Salt and Darkness: Benefits of Sensory Deprivation

A sensory deprivation tank. Photo by Galen Crout via Unsplash.

When was the last time you just let yourself go? Not in the “I’m-eating-McDonalds-three-times-a-day-and-you-cant-stop-me-mom” way, but in a rest-and-relaxation way? From reading a book or binging “Better Call Saul,” there are a million ways to relax. However, these carry risks like procrastination or overstimulating the brain to the point that everything else seems dull and boring. When was the last time you just turned off? If you struggle with the issues listed here and can’t answer the last question, then on the next mental health day or weekend before finals, I highly recommend giving a sensory deprivation (aka float therapy) spa a try.

If the phrase sensory deprivation sounds scary, rest assured the experience is not. The method for float therapy is this: you are in a tank, essentially a large Jacuzzi shaped like a bathtub. The water is heated up to exactly the temperature of the human body, 98 degrees Fahrenheit, and then packed with Epsom salts to the point where the human body naturally floats on the surface. The tub you’re in is completely enclosed with soundproof walls and is pitch dark. Some spas are better than others and can give you accessories in the tank such as a starry ceiling, lights in the tub and even a personal music button.

The benefit of this tank is that it completely turns off all the senses in the human body. It’s impossible to describe exactly what it feels like, but ask anyone who has ever done a float and they’ll tell you the exact same thing. Your eyes and ears can’t pick anything up and your sense of touch blends in with the water bringing you to the point where you can barely tell when your body ends and the water begins. The Epsom salts block any and all scents. This allows your entire body to shut off and allows your body to relax. It is as if the essence of pure relaxation pulses through your body and melts the stress away.

The benefits of floatation therapy are numerous, and I believe everyone could benefit from trying it. It has been proven to help reduce anxiety, depression and provide sleep relief. Physically, it can relieve muscle tension and joint pain, helping athletes recover after a grueling workout. 

Glen Stokoe, owner of local float spa, “Float North County,” addressed the benefits of floatation therapy. 

“A few things naturally happen in the tank,” Stokoe explained. “Your blood pressure, heart rate, circulatory system, cortisol all start to go down so that you can enter a state of pure relaxation.”

When asked about the future of flotation therapy, he sounded optimistic. Stokoe said, “There are studies being done by places such as Laureate Institute for Brain Research on the topic, and they’re coming out with many positive results on the effects of Sensory Deprivation, so much that the only way is up.”

There are a few downsides to the experience, the main factor being cost. A float at Float North County will set you back anywhere from $69 for a single float, to $165 for three. However, I feel they are a worthy investment, even if you just do two a month.

A tip I have as a veteran floater is to avoid caffeine the day of your float. However, I recommend drinking some chamomile tea to help calm your nerves. In addition, always use the earplugs given to you unless you like having itchy, scratchy ears for the rest of the day. Finally, don’t stress too much if your first float doesn’t go well; it takes a while for your body to really get used to it.

At the end of the day, floatation therapy can give you a solid reset of whatever has been plaguing you.

By: Caleb Leasure