From the ages of 12 through 18 (1992-1998) I lived in a big, somewhat ridiculous, but interesting, house. One of the ridiculous but interesting things about it was that there was a sensory deprivation tank in the attic above the master bedroom. We never used the sensory deprivation tank, which we referred to as “the floatarium,” because we had no idea how to hook it up or work it, and because it required that we haul 1,000+ pounds of epsom salt up several flights of stairs and a ladder to the attic where it was stored. To give you an idea of how out-of-the-way the floatarium was within the house, we surmised that either the house was built around it or that a crane was used to put it in through the roof–there was no way anyone could have gotten it through the front door. Anyhow, it was a novelty that I haven’t thought about much since the 1990’s.
I bring up the floatarium because I just got done with a session in a sensory deprivation tank, and I wonder if it would be good for my floxie friends. There are a few components of floatation therapy (apparently “sensory deprivation tank” sounded too severe, so most floatation spas call it floatation therapy or REST–Restricted Environmental Stimulation Therapy) that I think can be beneficial to floxies.
First, it’s a way to deeply meditate, and meditation has many demonstrated health benefits. I found meditation to be immensely helpful in my journey through fluroquinolone toxicity (you can read more about my thoughts on meditation for floxies here, here, and here). As a facilitator for meditation, floatation therapy is wonderful.
Second, floatation tanks are filled with 1,000+ pounds of epsom salt, which is magnesium sulfate. Magnesium has helped to alleviate many symptoms of fluoroquinolone toxicity for many people. Floatation may be a good way for floxies to soak up a lot of magnesium. It’s significantly more concentrated than any epsom salt bath you’re likely to take at home. It feels like soaking in magnesium “oil” (many floxies have found topical application of magnesium oil to be helpful), and I emerged from the tank with my skin feeling silky, smooth, and as if it was covered in magnesium oil. Magnesium also has many health benefits, and I wonder if many of the health benefits that are attributed to the meditation and sensory deprivation aspects of floating are actually from soaking up a large amount of magnesium. I think that both are generally good. (However, if you have any sort of kidney issues, or sulfur metabolism issues, magnesium sulfate can be harmful, so please be cautious and talk to your doctor about these issues.)
Third, floating is relaxing. When you don’t have any visual, auditory, or tactile sensory input, you are able to rest, relax, and just be. A lot of floxies suffer from anxiety, and floating may be a good way to relax.
Personally, I felt pretty good going into the floatation tank, and I felt even better–with a nice sense of peace and wellbeing–after I emerged from it. I think it was good for me, and it may be good for many of my floxie friends.
Some of the studied benefits of floatation therapy are noted in Discovery Magazine’s article, “Floating Away: The Science of Sensory Deprivation Therapy.”
“In the early 1980s, a group of psychologists at the Medical College of Ohio initiated a series of experiments that looked at the physiological responses to REST. Both within and across flotation sessions, blood pressure and levels of stress-related hormones dropped – effects that persisted long after the cessation of the last flotation experience. In 2005, a meta-analysis further confirmed that flotation was more effective at reducing stress than other popular methods such as relaxation exercises, biofeedback or relaxing on the couch.
These results prompted researchers to investigate whether flotation could help patients with stress-related disorders. The treatment was used as a primary intervention for disorders as diverse as hypertension, headaches,insomnia and rheumatoid arthritis; all of these studies showed positive effects in small sample sizes. Those suffering from intractable chronic pain particularly benefited from weekly REST sessions: their level of perceived pain dropped, their sleep improved and they reported feeling happier and less anxious. An ongoing project is investigating the use of flotation for fibromyalgia pain management with positive preliminary results.”
As the author of “Floating Away: The Science of Sensory Deprivation Therapy” notes, the sample sizes for these studies were small, but still, it’s interesting, promising, and worth a try for many people.
It should be noted that if your kidneys aren’t functioning well, or if you don’t respond well to epsom salt baths at home, floatation therapy probably isn’t for you. However, for many floxies, I think that floatation therapy has some interesting benefits that may be helpful.
For floxies and non-floxies alike, rest, relaxation, and even sensory deprivation are healthy and helpful. For those who have access to a floatation spa (they can be found in most big cities), it’s something to look into.