What’s the Deal With Sensory Deprivation Tanks?

By Jessica Hamlin 

This fast-paced world can bombard our senses. So many images, noises, texts, and notifications. Sometimes you just want to block it all out and float away.

Some people are doing just that in sensory deprivation tanks.

What is It?

Sensory deprivation tanks are popping up at wellness-focused spots called “float houses.” You usually get naked, shower off, and enter a small tank where you float in salty, body temperature water for an hour or so. The large amount of Epsom salt (often used in baths for muscle aches) keeps you afloat and the water is body temperature so that you don’t notice it after a while, Discover Magazine reports that some tanks are completely dark and some let you choose to have a little lighting (which isn’t total sensory deprivation, but it's still relaxing and can help ease you into it).

Why Are People Doing It?

Sensory deprivation therapy in water originated in the 1970s, but it's now experiencing a resurgence. Its original goal was to see what the mind does when it is left completely to itself.

Users’ experiences and reasons for “floating” vary—from feeling like you’re in a state of sleep to feeling like you’re on psychedelic drugs. Comedian and long-time “floater” Joe Rogan credits sensory deprivation tanks as the greatest tool to grow his mind.

Some people have experienced:

  • Relaxation
  • Heightened levels of introspection
  • Pain relief
  • Anxiety relief
  • Stress relief
  • Hallucinations
  • Feeling as if their mind has left their body

What You Should Know

Each person's experience is different. Some people freak out in sensory deprivation tanks, which is understandable when you’re left in total floating darkness with nothing but your thoughts.

However, if you’re claustrophobic, “floating” may not be a good idea. Tanks can vary in size, but most are small. Some places have an option to keep some lights on or keep the tank door open if you’re afraid of enclosed spaces.