Sensory deprivation tanks

Also known as isolation tanks, floatation tanks and think tanks, a sensory deprivation tank is a lightless, soundproof tank. It contains very salty water which is kept at skin temperature, and is designed for you to float in a state of total sensory deprivation.

Although sensory deprivation tanks were originally developed in the 1950s for medical research purposes (which quickly devolved into experiments with psychotropic drugs and telepathic communication with dolphins), they have recently surged back into popularity as a tool for meditation and relaxation.

Many health spas inAustralianow offer access to ‘floatation therapy’ in a sensory deprivation tank. The idea is that you enter the large tank, lie on your back in the water and let yourself float. The water inside is very salty, which should allow almost anyone to float without expending any energy. The water is also set at skin temperature, so after a minute or two you shouldn’t be able to feel it at all. Once you are inside the lid is closed above you and you are left to float, free of any light or sound.

Don’t worry, the tanks are not locked in place, and they filter air in all the time, so you can’t get stuck inside – one of the biggest concerns raised by those considering a stint in a sensory deprivation tank for the first time.

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So why would use one? Normally your brain operates on beta or alpha brainwaves, but in the period just before falling asleep or after waking you experience theta brainwaves. Theta brainwaves are often thought to be when you are both at your most creative and have the highest capacity for learning. It takes about 40 minutes in a sensory deprivation tank for your brain to switch over to theta brainwaves, but once it does the theta state can last indefinitely without you losing consciousness. This is why sessions in a sensory deprivation tank typically last between one and one-and-a-half hours.

People use the tanks as a way to meditate, relax and even occasionally as a learning tool. After a while you will begin to see splashes of light, much like when you rub your eyes, and many people enjoy this ‘light-show’. When you are ready to get out, make sure you do so slowly and gently. Your body may feel quite heavy after such a long period of weightlessness, and your senses will be on overload with all the stimuli of the world flooding back in.

What do you think? Would you try a stint in a sensory deprivation tank? Does this sound relaxing to you, or is it the stuff of nightmares?