A sensory deprivation tank cuts a person off from as many sensory inputs as possible. Supporters claim that the experience can make a person feel rejuvenated, potentially easing anxiety, relaxing muscles, and reducing pain.
Current research indicates that people in good health can benefit from sensory deprivation. Keep reading for more information about the benefits of sensory deprivation tanks and the effects that the experience may have on a person’s body.
A sensory deprivation tank, also known as a flotation tank or isolation tank, provides restricted environmental stimulation therapy (REST). A person experiences minimal sensory stimulation when inside the tank, allowing them to relax.
The tank contains enough water for the person entering it to float on their back. Floating helps a person feel fewer effects of gravity.
The tank is soundproof, which prevents noise from causing distractions. It is also dark, so a person cannot see what is around them.
However, the effects of being in a sensory deprivation tank will be different for each person, and they may not always be positive.
There is evidence that sensory deprivation affects the brain. Its effects may vary among individuals, but some of the reported benefits are:
Possible boost to creativity
A 2014 study compared the advertising claims of sensory deprivation centers with clinical research. The authors found that several studies supported the idea that a person may experience a boost in creativity.
However, they warned that the effects are not universal and noted that the claims that centers make are often exaggerated.
Possible improved physical performance
Sensory deprivation tanks may benefit athletes and people who train intensively for competitions. According to available research, the effects may be both physical and mental.
For example, a small 2016 study found that floating therapy improved both physical and psychological recovery following training sessions. However, the study also notes that the results are preliminary and that additional research is necessary.
Possible anxiety treatment
Sensory deprivation tanks may help reduce symptoms in people with anxiety. Several recent studies have looked at the positive effects that REST has on anxiety.
The researchers behind a small 2018 study concluded that sensory deprivation therapy could help improve the symptoms of anxiety and depression. Still, they indicated that larger studies are necessary to confirm the effects of sensory deprivation on these conditions.
Possible pain reduction
Another positive effect of REST may be the alleviation of pain. Several studies have shown that sensory deprivation can reduce the amount of pain that a person experiences.
Researchers have reported limited risks when the participants in their research have been in relatively good health.
In a small 2015 study, researchers divided participants into two groups based on how prone they were to hallucinations. The participants that the researchers had identified as being more likely to hallucinate had more hallucinations than those in the other group.
If a person does experience hallucinations, these should stop once they leave the tank.
For some people, spending time in a dark, quiet, enclosed space is a scary experience. If this is the case, a person may not enjoy their time in the tank.
Although a person could technically drown in the flotation tank, the occurrence of this accident is extremely rare. The best way to prevent it is to avoid entering a tank when high or otherwise intoxicated.
Researchers need to carry out more studies to understand in more detail the effects that sensory deprivation tanks may have on people. However, most people with a good health status should be able to tolerate the experience with minimal risk.
Research supports the claim that sensory deprivation tanks do work for some people. The noted positive effects relate to decreasing anxiety, managing pain, and helping athletes recover from difficult training. The experience may also help improve a person’s focus.
However, people should approach sensory deprivation tanks with caution. If a company or person selling sessions or tanks makes claims that seem too good to be true, they probably are.
Sensory deprivation tanks are not a cure for any condition. A person should not use them as a substitute for scientifically supported treatment.
Sensory deprivation tanks may provide some relief from anxiety and pain.
The tanks are relatively safe, but they can produce side effects in certain people. These effects may include hallucinations, particularly in individuals who are already prone to them.
Most people should experience no adverse effects and may find that they can relax during their REST session.