A sensory deprivation tank is often described as a drug-free psychedelic experience that can heal and reset the mind, body, and spirit.
What is a Sensory Deprivation Tank?
Also known as a "float tank" or "floating" a sensory deprivation tank looks a lot like a time machine with a 6 to 8 inch deep hot tub inside that is heated to the exact temperature of your skin (98.6 degrees).
The water inside the sensory deprivation tank is mixed with hundreds of pounds of Epson Salt in order to make the body float on the surface as if weightless.
The reason they're called it a sensory deprivation tank is because floating in this environment removes all sensory inputs the brain uses to navigate the environment around us. That is, because the inside of the tank is pitch black, sound proof, and heated to 98.6 degrees, the brain has nothing to process.
Regular floaters and advocates like Joe Rogan describe the experience of a sensory deprivation tank as a psychedelic experience that puts your brain in the weird state between awake and sleep, causing mild hallucinations and a complete disassociation with time.
The escape from reality created by the sensory deprivation tank induces a deep state of relaxation that turns off the body's fight or flight response, creating a state of euphoria.
So, what are the Primary Benefits of Sensory Deprivation Tanks?
Dr. Dan Engle and his research is at the forefront of the science of float therapy and sensory deprivation tanks and has even appeared on the Joe Rogan Experience multiple times over the years to discuss the potential benefits of this amazing treatment protocol.
According to Dr. Engle's website, the benefits of sensory deprivation tanks and float therapy include, but are not limited to those listed below. If you would like to learn more about Dr. Engle's research, we highly suggest you visit his website here.
Benefits of Sensory Deprivation Tanks:
1. pain reduction: an increase in the body’s own endorphin production and theta state induction, thereby acting as a natural analgesic as well as assisting one to come off opiate medications with less difficulty.
2. weight management – the hypothalamic mediation of the metabolic switch resets to optimize metabolism over time
3. easier medication transition – likely by increasing oxygen and nutrient delivery to the subcortical brain structures and glands and optimizing endogenous endorphin levels and neurotransmitter modulation
4. anxiety reduction – the sensory deprived tank allows for less stimulus to the RAS (reticular activating center – the environmental scanning police), resulting in less cortical neural firing to the areas for fight or flight mode.
Overall this lowers the levels of circulating stress hormones (ACTH, cortisol, NE and E), as well as offering one the opportunity to improve self-regulation skills and ultimately, personal empowerment.
5. decreased blood pressure – through relaxation of the smooth muscles of the cardiovascular system
6. improved learning – one of the best Nootropic tools available (see the blog post on Nootropics for a download on the topic). Consistently demonstrated to increase IQ scores, visual concentration, memory storage and recall.
7. enhanced creativity – likely through left / right hemispheric synchrony and potentially via pineal gland activation.
8. increased sensory awareness after the session and “out of the tank” - The globally heightened senses can last for some up to days after a session. The RAS (environmental sensory scanner) comes back on line in the midst of residual induction of the theta brainwave state (relaxation and sense of timelessness). They combine uniquely to enhance perceptual abilities, both internally and externally, while maintaining presence and awareness. It’s like being stoned while staying crystal clear.
9. lasting sense of peace and well-being - the culmination of all the above mentioned effects, one of the most universally described phenomena by floaters and a summary statement for what many call the “Flow State.”
Common Questions and answers About on Sensory Deprivation Tanks
If you're interested in trying float therapy and experiencing the environment of a sensory deprivation tank for yourself, a simple Google search can help you find the nearest spa or float center.
Question #1: What is a normal sensory deprivation tank session like? Because you are naked, the typical session will begin with a short shower followed by your float session.
Once in the tank it can take some time getting used to the darkness and the silence, but it is quite peaceful. After about 20 mins or so you'll notice that it becomes hard to discern how long you have been in the tank or what your previous cares were.
Question #2: How long does a normal float session last? A typical float session lasts about 60 mins. You really wouldn't want to do anything shorter than that, as it can take up to 15 mins before your mind really starts to wander and relax.
Question #3: What are some tips to improve the float experience? We recommend that you do not drink too many fluids or stimulants like coffee before doing a float. You really don't want to interrupt yourself when you are in the middle of a session.
Another tip is to not go into the tank with an agenda. Go in with zero expectations and an open mind. If you like to meditate, do that until your mind starts to wander naturally. If you are religious, prayer is also incredible for calming the mind and then letting the tank take over.
Conclusion: The sensory deprivation tank and regular float therapy can provide the mind and body with an incredible reset and is being studied for additional benefits to those identified above.
Dr. Engle and other researchers are even studying how the combination of float therapy mixed with psychedelic drugs to enhance its therapeutic potential. Obviously, not something we are recommending, but just a cool side note for those interested in sensory deprivation tanks.
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Links and Resources
Dr. Dan Engle's site: http://fullspectrummedicine.com/floating-the-ultimate-ally/