If you’ve been looking for a new way to meditate, you’ll want to consider sensory deprivation. If you haven’t heard of it, just picture floating blissfully in a room filled with salt water. You have total darkness, devoid of sound. The water temperature perfectly matches your skin temperature. The setting tricks your mind into not being able to sense where your body ends and the water begins.

At first, it might seem intimidating to close yourself in from the outside world and experience being alone with nothing but your thoughts and your own heartbeat. But, after a few minutes, your body and mind will acclimate to the sensory deprivation tank. You will slip away into a state of non-being. It’s a feeling you might not have been able to reach during “normal” meditation due to outside stimuli.

These Things Happen When You Try Sensory Deprivation

sensory deprivation

Consider this 1997 analysis of 1,000 descriptions of sensory deprivation. According to the participants, over 90% found the experience deeply relaxing. But what exactly makes this relaxing, and what happens during sensory deprivation?

Dr. John C. Lilly, a researcher and neurophysiologist working for the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) in the 1950s found a few answers throughout his studies of the brain/mind and the origins of consciousness. He developed the flotation tank to block out external stimulation from the mind and measure the effects of this isolation on the brain.

Flotation therapy originated about a half-century ago. But people have begun to flock to these places because of an increasing interest in mindfulness and sensory deprivation. In addition to the relaxation of total silence and darkness, the Epsom salt packs even more benefits. According to the Epsom Salt Council, applying the salt to the skin can help you to maintain adequate magnesium levels since Epsom salt is high in magnesium, improve heart rate and blood circulation, lower blood pressure, relieve stress, improve nerve function, flushes toxins from the body, and much more.

As far as sensory deprivation goes, many studies prove the benefits of immersing yourself in total silence for a short period of time. Our overstressed and overly loud world wreaks havoc on our bodies and minds. We still haven’t learned to adjust to modern living in our evolution fully. So, with that in mind, the benefits of sensory deprivation don’t seem all that surprising.

Flotation therapy works because the brain doesn’t have to worry about processing visual stimuli. The brain starts to create its own without external stimuli, which can spark creativity and enhance cognitive function. In 2000, one study found that volunteers’ visual cortexes were far more active after just an hour of sensory deprivation.

Another Study on Flotation Tanks

Another study involving forty university students proved the theory of higher creativity after a flotation experience, as their standardized test scores increased with just an hour of sensory deprivation.

Also, flotation tank therapy could help you acquire new skills in a shorter amount of time and boost memory. Research shows that during resting states, the brain continuously goes over newly learned skills and compartmentalizes these ideas for long-term use.

Probably most importantly, flotation tank therapy can relieve stress and anxiety, positively affecting blood pressure, heart rate, and cortisol levels and reducing the amount of ‘brain fog’ people commonly experience. In the early 1980s, several psychologists at the Medical College of Ohio performed experiments that analyzed the physiological responses to Restricted Environmental Stimulation Therapy, or REST. Looking at many flotation sessions, the researchers found that blood pressure and stress-related hormones dropped. Moreover, the benefits lasted long after the participant’s flotation experience. In 2005, a meta-analysis further confirmed that flotation reduced stress more effectively than other popular methods such as relaxation exercises, biofeedback, or relaxing on the couch.

After seeing positive results from these studies, researchers wanted to see whether flotation could help patients with stress-related disorders. Flotation tank therapy was used as the primary treatment for disorders such as hypertension, headaches, insomnia, and rheumatoid arthritis; these studies showed positive effects in small sample sizes. Those suffering from severe chronic pain benefited from weekly REST sessions as well: their pain levels decreased, their sleep improved dramatically, and they reported feeling more vibrant and less anxious.

flotation tank

Final Thoughts on Trying Sensory Deprivation

If you’d like to see how sensory deprivation can benefit you, watch this video of first-timers experiencing it for themselves!