Frequently Asked Questions About Float Tanks & Floatation Therapy
Here’s a few questions we are often asked.
The water in the float tank is much cleaner than water in a swimming pool, hot tub or, arguably, even your bath tub at home. The high concentration of Epsom Salts creates a environment in which it very difficult for microorganisms to grow; which is how The Dead Sea, got its name. Between every single float, the water is 100% drained from the tanks and filtered through a double-filtration process before being re-filled into the float tank. That double filtration process includes passing through a 250,000 gallon swimming pool filter – 1000 times more than our relatively small tanks – and, importantly, an ultraviolet purification filter, similar to those used in municipal drinking water systems. Additionally, clients are required to thoroughly shampoo, soap, and rinse on-site before entering the float tank; this further helps maintain water quality and sanitation.
This naturally varies person by person. Many describe it as being like drifting in space. For others, it is simply deeply relaxing. Falling asleep is common; it is that relaxing. Some people experience profound meditative mindsets and spiritual insights; some have excellent internal dialogues with themselves; others simply float in peace and quiet. The experience is entirely up to you and can also vary float by float!
As with the question above, the answer is … it varies person by person. For many, the first float is really an exercise in getting used to the experience. Most of us lead such busy and stressful lives that it seems we have totally forgotten how to be fully relaxed. Often the first float is like having a spotlight put on that fact, as you experience a remembering of sorts and work on easing into your body’s fully relaxed state. You might experience a certain duration of “monkey mind”, your brain asking a lot of questions and having expectations to one degree or another about what the experience is going to be. Will I touch the sides? Will I fall asleep? When is this enlightenment going to begin? How long have I been in here? The mind, for most of us, tends to be busy during the first float.
By the second float, though, many of those questions are gone and you find yourself more prepared to fully ease into it and begin your real journey with floatation therapy.
The depth of the water in float tanks is only 10 inches, and is packed with 1000 lbs of Epsom salts. No matter the size, shape or weight of your body: you float. It is not possible to drown in the tank. Even if you were to somehow able to flip over in 10 inches of water, the salt in your eyes, nose and mouth would most certainly wake you up.
So not only is it safe to fall asleep in the float tanks, we encourage you to! One hour of sleep while in a Delta state, like that which floating induces, is equivalent to 6-8 hours of regular sleep. We often sleep in the tanks ourselves for hours at a time.
Most people decide to wear their birthday suits when floating; that is, nothing. It is entirely up to you, though. You are in total privacy in your float room, but you should wear whatever makes you comfortable.
Whatever you decide to wear on your body, you might want to utilize the ear plugs we provide, to enable you to fully relax your head back without worrying about salt water getting into your ears.
Nope. We encourage children to float. Ours do. Though they may lack some of the mental discipline for more meditative floating, the physical benefits of floating, easing away tension in the body, are as useful to children as they are to adults.
Similarly, there is no upper age limit on floating. If you’re “elderly”, you’ll experience all the same benefits, and enjoy some respite from those nagging aches and pains that perhaps seem a bit more persistent as things slow down for you. You do, however, need to be physically stable and able to get in and out of the tank safely, which involves passing over a doorway threshold two feet high and into highly saline water, which can be slightly slippery.
It’s worth mentioning that in order to use our float tanks, you must have full control over bodily function. Unfortunately, those with unpredictable intestinal or urinary function should not float, as this poses a risk to the quality of the water, and therefore safety of others. Any damage to the water in our float tanks from using them with a known incontinence issue will unfortunately result in a rather large bill for 1,000 lbs of Epsom salts.
Unfortunately, our staff are not able to assist with getting clients in and out of the tanks, though someone needing extra support is welcome to bring a friend, family member or other assistant to help them. They can stay in the float room (outside the tank itself) during the float session, should they be needed, or they can relax in the lounge areas with a cup of tea in the common areas until the float session is over.
Yes! We typically play music for the first 5-10 minutes and the last 5-10 minutes of a float. The music at the end is your “wake up call”, your way of knowing that the float is over. This is to enable you to not have to worry about time while you’re floating; we’ll take care of that concern for you!
We typically use music that has either a binaural beat or an isochronic tone, a pulse that runs in the background of the music which helps entrain the brain to certain frequencies. In particular, this helps induce a theta state in the brain, the brainwave state that’s somewhere between an awake state and a dream state. Here’s an example of music we play during floats:
You can opt to have this music play only at the end at your wake up call, at the beginning and end, or all the way through. It’s up to you!
If you want to bring in your own music on any device with a 2.5mm audio jack, we’re happy to plug that in for you during your float.
If you want to, you can also pre-select any track from YouTube. We have a small collection of tracks with binaural beats, isochronic tones, nature sounds, and other audio that’s good for floating on our own YouTube channel at www.youtube.com/OlyFloat. Just let us know which one you like, and we’ll play it for you while you float.
Note that audio books don’t tend to work particularly well. Your ears are typically under the water or otherwise muffled with ear plugs, so any sound that is primarily “overtone” will likely not be very audible. Some clients have successfully played audio books by playing them from their phones, floating next to their heads in a double-bagged ziploc bag. You definitely take that approach at your own risk, though! 🙂
We also carry submersible headphones designed specifically for the float tank environment, designed by Zen Float Co. They work quite well, and have a really, really long cord, so you can keep your device outside the tank, if you want or need to. (Just watch out for the door pinching the cable.) If you use these, please coordinate with us at the front desk before you head in to your float, as we’ll need to agree on a different process than usual for letting you know when the float is over. (An alarm set on your device usually works well.)
There are dozens and dozens – if not hundreds, at this point – of clinical studies demonstrating the therapeutic efficacy and mechanisms of action of floatation therapy and sensory deprivation. A full list of clinical papers can be downloaded for free from Float Tank Solutions. Below is just section A alone, as an example:
- Adams, H. B. – Arousability and the Nature of Alcohol and Substance Abuse
- Adams, H. B. – Therapeutic Potentialities of Sensory Deprivation Procedures – International Mental Health Research Newspaper 6(4), 7-9
- Adams, H.B. – The Incredible History of REST Technology – Restricted Environmental Stimulation: Research and Commentary. pp.11 -28. Toledo, Ohio: Medical College of Ohio Press
- Adams, H. B. – Effects of reduced stimulation on institutionalized adult patients& – “In P. Suedfeld, Restricted Environmental Stimulation.”” Research and Clinical Applications. New York: Wiley, pp. 320-364.”
- Adams, H. B. – Studies in REST III: REST, Arousability and the nature of alcohol and substance abuse – Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment, 5, 77-81
- Adams, H. B. – Studies in REST: Arousability and the nature of alcohol and substance abuse – Report for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Service
- Adams, H. B. Robertson, M. H., Cooper, G. D. – Facilitating Therapeutic personality change in patients by sensory deprivation. – Paper presented at the International Congress of Psychology
- Adams, H. B., Cooper, G. D., & Carrerra, R. N. – Individual differences in behavioral reactions of psychiatric patients to brief partial sensory deprivation – Perceptual and Motor Skills, 34, 199-217
- Adams, H. B., Cooper, G. D., & Scott, J. C. – REST and reduced alcohol consumption – Proceedings of 2nd International Conference on REST
- Åsenlöf, K., Olsson, S., Bood, S. Å., & Norlander, T. – Case studies on fibromyalgia and burn-out depression using psychotherapy in combination with flotation-REST: Personality development and increased well-being. – “Imagination, Cognition and Personality”
- Atkinson R. – “Short-Term Exposure to REST: Enhancement Performance on a Signal-Detection Task.” – “Clinical and Experimental Restricted Environmental Stimulation: New Developments and Perspectives. pp.93-100. New York: Springer-Verlag New York Inc.”
- Atkinson, Richard – Short-Term Exposure to REST: Enhanced Performance on a Signal-Detection Task – Selected Papers from Clinical and Experimental Restricted Environmental Stimulation, p. 93-100
- Azima, H., Vispo, R.; Azima, F.J. – “Observations on anaclitic therapy during sensory deprivation.” – “In P. Solomon, P E. Kubzansky, P. H. Leiderman, J. H. Mendelson, R.Trumbull & D. Wexler, Eds., Sensory Deprivation, Cambridge,MA: Harvard University Press, pp. 143-160.”
There’s also some amazing research on the benefits of floatation therapy – in particular for PTSD, depression and anxiety disorders – being conducted at The Laureate Institute For Brain Research (LIBR), a privately-funded medical research facility in Tulsa, OKlahoma. LIBR’s “float lab” was built specifically for studying the therapeutic impacts of floating, has access to an fMRI machine for doing immediate pre- and post-float brain mapping studies, and has even designed brand new EEG technology that can be worn by study subjects while floating. You can learn more about that at laureateinstitute.org.
Please see our Science & Media section for more information.
Unless you are an experienced meditator who has achieved heightened or altered states through mind training alone, it is unlikely, although certainly possible, that you will experience any kind of “trip” as has been often popularized about sensory deprivation therapy. Keep in mind that much of the hallucinatory association that movies like Altered States created with floatation therapy is based on taking large amounts of psychedelic substances beforehand; you would “trip out” taking psychedelic substances no matter what you’re doing.
The mind is a curious thing, though; you never quite know what you might experience once you shut out the outside world and all its various stimuli and tap into a different set of sensory awareness. Certainly, floatation therapy is an outstanding meditation and mind training tool.
Yes. If we define “psychedelic” appropriately. The word ‘psychedelic’ is compound from ‘psyche’ and the Greek word ‘dēlos’, meaning ‘clear, manifest’. In other words: mind made clear, or mind manifested. Within this context, floating is absolutely a psychedelic experience, as it is an induced meditation environment and drops the floater into a deep mental experience.
Per the question above, floating is not like an acid trip, despite how it is continually sensationalized in the media.
But it is an incredibly useful tool for examining the mind, since after the exteroceptive (external) sensations abate and you no longer are aware of your physical body, all that remains to experience is the mind.
Interesting, fMRI and EEG studies have found that floating produces extremely similar neurological effects as psychedelic substances, in particular production of oxytocin, serotonin and dopamine, along with a deep level of relaxation in the brain’s default mode network.
Although some people do experiences some degree of shapes, lines and other visual distortions during a float, typically you won’t be seeing mandalas or sacred geometrical shapes like you might on LSD. 🙂
Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy and Floatation Therapy both involve going inside a chamber, and both have similar documented benefits: improved stamina, increased creativity, reduced pain, etc. Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy is an excellent part of any healthcare plan. The experience is quite different, though. With Hyperbaric Therapy, you lay, clothed, inside a chamber that is pressurized to stimulate circulation and are given either an oxygen mask or a cannula of oxygen that is inserted into the nostrils. The experience is clinical in nature and typically lasts 30-60 minutes, with a technician watching over you for the first and last part of the session.
Floatation Therapy has many of the same therapeutic benefits as Hyperbaric Therapy, but offers, we believe, a more relaxing and natural-feeling experience. It’s like helping your mind and body medically, while soothing your soul recreationally.
You sure can. You can save up to 50% on floats by buying a membership or by buying floats in packages of 3 or 10 floats. Check out our Pricing page.
The Soul Space building is fully wheelchair-accessible, with a ramp in the back of the building, with ample parking near the ramp. Our float rooms, though, are not, strictly speaking, wheelchair accessible. At least not from an ADA perspective. We do, however, have some clients in wheelchairs who are able to float with a little assistance. Whether someone in a wheelchair can get in and out of our showers and float tanks is largely dependent on the extent of their upper body function and strength. If you can lift yourself out of your chair and into bed, for example, you will likely be able to lift yourself out of your chair and into (a) a chair in the shower, and (b) over the float tank door threshold, which is about two feet off the floor and approximately two feet wide.
If you do not have good upper body mobility/strength, you are, of course, more than welcome to have helpers come in with you and help you in and out of the shower and float tank. We have a comfortable lounge area for assistants to hang out in while you float. This would likely be best with two helpers, one who steps into the float tank with you (there’s lots of room), holding your upper body, and a second person helping guide your legs through the door. Unfortunately our staff are not allowed to assist in this process.
If you are in a wheelchair, you should book your float in The Metal Room. (pictured to the right) This is the room that has the most maneuverable space and has a shower suitable for lifting in and out of. The Wood Room is not a good float room for wheelchair accessibility, as the shower entrance is not as large, and there is a small step to get to the float tank entrance.
It’s worth mentioning that floating can be a phenomenal therapy for many of the ailments that afflict those in wheelchairs. The high level of magnesium in the water can help tremendously with muscle soreness, tension and twitches, and the relaxation on the central nervous system that floating a sensory-deprived atmosphere induces can be beneficial to allowing tension in the body to ease away. It can be an excellent compliment to other forms of physical and medical therapy aimed at healing your injuries/condition.
Another area worth mentioning is that in order to use our float tanks, you must have full control over bodily function. Unfortunately, those with unpredictable intestinal or urinary function should not float, as this poses a risk to the quality of the water, and therefore safety of others. Any damage to the water in our float tanks from using them with a known incontinence issue will unfortunately result in a rather large bill for 1,000 lbs of Epsom salts.
No. The water in our float tanks is not changed after each float, it is purified through a double-filtration process and cycled back into the tank. This destroys all normal levels of bacterial or microbial elements in the water from regular use, but it would not effectively deal with a mishap related to an incontinence issue. In order to use our float tanks, you must have full control over bodily functions. Unfortunately, those with unpredictable intestinal or urinary function should not float, as this poses a risk to the quality of the water, and therefore safety of others. Any damage to the water in our float tanks from using them with a known incontinence issue will unfortunately result in a rather large bill for 1,000 lbs of Epsom salts.
Yes, provided you are using an effective device for containing menstrual fluids (e.g. tampon).
If you are unsure, please wait to schedule your float.
Unfortunately, no, not at the moment. This is something the collective of floatation therapy centers around the nation are working on together. We hope that floatation therapy will become covered by insurance, particularly for management of injuries, just as other historically “alternative” forms of healthcare, such as hyperbaric oxygen therapy and massage therapy, now are. The best way you can help make this happen is by contacting your insurance company and telling them that you want floatation therapy covered under your insurance plan.
We have seen clients using debit card-style Health Savings Accounts to successfully pay for their floats approximately 60-70% of the time. These seem to operate in a “don’t ask, don’t tell” sort of arena. If you have an HSA and want to see if floating will be covered, you could try pre-paying for a session before coming in for your float. That way you’ll know ahead of time if it’s covered or not.
This is a complicated question. Physiologically-speaking, there is no evidence at all that floating with sensory deprivation is harmful to any mental state. For conditions such as anxiety and depression, preliminary clinical studies have found floating to be an incredibly effective tool. For more serious mental health disorders – such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder or dissociative identity disorder – caution should be taken, and floating and sensory deprivation should be discussed as one therapeutic tool with a licensed mental healthcare practitioner. We are naturally not doctors or psychotherapists, and cannot give medical advice. While there’s no evidence that floating has ever induced adverse effects for anyone with a serious mental health condition, there have been isolated incidents of people embarking on intense meditation retreats experiencing dissociation and sometimes psychosis. These (at meditation retreats) are rare, but they have happened. Most floats aren’t intense meditative experiences, but the possibility of them being so is there. Entering into an “altered state”, to one degree or another, though, is common. For those with stable mental health, this is usually a pleasant and/or useful experience. For someone with underlying mental instability, though, it could potentially trigger some unwanted psychological events.
One option would be to just float without sensory deprivation. The process of floating itself (spending time in microgravity with no tactile input on the body) is deeply relaxing, but doesn’t necessarily induce a meditative state. It’s floating in darkness and silence – full sensory deprivation – that induces a meditative state. In our Wood Room, clients can float with the entire tank lit up and/or with music playing. This more sensory-active type of float might be a good way for someone with mental health concerns to experience a float tank without inducing a deeply meditative state. A lot of people – including those with concerns about claustrophobia – choose to do this as a way of “graduating” into the full sensory deprivation experience.
As with any medical or mental health question, our baseline response is to ask your doctor or licensed mental healthcare provider for their professional perspective on whether floating and sensory deprivation are a good fit for you. We want everyone to have an amazing experience, but safety always comes first.
Every service we offer at The Soul Space can be therapeutic for the nervous system. Increasingly, we are learning that stress is the foundation of so many of our most chronic health conditions. So rather than playing whack-a-mole with symptoms of diseases and disorders, our approach is to address stress, and in particular stress at the nervous system level.
Massage is a phenomenal compliment to floatation therapy. It’s really hard to put words to it, but the combination is deeply relaxing. If you float before massage, your body and mind are already relaxed and your magnesium-soaked muscles are significantly less tense. This increases the effectiveness of the massage session exponentially and fast-tracks your massage therapist’s ability to do deeper work with you.
Cranio-Sacral Therapy also pairs well with floating. Particularly for concussions, traumatic brain injuries and other head injuries, the combination of cranio-sacral therapy and a session of sensory deprivation can really allow healing to unfold at a neurological and nervous system level. Any therapy at the nervous system level – which cranio-sacral therapy is fundamentally always focused on – is well complimented by floating afterwards, as floating in a destimulating environment can allow everything to process.
For similar reasons, Intuitive Counseling and Energy Work is complimented well with a float. These sessions can bring up a lot to think about, or a lot to process at a nervous system, physical body or energy body level. Floating afterwards provides an excellent space for processing everything that comes up during the Intuitive Counseling session.
Let’s answer the second question first: no, absolutely not. Nothing can be added to our float tanks. Anything that gets added is a contaminant that risks replacement of the solution and a very large bill for 1,000 lbs of Epsom salts. We heard about someone adding a bath bomb to their float at another center. That was the most expensive effervescent bath for that person ever.
The broader question is about our use of scents throughout our center, which is important for those with MCS – Multiple Chemical Sensitivity – to be aware of. NO scents are used in our float rooms, beyond what comes from the shower soap, shampoo and conditioner. We keep our float rooms as sensory-neutral as possible.
We do, however, diffuse some essential oils in our lobby and we do occasionally burn sage or palo santo in our treatment rooms.
If you have any other questions not answered here, please feel free to email us at email@example.com or give us a call at (360) 972-3031.