I recently tried my first float tank and loved it so much, I wanted to share my experience.
I first heard about float tanks/sensory deprivation several years ago when a massage therapist recommended I try it (the reason being I couldn’t relax and she didn’t want to work with me anymore). I didn’t take her advice because the idea of floating in water and doing nothing for an hour wasn’t that appealing to me at the time.
In the years since, floating has been growing in popularity and become more mainstream. I’ve also become more relaxed and learned more about the health benefits of float tanks. So when someone at my gym recommended FloatOKC, I decided to give it a try.
What is a Float Tank?
There are a couple of different types of float tanks. The one I tried is like a giant clamshell with a lid you pull down over you.
The water is heated to skin temperature and is less than 16 inches deep. The 800-1,000 pounds of Epsom salt that’s been added to the water enables you to float like you would in the Dead Sea. An additional benefit is your skin also absorbs the magnesium from the salts.
When the session starts, the lights go off and you’re in complete darkness. Deprived of your senses (sensory deprivation), your brain gets a break from the stimuli of daily life and you can get into a deep meditative state.
Float Tank Benefits May Include
- Pain relief
- Enhanced mood and decreased symptoms of anxiety and depression (increased dopamine and endorphins)
- Normalized blood pressure
- Improved sleep
- Helps you get in a meditative state
- Increased creativity
- Accelerated recovery from jetlag
- Headache relief
- Less muscle soreness
- Improved immune function
While there isn’t a ton of research on float tanks to back up all these claims, there are a few studies, such as this one, where participants felt more relaxed, had less chronic pain, reduced symptoms of depression and anxiety, and slept better after their sleep tank session. Another study found float tank therapy “is an effective method for the treatment of stress-related pain” and participants experienced better quality sleep.
Several books have been written on float tanks, such as:
I read on one facility’s website that it normally takes three visits to notice more lasting benefits, which could get expensive at $50 a session. Many facilities offer a reduced monthly rate, though.
My Float Tank Visit
I did my first float session at FloatOKC in Edmond, OK, which is clean and modern and has a peaceful, spa-like atmosphere. I was able book my 60-minute appointment online and it was a simple process. My appointment was 7:30 pm, which is the last appointment of the day. They have 3 pods, so it’s easy to get the time you want.
When I checked in for my appointment, I was given a brief explanation of how it works and then was on my own.
First I took a shower, which is required to remove all the dirt and beauty products, using their special shampoo/soap.
There’s a place you can plug your phone into if you want to play your own music, but I opted not to as I wanted the total sensory deprivation experience.
I used the earplugs that were provided so water wouldn’t get in my ears.
When I got into the float tank and closed the door, I expected the water to be deeper, but the top of my body was not under water. I rested my head on the thin, donut-shaped headrest that’s provided, which helped, because at first my head felt heavy.
The lights automatically turned off after a couple of minutes and it was completely dark in the pod. I tried to be very still and not think about anything and just concentrated on my breathing; it took a couple of minutes to get used to it. It didn’t feel claustrophobic like I was worried it would. The time went by really fast, so I might’ve fallen asleep.
When the session was over, I took another shower to get all the salt off, and then used the provided hair styling tools and products so I wouldn’t have to go out in the cold with wet hair.
One thing I was initially worried about was what the salt might do to my highlighted hair, but my hair stylist didn’t think it would be a problem. My hair felt a bit straw like after my float, though, but it could’ve been from using the shampoo they provided. This article that has steps you can take, such as using a clarifying shampoo and protein-building conditioner and not taking hot showers, which can strip your color. You also don’t want to float too soon after coloring your hair.
If you want to hang around before or after your session, FloatOKC has a relaxation room with comfortable seating, books, and a large tea assortment.
I felt amazing afterwards–calm and relaxed but had more energy at the same time—like I was “in the flow.”
Before I finished writing this post, I went back for another float session a couple of days later and felt amazing afterwards–I could definitely get addicted!
If you want to go from stressed out to zen quickly, give floating a try!
Have you tried floating? Let me know what you thought in the comments.