Sensory deprivation can be a great form of stress relief. It can be a space to take time yourself and simply relax, free of thoughts and feelings. It can also be a place for you to dig down into your thoughts, feelings, and beliefs uninterrupted. It’s easier to do that when you can separate yourself from the everyday little frustrations of adult life.
What sensory deprivation is
In its simplest form, sensory deprivation is when you float in salt water and the room is completely dark and silent. It is also called ‘floating’, ‘flotation therapy’, and ‘isolation tank therapy’.
On a deeper level though, sensory deprivation is the absence of expectation. You don’t have to do anything or be anywhere.
We are constantly bombarded with what we should be doing and how we can be more efficient. There’s millions of articles about how to maximize your productivity and minimize your waste as if our lives are equivalent to reducing corporate spending.
We’re told that we’re deficient and need to buy the newest book from someone who claims to know more than us about spirituality or making money or losing weight. Even with sleep, you may be anxious to figure out a way to maximize your sleep as quickly as possible. This is fair, but it can also be a toxic mentality.
We (in North America anyway) are accustomed to always being the best, fastest, or most creative. When this crosses over into how you feel about sleep, like you need a accomplish a project, it becomes just another thing on your to-do list.
With sensory deprivation, you can let that all fall by the wayside for your 60 minute session. It is a space to simply be.
What to expect: sensory deprivation
Modern sensory deprivation tanks are shaped like a big egg and are generally large enough so you can stretch your arms out. The room and water temperature are the exact same as your body temperature, so you don’t feel a difference from the back half of your body that is submerged in water and the other half that’s exposed to air.
If you’re claustrophobic, you can prop the lid open a few inches or leave it open completely. You can close it completely too.
And don’t worry about sinking – you can’t because the water is saturated with highly buoyant Epsom salts.
Hopefully the business provides you with ear plugs and the option of a little swimming noodle to put under your neck if you desire. I personally like the noodle because I find my head sinks too far back for my liking.
The business should also provide a spray bottle with fresh water in case you get salt water in your eyes. I have gotten salt water in my eyes, and it burns like the fires of hell. With that note, make sure you take out your contacts!
You are completely weightless and feel like you’re floating in space.
You can enter the pod in swimwear, though I recommend you go naked. This is to feel completely free from sensation.
The sensory deprivation tank that I experienced played gentle music in the underwater speakers for 5 minutes to give time to get accustomed to the environment. This isn’t necessary, but it can definitely put you at ease if you are new to sensory deprivation.
When the session was almost done, the gentle music played again to give a warning that time was up.
Why sensory deprivation is good for insomnia
1. Magnesium Absorption
Magnesium can play a huge role in helping you sleep. Epsom salt is actually magnesium sulphate. Magnesium can help muscle relaxation, deactivating your stress responses, and is necessary for a good night’s sleep.
2. Pain Relief
As I’ve mentioned before, a stressed body can cause a stressed mind. Sensory deprivation can alleviate body aches since there is no pressure on your body. The weightlessness takes stress off of your body so your muscles can easily relax.
3. Just Being
As someone with chronic insomnia, I would bet that you can get stuck in your head. It’s hard not to always think about sleep: if you’ll sleep, when you’ll sleep, how hard it can be, etc. Your life revolves around sleep and your brain never get to take a rest. As you know, the harder you try to sleep, the more difficult it can be.
One of the main ways to overcome chronic insomnia is learning how to just be. This is obviously easier said than done, to just be.
What’s your “just be” thing?
Chronic insomnia currently has you constantly projecting into the future – always anticipating difficulty sleeping. You try to relax but “can’t”. You try to think of happy thoughts but “can’t”.
I’m here to tell you that this isn’t true.
You are already complete. Every emotion that humans have evolved to have can be experienced by you. You ARE capable of feeling relaxed, content, and care-free. You don’t have to work for it, you just have to rediscover it.
So what is something that allows you to be completely present and forget about time? Something that reminds you that you are complete as you are, and can just experience life?
For me, “just be” things are sensory pleasures. I love smelling, seeing, hearing, and touching nature. I love playing violin because I get lost in the sensations and sounds. Great food is another – wonderful flavours can make me stop and really enjoy taste.
Sensory deprivation is another.
To cure chronic insomnia, self-care is vital. Rediscover what it feels like to “just be” and not have to accomplish something. Sensory deprivation can be a great for your mental and physical health, and I highly recommend it.
Simplicity, patience, compassion.
These three are your greatest treasures.
Simple in actions and thoughts, you return to the source of being.
Patient with both friends and enemies,
you accord with the way things are.
Compassionate toward yourself,
you reconcile all beings in the world.
― Lao Tzu,