What is a sensory deprivation tank (isolation tank)?
A sensory deprivation tank, also called an isolation tank or flotation tank, is used for restricted environmental stimulation therapy (REST). It is a dark, soundproof tank that is filled with a foot or less of salt water.
Flotation therapy has been around since 1954, when a man named John C. Lilly built the first-ever float tank at the National Institute of Mental Health in the Virgin Islands. His research took a controversial turn in the 1960s. That’s when he began experimenting with sensory deprivation while under the effects of LSD, a hallucinogenic, and ketamine, a fast-acting anesthetic that is known for its ability to sedate and create a trance-like state.
In the 1970s, commercial float tanks were created and began being studied for possible health benefits.
These days, finding a sensory deprivation tank is easy, with float centers and spas offering float therapy all over the world.
Their increase in popularity may be due in part to the scientific evidence. Studies suggest time spent floating in a sensory deprivation tank may have some benefits in healthy people, such as muscle relaxation, better sleep, decrease in pain, and decreased stress and anxiety.
Benefits of Floating Pods
- Reduces stress
- Speeds muscle recovery
- Reduces depression and anxiety
- Improves cardiovascular health
- Enhances creativity
- Reduces tension headaches
Does it improve athletic performance?
As expected I would be curious about the various effects of sensory deprivation tank therapy had on athletic performance are well documented. In order to maximize overall performance, an athlete must focus on both training and recovery. However, this period of rest after a training session is frequently overlooked, and over time, this may lead to overtraining and underperformance. It has been found effective in speeding up recovery after strenuous physical training by decreasing blood lactate in a study of 24 college students.
A 2016 study of 60 elite athletes also found it improved psychological recovery following intense training and competition.
Ultimately, while it sounded strange at first, float therapy ended up being a great way to recover and relax, and I definitely see myself going back for a second try.