I spent 45 minutes in a sensory deprivation tank – here’s how it went
If you're interested in holistic treatments and are in need of some TLC, you might like flotation therapy – a process that sees you step into a sensory deprivation tank filled with salt water for 45-60 minutes of alone time. Intrigued? Here’s how I fared…
I won’t lie; I was not excited to try this. Although intrigued by the concept, several weeks had passed since the invite first arrived in my inbox and my enthusiasm had significantly waned since then.
A miscommunication two weeks prior meant that I had commuted an hour out to Flotation Therapy Ireland’s Malahide destination for an appointment that was actually scheduled for their new city centre venue – but a 10-minute walk from my house – so, I was already kind of determined to hate it if I’m honest.
I agreed to a rescheduled treatment nevertheless and when the day came, I donned my togs and headed down to Chancery Lane in Dublin 8 for my float.
What is flotation therapy?
If you don’t know what flotation therapy is, it involves stepping into an enclosed and isolated tank that cuts off all sensory experiences (sight, smell touch and sound) for a given period of time – usually 45-60 minutes. The tank is filled with body-temperature water and Epsom salts which allow you to float weightlessly on the water’s surface, not unlike a buoy.
Before you can get inside the tank, you’re asked to shower and wash your hair with shampoo (no conditioner). After that’s ticked off the list, it’s float time. A small boot-like door is the only way in but you can open and close this yourself (even from within the tank). Once you’re inside, you can choose to float in complete darkness or keep the lights on if you’re not quite so brave. I started with the lights on so I could acclimatise and then gradually worked up to pitch black. I don’t suffer from claustrophobia but there are different stages of adjustment, and it still took a bit of time before I felt fully comfortable inside.
Benefits of flotation therapy/sensory deprivation therapy range from better sleep to reduced anxiety, stress release, improved muscle recovery and an overall sense of calm and relaxation. It all sounds pretty great, no? What they don’t tell you is that you’ll probably spend most of your first float thinking about every embarrassing thing you’ve ever done, reliving every bad decision you’ve ever made and counting down the minutes until you can get out again… turns out, switching off ain’t as easy as it sounds.
A few things helped me ease into the experience;
- Use the wax earplugs provided. Dry your hands when you get out of the shower and take a few moments to roll them between your fingers before putting them in (this helps mould them to your ears)… it might seem like an unnecessary hassle but having started without them, I can tell you that the difference is huge. The tanks aren’t completely soundproof so that extra sound barrier is needed for you to really zone out.
- Move around. It may sound counterintuitive but I found that moving my body inside the tank helped me to relax. For example, if your neck feels like it’s lolling back uncomfortably, don’t be afraid to put your hands behind your head to support it.
- Turn the lights off. Being in complete darkness isn’t for everyone, but I’d recommend trying it if even momentarily.
- Focus on your breathing; a golden nugget of advice applicable both in and outside the tank. Being left alone with your thoughts for an extended period of time can be a little overwhelming but focusing on your breathwork helps to centre you and eliminate all the other nonsense. Once I started counting my breaths, everything else melted away and I actually started to enjoy my float much more.
At the end of your session, a pre-set alarm rings to let you know that your time is up, at which point you get out and shower again – this time washing your hair with shampoo and conditioner. The salt solution inside the tank makes your skin feel weirdly slimy so you’ll definitely want to lash on the body wash and moisturiser too. Everything is provided on site (from towels to toiletries to hairdryers) so all you really need to bring with you is a change of clothes and maybe a plastic bag to put your wet swimsuit in.
Admittedly, I was dreading the experience – being forced into what can only be described as a water-filled coffin to confront my thoughts is not my idea of fun – but the 45 minutes flew by and, despite a few initial hiccups when I thought my mind would never stop racing, I actually enjoyed the whole thing much more than expected. I felt nicely sleepy when I emerged and dare I say calmer and less anxious too? So, whilst I wouldn’t necessarily describe the experience as ‘fun’, in terms of stress relief – it worked.
A one-hour session at Flotation Therapy Ireland costs €65 or €50 for a midweek lunch special. You can find out more information about the benefits of sensory deprivation therapy on their website.
This article was originally published in November 2022.