Is sensory deprivation the key to relaxation?
Does this sound familiar? The alarm goes off and you jump out of bed, chug coffee, check social media, hit the gym, shower, drive through gridlocked traffic while listening to talk radio, arrive at work to a fire that immediately needs attention, then address the mounting emails that have accumulated while putting out said fire. It’s been a whirlwind day, and it’s not even noon. What’s worse, your mind is already overwhelmed, and you have to do it all over again tomorrow. Can you say SENSORY OVERLOAD?
Recent research shows that 80% of people who visit a physician do so because of stress-related disorders. Athletes can suffer the most from this, because with the stress of competition and performance on the line, they often neglect rest and recovery, which are just as vital to athletic gains as the workouts themselves. (Not letting yourself relax? Give these 5 Yoga Poses That Fight Stress a try.)
I see this issue in my practice almost daily, and although my best answer would be to eliminate some of the stressors and turn off the electronics, I try to be more realistic about compliance. People just “don’t have time” anymore to relax and let their senses come naturally back into focus.
Enter sensory deprivation therapy, or “float tanks.”
Floatation therapy utilizes sensory deprivation within a flotation tank or float room. A sensory deprivation, or “float” tank, is a lightproof and soundproof tank in which subjects float in salt water at body temperature. Though this may sound scary to the claustrophobic among us, many years of well documented testing and university research show that floatation tank therapy not only has an immediate effect on pain relief and stress elimination, but also promotes “whole-brain” thinking and allows for positive visualization without distractions. In this gravity-free floating environment, the body can balance and heal internally as the senses are given an hour off. Studies have also shown that floating and floatation therapy can measurably reduce blood pressure and heart rate while lowering levels of stress-related chemicals in the body. Furthermore, symptoms of old injuries and aches can be relieved due to the weightlessness and the effects of Epsom salts on the muscles.
Bottom line? Just one hour of relieving the body of its senses provides the equivalent rested feeling that comes from about six hours of solid REM sleep. Mind-blowing, sure, but it’s also absolutely crucial for athletic recovery and performance gains.
One thing that many athletes have in common is the ability to visualize success. Athletes like Joe Rogan and Olympic medalists Phillips Idowu and Tasha Danvers swear by floating, both for recovery purposes and meditative visualization. When there are no other senses present, the mind can be a very powerful tool—yet another great reason to turn off your senses for an hour and let yourself float away.