a sensory deprivation pod is achieved via hundreds of pounds of epsom salts.
Epsom salts, containing magnesium are fantastic for muscle recovery - a reduction in delay onset muscle soreness, faster recovery times between workouts, reduction of water weight via reverse osmosis... every serious athlete should be utilizing epsom salts, be it via an epsom salt bath or a float pod.
Joe Rogan On Floating
"The sensory deprivation chamber has been the most important tool that I've ever used for developing my mind, for thinking, for evolving.
The tank is filled with water the water is heated to the same tempersture as your body and theres eight hundred pounds of salt in the water, so you just float there and relax, and because the water is the same temperature as your body you dont really feel it after a while.
It's like layers of an onion, when you first start doing the isolation tank you can only get a couple layers of the onion in, a couple skins loose, you cant really go to the core its too hard, its too hard to completely let go of who you are, but as you get beter at it, and as you get more and more comfortable with the experience you get better at actually letting go, really letting go, letting go from letting go, letting go from the feeling of letting go, letting go from that point, ok I've let go, no you havent let go more, and then you become gone, you disappear, while your disappearing this is what happens; you start thinking I cant believe I'm disappearing then your back again you got to start from square one, you got to let go and let go and let go and you got to get to the point where you literally completely relax.
Your body it gives you amazing energy, the tension release you have from a couple of hours in the tank is incredible you feel lighter, you feel like more oxygen is in your body, you feel like more vibrant and its just because you have somehow or another calmed the tension, its incredible!"
My Experience In A Sensory Deprivation Tank
To be honest I didn't have any big expectations going into the sensory deprivation tank, after reading about out of body experiences, hallucinations and the like I was skeptical.
The tank I have floated in, the Dream Pod has a lid that can be left open, music and LED lighting which by default slowly morphs between an array of colours... I normally leave the lid open, the lights on and the music playing for the first 5 - 10 minutes of my float before closing the lid, turning off the music and switching the light off - transcending into absoulute nothingless.
There's no other experience I can use to describe the feeling after 10 - 15 minutes in the float tank, your arms, legs, torso and neck are almost as if they are no longer there - it's just you and your mind in outer space.
Until you've been in one of these tanks you probably haven't heard dead silence before... the only sound being that of your heart beating, which in a dead silent place sounds incredibly loud should you choose to focus on it.
The relaxation, muscular recovery and creative thinking I've achieved while floating keeps me going back for more, although particularly in Australia with there being only a few locations to float, an often booked out list to get in a pod and the cost of floating due to both of these other factors it's something I'll continue to do semi-regularly, although not as often as I'd like.
If you haven't given it a try and where interested either before or after reading this article go ahead and give it a try!
Studies On Float Tanks & Sensory Deprivation
Don't believe the hype? Here's what science has to say about sensory deprivation...
A 1999 research study, during floatation there is an increase in the theta waves in our brain. Theta waves have been shown in other studies to be activated by meditation. They are also the brain waves active during REM sleep and the drowsiness immediately before and after sleeping.
As well as increasing positive theta brain waves, floating has been shown to reduce unwanted negative activity in the body. According to the same 1999 study, “Plasma and urinary cortisol, ACTH , aldosterone, renin activity, ephinephrine, heart rate, and blood pressure, all directly associated with stress, consistently decrease.”
A 2001 study found spending time in the floatation tank showed a strong ability to reduce severe pain, increase optimism, and decrease anxiety and depression. In addition, study participants fell asleep easier following floatation tank treatment and experienced a higher quality of sleep.
an analysis in 1997 of well over 1,000 descriptions of sensory deprivation indicated that more than 90% of subjects found it deeply relaxing.
In 2000, one such study found that volunteers’ visual cortexes became more active after less than an hour of visual deprivation.
. A small study of five university professors found that six 90-minute float sessions allowed them to generate more “creative” ideas, which coincided with a self-reported increase in free imagery and remote associations. Similarly, in a study with 40 university students, a single hour of flotation increased their scores on a standardized test used to measure creativity.