What is a Floatation Tank?

A floatation tank is a lightless, soundless tank filled with highly concentrated Epsom salt water heated to skin temperature. Floatation, also known as sensory deprivation, is simply the act of relaxing in a floatation tank; with all sights and sounds removed, and drifting into a meditative state that rejuvenates your mind and body.

A Tank of Many Names
The confusion around floatation and flotation tanks are at least in part due to the evolving naming conventions of the tanks. Tanks can be known as an isolation tank, sensory deprivation tank, float tank, flotation tank, float pod and even a sensory attenuation tank.

Floating – The Science
Floating is achieved by adding a high concentration of Epsom salts to the water. Much like in the Dead Sea this raises the density and buoyancy of the water.

Float tanks will use around 1000 litres of water and 550 kg of magnesium and sulphate-rich Epsom salts thereby increasing the specific gravity for the solution to around 1.27.

It is this change to the density that adds buoyancy to the water and allows a flotation tank user to float.

Epsom Salts
Epsom salts allow the float tank user to float but also do so much more. Ancient wisdom tells us that Epsom salts are an effective cure-all with benefits including stress relief along with easing aches and pains.

Epsom salts are rich in magnesium, which is the second most abundant element in the human body and one that is vital to good health and well being. When floating, the Epsom salt solution helps with lymph drainage and promotes the absorption of magnesium.

Sadly, over half of the US population does not meet the US recommended allowance for dietary magnesium. Modern agriculture and diet have radically reduced the magnesium in the body whilst modern consumption levels of fat, sugar and salt all work to more rapidly deplete magnesium.

Research shows that raising magnesium may have the following benefits:

Relieve stress – Excess adrenaline and stress are believed to drain magnesium, a natural stress reliever, from the body. Magnesium helps bind serotonin, the happy hormone!
Relaxation – Elevates chemicals in the brain that works to create a feeling of well-being and relaxation.
Migraines – Eases and prevents migraine headaches.
Detoxification – Flushes toxins and heavy metals from the cells in the body. This in turn helps ease muscle pain and clear out harmful substances picked up from our modern environment.
Diabetes – Improved insulin sensitivity aids blood glucose control which can aid in prevention or severity of diabetes.
Heart Health – Improves heart and circulatory health. Preventing hardening of the arteries, blood clots and lowering overall blood pressure.
Bone health – Magnesium helps assimilate calcium into the bones.

Better still, when using a float tank the magnesium is absorbed through the skin and the body optimises the levels of magnesium so there is no chance of magnesium levels becoming too high which can be dangerous.

In addition to improving magnesium levels, Epsom salt also provides sulphates, which are difficult to get from food but are easily absorbed through the skin. Sulphates play a role in the formation of brain tissue, joint proteins and the mucin proteins that line the walls of the digestive tract – all of which helps us live a long and healthy life, particularly as we age.

Epsom salts, whilst helping the user float, also provide a wide range of health benefits adding to the therapeutic nature of floatation therapy.

Sensory Deprivation
Sensory deprivation is the removal of stimuli from the senses. At the most basic level, a blindfold or earplugs are a form of sensory deprivation. In a float tank, sight and sounds are removed. The air and water are also heated to skin temperature so it becomes impossible to know where your skin ends and the water begins. And, of course, you are floating.

Floating in a tank creates the perfect conditions for removing all external stimuli. This is the sensory deprivation element. Your vision is restricted in the pitch black, you can hear nothing but your own body. You are completely buoyant in the Epsom salt water. This leads to a feeling of zero gravity with no real concept of up, down, time or space. The water and air are heated to body temperature so you are unsure where your body ends and the water begins.

Floatation Therapy
The science of sensory deprivation is known as Restricted Environmental Stimulation Therapy (REST). REST in a float tank has shown a transition from alpha or beta brainwaves to theta, which would ordinarily only occur before sleep and waking. In a flotation tank, theta brain waves occur whilst the user is fully conscious. For many users, this allows for great creativity and problem-solving.

There is also evidence of physical benefits including reduced blood pressure, cortisol (the stress hormone) and improvements to blood flow. REST is also used by many athletes who claim enhanced recovery and performance.

Relaxation
The environment in the float tank completely isolates the senses and blocks out all distractions including gravity, temperature, touch, sight and sound. This leaves you in a deeply relaxed and meditative dream-like state like the state you enter just before you go to sleep.

Your brain uses a lot of power to deal with the strain of gravity on the body, however, in an isolation tank, your body and mind is freed from gravity so can fully relax. As a result, the brain does not need to send out any commands to the body so activity in the logical side of the brain synchronises with the creative hemisphere.

This changes the brainwaves from alpha to frequency delta and theta waves, causing you to enter the meditative dream-like state whilst fully conscious.

In the Tank
In the tank, you are free from external stimuli, and in a state of deep, meditative relaxation. Users in this state report a wide range of reactions and experiences:

The release of tension, a heightened sense of introspection and reflection, and feeling that your mind has completely left the body are all commonly reported experiences. However, your experience will be unique to you and you may need multiple sessions to relax into the experience and feel the tank’s full effect.

History
The flotation tank was first invented in 1954 by neuroscientist and psychologist John C Lilly to explore human consciousness.

He wanted to experiment with sensory deprivation and discover what would happen if the brain was deprived of senses and all external stimulation.

The first tank he invented involved wearing a diving mask to block out light and sound whilst completely submerged in an upright chamber filled with water.

Lilly also experimented with psychedelic drugs whilst in the isolation tank and even claimed that the tank allowed him to make contact with creatures from other dimensions.

He refined his tank in the following years and by the 1970s float tanks started to move closer towards the modern float tanks we see today. Now, the i-sopod has created a truly modern flotation tank.

Benefits
Flotation can benefit everyone, from athletes and creatives to business people, the elderly, and those with medical issues. Floatation is a form of alternative medicine and boasts an extensive wealth of benefits:

  • Stimulates the release of endorphins
  • Creates calm and total relaxation
  • Rejuvenates the mind and body
  • Alleviates mental and physical stress
  • Helps with fatigue and jet lag
  • Improves sleep and insomnia
  • Improves creativity, healing, and visualisation
  • Expands awareness and heightens senses
  • Enhances mental clarity and deepens your mental state
  • Improves self-realisation and discovery
  • Helps with anxiety, depression, and motivation
  • Helps with phobias and addiction
  • Helps with PTSD symptoms
  • Decreases the perception of pain
  • Relieves bones, joints, muscles
  • Relieves aches, pains, and strains
  • Relieves arthritis, migraines, and rheumatism
  • Relieves fibromyalgia
  • Helps with pregnancy pain
  • Increases blood circulation and lowers blood pressure
  • Improves immunity
  • Helps athletes produce less cortisol, adrenaline, and lactic acid
  • Helps athletes visualise their performance for success
  • Helps athletes master the inner game and synchronise mind, body, and emotion
  • Reduces the risk of further injury and overtraining
  • Resets the body’s chemical & metabolic balance
  • Speeds up the healing process and recovery

The i-sopod
The i-sopod is a truly modern flotation tank, taking float pods into the 21st century. This beautiful, durable, unrivalled, world-class floatation tank has a range of innovative features including:

Revolutionary – the i-sopod is constructed from finest quality materials. It is easy to use, reliable, requires little maintenance, and performs consistently with every use.
Energy – the pod has a double skin and is hermetically sealed for maximum sound and thermal insulation, which saves energy and reduces running costs.
Safety – the pod is only heated when it’s filtered and has low voltage for internal lighting, call button & all electronics, making it incredibly safe.
Lighting – the pod utilises the latest LED spa lamps, each with a life expectancy of 80,000 hours. The lights come in a range of different colours and settings.
Colour – every pod is hand finished to the customer’s colour specifications and can include the company logo.
Audio – the pod contains a built-in MP3 player, SD card for music playback, Bluetooth & 3.5mm AUX jack for connectivity and produces the highest fidelity stereo sound.
Comfort – the i-sopod has the largest pod interior on the market. The pods are fully ventilated and have the option of an open or closed door.
Filtration – it uses the latest filtration technology and pump with filters 100x smaller than a human hair.
Programmable – the tank contains a digital control unit which controls length of session, music, disinfection, and cleaning through an LCD interface.
External apparatus – the pump, filter, heater, and electronics are external to the pod which improves user experience, cuts costs, increases safety, and is cleaner.

Further Reading
There is a world of information out there detailing how to get the best from floatation and regarding the science currently being undertaken.

  • The Book of Floating: Exploring the Private Sea by M Hutchison
  • Clinical and Experimental Restricted Environmental Stimulation: New Developments and Perspectives by AF Barabasz & M Barabasz
  • Restricted Environmental Stimulation: Research and Commentary by TH Fine & JW Turner
  • First International Conference on REST and Self-regulation by TH Fine & JW Turner
  • The Effects of Flotation REST on the Symptoms of Fibromyalgia by Roderick Borrie, Tamara Russell, Stefan Schneider
  • Beneficial effects of treatment with sensory isolation in flotation-tank as a preventive health-care intervention – a randomized controlled pilot trial by Anette Kjellgren and Jessica Westman
  • The Acute Effects of Flotation Restricted Environmental Stimulation Technique on Recovery From Maximal Eccentric Exercise by Paul M Morgan, Amanda J Salacinski, Matthew A Stults-Kolehmainen