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Sensory deprivation tanks were first developed in the 1950s, but have recently experienced a surge in popularity. Float centers are having a hard time keeping up with the demand, leaving many people unable to enjoy these tanks as often as they would like. Industry experts believe that personal tanks may soon be the norm rather than the exception for those who would like to ensure they can enjoy their benefits whenever they wish.
A sensory deprivation tank or isolation tank is a lightproof, soundproof chamber filled with salt water. The Epsom salts that are added to the water increase its density and make it possible for individuals to float on their backs. The ears are partially submerged to suppress the hearing; ear plugs may sometimes be worn as well to keep water out. The air and water inside the tank are the same temperature as the skin, meaning that anyone inside the tank will not notice heat or cold. Rarely are chemicals used, so one’s sense of smell is inhibited as well.
The primary purpose for sensory deprivation tanks is relaxation. In fact, a 1997 study showed that 90% of subjects found them deeply relaxing. This is one of the reasons why early researchers from the University of British Columbia coined the term Restricted Environmental Stimulation Therapy or REST. The idea behind these tanks is that depriving the senses allows people to completely clear their minds of any negativity and instead focus only on the positive. They can be used successfully even by non-swimmers or those who are claustrophobic.
The relaxing benefits provided by sensory deprivation tanks can help with everything from sleep disorders to depression. Studies on 140 people with chronic conditions such as fibromyalgia, depression, and anxiety showed that 75% of those affected noticed significant improvement after undergoing isolation therapy. Floatation tanks could also help people better manage pain or improve their performance in sports such as tennis, basketball, or skiing. Some patients have even used floatation therapy to help them achieve their weight loss goals or stop smoking.
Although the benefits of sensory deprivation tanks have been widely recognized, these tanks are not available everywhere. Even in areas where float tanks are abundant, regular sessions can quickly become expensive. Recognizing this, Zen began a Kickstarter program in 2014 for the development of a “float tent”. This tent is uniquely designed to regulate water temperature and provide good airflow, while at the same time safeguarding against leaks. At eight feet long and four feet wide, it is large enough for tall users, yet small enough to fit into nearly any room of the home. Other manufacturers such as Samadhi and OxyHealth provide tanks for home use as well.
Home sensory deprivation tanks provide numerous health benefits, and can be used even by children or those with disabilities. The current trend toward developing affordable isolation tanks means they might someday be just as common as home gyms are.