On a whim, I tried my first sensory deprivation tank at Float Missoula a few days ago, and it was quite the experience. An hour without my senses and gravity led to some pretty crazy sights, sounds, and feelings.
I don’t claim to be a float therapy expert, but rather will recount my experience here in this review.
What Is a Sensory Deprivation Tank?
In the most basic sense, a sensory deprivation tank eliminates light, sound, gravity, and temperature for the purpose of eliciting deep states of mind and body relaxation.
- No Light: With the lights turned off in the room and the tank lid closed, it will be pitch black.
- No Sound: A soundproof design plus wax earplugs eliminates any and all external sounds.
- No Gravity: Mixing 1,000 lbs of salt with water creates a dense fluid where floating is effortless.
- No Temperature: Water is kept at a comfortable 93.5° F which is just above skin temperature.
One might use a float tank for a variety of reasons ranging from meditation and stress reduction to body and mind relaxation. As you know by now, this is achieved by eliminating and/or minimizing external stimulation.
What to Expect for Your First Float
Having only previously watched Ryan Trahan’s float tank video on YouTube, I didn’t know much about what to expect while floating for the first time.
Thankfully the folks at Float Missoula were very helpful. There was also a pre-float checklist on the wall which detailed everything you need to know.
After undressing, putting in my earplugs, quickly showering off, and covering a cut on my finger with vaseline, I shut off the room lights and entered the tank.
There are 2 switches in the tank: one for the light and one for white noise. I chose to turn them both off.
Floating Is Awesome!
After shutting the lid of the tank, I laid back and seemingly magically floated on top of the water. As someone who’s been swimming competitively since I was 6 years old, there was only one other occasion where I had a similar experience to this.
In June 2015, my family vacation ended in Salt Lake City. Before our flight, we visited the Antelope Island State Park on the Great Salt Lake where my sisters and I swam in the lake. Due to high levels of salt in the lake, we were also able to effortlessly float on the surface of the water.
Focus on the Breath
Back in the tank, I laid completely still until the ripples in the water settled down. I could prominently feel my heart beating for the first few minutes until I myself settled down.
The advice I was given before getting in the tank was to focus on my breath, and that I did. This actually really helped throughout the hour in the tank because your breath is virtually the only physical anchor you have to reality.
I noticed that deeper breathing caused my body to rise and fall in the water due to my lungs filling up to capacity. This caused a slight cooling and warming sensation on the perimeter of my body where it intersected with the water.
Every now and then I took a deep breath, but most of the time my breathing was shallow and relaxed.
What About Oxygen?
One other note about breathing was a recurring thought I had in the tank about oxygen levels. The air in the tank was not only warm, but because the lid was closed I was worried that the oxygen level was decreasing with every breath that I took.
My concern about suffocating or running out of air was eased when my research told me that although float tanks are soundproof and light proof, they are not airtight, so there is no chance of this happening.
Hearing Your Eyes
One of the most profound experiences I had in the tank was the ability to hear my eyes move. No joke. Let me explain.
Never in my life have I been in such a quiet environment. Wax ear plugs plus being inside a tank which itself is inside a room creates the ultimate silence. This silence isn’t like when you lay down in your bed at night because even then there’s always some type of noise like appliances, noises from outside, a partner, and even just the movement of air.
Once the movement of the water stops and you lay still, the prominent noise will be your breath. But in between breaths, it’s so quiet that you can hear your eyes move!
When I looked side to side or up and down, I could hear what I believe was the muscles in my eyes working. To me, it sounded like a fingernail scratching on some type of rough fabric.
For this reason alone, it’s worth trying a sensory deprivation tank.
Let There Be Light (I Think)
Within the first 15 minutes of being in the tank, I opened my eyes and saw a dull semicircle of lights on the interior roof of the lid slowly fade on and off for a matter of 20 seconds or so. At the time I thought I was being remotely checked on to make sure everything was good in the tank, but after my hour session, I examined the lid and saw no indication of lights.
While there is a light switch in the tank that you can control, this turns on a single purple light that’s underwater behind your head.
I asked the gentleman at the front desk if lights come on at any point and he said no. He concluded that I must have been tripping.
Did you have any profound experiences like this during your float? Let me know in the comments below.
After The Float
After an hour in the tank, the light will automatically turn back on, signalling that your time is up.
It was an odd sensation to return to gravity after that extended period of time. Your muscles will be quite relaxed, so it might be a good idea to sit there for a few moments while your body readjusts.
After exiting the tank, it’s a good idea to shower off all the salt water from your body. I noticed that my face and chest was covered with dried salt.
Ample shampoo, conditioner, and body wash was provided as well as 3 bath towels.
The cost of my first float was $49 (promotional pricing). The regular price of a 60 minute float is $70. More pricing details for Float Missoula can be found on their website. My limited research tells me that the cost of a sensory deprivation tank is on par with this across the United States.
To wrap things up here, I would highly recommend anyone even remotely interested to experience a float tank at some point in their life. To me, it was a memorable experience that was definitely worth the money.