A post about… Sensory Deprivation

Ye olde isolation tank, it’s just something of interest.
Personally, I know that if someone says ‘sensory deprivation’ to me, that I would immediately think of less-than-kosher torture practices that have historically been used by the military and intelligence services of various nations. This is not about that, as important a topic as it may be, but is instead about the recent increase in popularity for ‘floating’.

Nanoo nanoo

Floating… which, yes, does sound kind of dodgy. Like it might be a toilet-related joke. But according to the research, the results are pretty far from dodgy, apparently showing marked relief in three-quarters of those who took part in the latest study from conditions such as stress, anxiety and depression.

The isolation tanks used in this treatment usually consist of an enclosed bath (much like the one in the photo above) with water approx. 25cm deep, supplemented with Epsom salt to increase buoyancy. The combination of a lack of sound or light in the tank, and the fact that the water and air are kept to the same temperature as the skin, thus lowering the sensation of a body boundary, all combine to create the sensory deprivation. The increased buoyancy also alleviates the muscles that are normally used even when resting, and so the user is left feeling incredibly relaxed and able to center themselves.

Now I am normally a bit of a skeptic when it comes to ‘alternative’ medicine, but as it’s not the health aspect that interests me here. It’s the reported use of sensory deprivation techniques to stimulate meditative-like states, which encourage the occurrence of theta brainwaves (brainwaves = the electrical activity produced by neurons firing in the brain). We normally run (excuse my less-than-perfect terminology here) on beta or alpha brainwaves when we’re awake, delta in deep sleep, and theta in the periods just before and just after sleep. This state also happens to be very conducive to problem-solving, so-called ‘superlearning’ and enhanced creativity.

Pa-cha-chow! That's the sound of neurons firing.

This snippet of information certainly does interest me, as I know that the one time I have the most flashes of creative inspiration are late at night, just before sleep. I had never really considered electrical brainwaves before now, just accepting that it was a time when that sort of thing happened. The potential to actively engage with that state more or less at will certainly appeals. To this end, I will endeavour to try this floatation / isolation / sensory deprivation tank ‘treatment’ out in the coming months.

Now some might laugh at me for suggesting this. I might laugh at me too, just a little bit. However I’m intending to go as much to debunk any nonsense, as I am in hopes of discovering shiny new creative powers. I will approach the session with an open mind (aside: it will come as no surprise that a lot of previous experimentation conducted with isolation tanks involved the use of drugs such as LSD). Finally, I will write a frank account on here detailing the experience. Wish me luck!

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2 Responses to “A post about… Sensory Deprivation”


  1. 1 SuzieSue January 15, 2011 at 8:19 pm

    http://www.i-sopod.com – this one looks much bigger and more inviting don’t you think? have you tried it yet? I’m so looking forward to your review. http://www.floatfinder.com is a good place to look for centers – but alas nothing near me 😦

    • 2 sumulael January 15, 2011 at 10:31 pm

      I haven’t had the chance to try it as of yet, thinking that I will sort it out for next month (i.e. after payday). But you’re definitely right, that one looks a lot less like something you might use to filter swimming pool water with! I think I’m going to try this center out first: http://www.floatworks.com
      Thanks very much the reply though, keep an eye out in February for the review/report!


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