A sensory deprivation tank, also known as a float tank, is a large, sealable container or chamber filled with Epsom (magnesium sulfate) salt to a depth of about a foot.
What Is Float Therapy?
Float tanks are designed for restricted environment stimulation therapy (REST), also known as float therapy or flotation therapy. In this form of therapy, participants are cut off from outside sensations, including sound and sight, in order to help them relax.
Float tanks and float therapy were popular in the 70s and 80s, before declining due to the HIV scare. Now, they’re experiencing a revival, with float spas and clinics popping up in cities all over the world.
Who Invented The Sensory Deprivation Tank?
The sensory deprivation tank was invented in 1954 by Dr John Cunningham Lilly, a neuroscientist who wanted to explore consciousness. His invention, which he called the isolation tank, was inspired by his experiments with sensory deprivation at the National Institute of Mental Health.
Do Sensory Deprivation Tanks Go By Different Names?
Sensory deprivation tanks go by different names depending on region and industry. Some other names include their original name, isolation tanks, as well as float tank, flotation tank, and sensory attenuation tank.
Float Tank Benefits
A growing body of research is showing that sensory deprivation tanks have rather significant benefits for health. Studies have shown that float therapy can improve concentration and creativity. It can also reduce chronic anxiety and stress levels, and treats the symptoms associated with anxiety such as depression and insomnia.
Because it’s effective in reducing anxiety and stress, using a sensory deprivation tank may also promote better heart health. Constant anxiety and stress may induce hypertension and increase your risk of heart disease.
Are Float Tanks Clean?
Float tanks are filled with saltwater, where bacteria can’t grow. They’re also regularly cleaned and disinfected, and the saltwater used in the float tank is always filtered before it’s poured in.
Sensory deprivation tanks are maintained in accordance with government regulations for aquatic facilities. For example, in Western Australia, they are covered by the Code of Practice for the Design, Construction, Operation, Management and Maintenance of Aquatic Facilities.
Dangers Of Float Tanks
Sensory deprivation tanks aren’t without risk. Immersion in Epsom salt-infused water can cause skin irritation especially in people who are allergic to magnesium or the chlorine used to disinfect the water.
If you have any open wounds, you run the risk of infection if you enter a float tank. You should let them heal before you get in. It goes without saying that you shouldn’t enter a tank if you have an infectious disease, especially if it comes with diarrhea.
You should also avoid float tanks if you are taking substances like alcohol or sedative drugs, or if you have a condition that can impair you such as epilepsy. These may increase the risk of drowning.
What To Expect From A Session
When you arrive at a flotation therapy centre, you’ll first be asked if you’re at risk for any of the issues outlined above.
After you’re approved, you’ll take off all of your clothing and any accessories and jewellery you might be wearing. Then, you’ll take a shower to clean yourself before your session.
When it’s time for you to begin therapy, you slide into the tank, optionally putting on earplugs, and close the door. Lie down carefully; a properly designed tank will allow you to stretch without your hands or legs touching the ends. Music should start playing for a short time at the start of the session.
Because the tank’s water is filled with salt, you’ll be very buoyant and float easily on it, just as if you were in the Dead Sea. The average float session should last about an hour, during which you’ll be cut off from almost all external stimuli, just hearing the sound of your own breathing and the gentle lapping of the water.
After your session, you’ll exit the tank and shower again.
Float Tank Price
The average one-hour float therapy session can cost between $USD 50 and 100 ($AUD 71-142). Owning your own float tank can be pretty expensive, with models ranging from $USD 10,000 to 30,000 ($AUD 14,200 to 42,600).
Famous People That Use And Recommend Them
As float therapy gets more and more popular, celebrities have started recommending it as well.
One notable celeb is Jeff Bridges, who was actually a friend of Dr Lilly. Jeff was an early user of float tanks and in fact was one of Lilly’s test subjects when he was developing the therapy.
Another celebrity who uses float therapy is supermodel Elle MacPherson, who used float therapy as a form of relaxation and also to reap the skincare benefits of Epsom salt. She even owned her own float tank at some point!
A number of athletes also use float therapy to help heal injuries and stimulate their muscles. These include legendary NFL quarterback Tom Brady and his Patriots teammate Julian Edelman, as well as Manchester United football star Wayne Rooney.
How To Find A Float Tank Near You
Ready to try out float therapy? Spas and clinics are popping up in major cities all over Australia. Most of them cost about $70-80, and you can prepay for multiple sessions, which will be cheaper than buying sessions one at a time.
For Brisbane, check out The Float Space, which provides float tanks as well as a variety of other wellness therapies such as infrared sauna and massage therapy. Sessions here go for $79 for a one-hour float and $110 for a two-hour float.
In Perth, check out Salt Float Studio. The cost of a one-hour session is $79, and a 90-minute session goes for $99.
Sydney Float Centre claims to have the biggest and most advanced float tanks in Sydney. They’re a little more expensive at $89 for a session, but they also have monthly subscriptions that drive the price down.
Melbourne Float House offers a complete therapeutic experience, with float tanks, cryotherapy, infrared therapy, oxygen therapy, and much more. Their sessions cost $75 for a one-hour session and $99 for a two-hour session.
In Canberra, you can try Astral Float Studio, which was the first float centre in the city. Pricing starts at $75 per session.
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