The Benefits of Floatation Tank Therapy

In a hyper-connected era, sensory-deprivation float tanks are rising again in popularity.

It seems the the practice of floating in sensory-deprivation chambers or float tanks — pitch-black, soundproof capsules popularized by artists in the 1970s — is enjoying a frenzied renaissance, with new float centers popping up almost weekly in cities and suburbs nationwide.


I went to check out Glow Spa here in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina where they offer something called R.E.S.T. (restricted environmental stimulation technique). Using a floatation tank can decrease stress, anxiety, pain and actually improve your sleep quality, but I have to say I was a little bit anxious about trying it because I have a bit of claustrophobia. I know this because of what happened when I had to get in an MRI machine once. But, out of curiosity and the desire for a better night’s rest, I decided to check it out.

I met with Steve Eppel, the owner and expert on flotation tank therapy who explained that I would be floating in their float tanks for 60 minutes, in 10 inches of water with 1,100 pounds of Epson salt, heated to 93.5 degrees. He assured me that it would be a very relaxing and peaceful experience. Steve explained that it’s really about doing “nothing” and I was going to get the chance to do 100% nothing for one hour.

Then Steve said something that really struck a cord with me.

“It takes extra effort to do something for ourselves because we are really good at giving our time to everyone else, but it’s hard to give to ourselves.”

I think that resonates with most of us.

Now, the float tanks at Glow Spa are 8 feet tall, 8 feet long and 4 feet wide and these are not the “capsules” that you see at some locations. They are roomy and spacious. There are multiple types of float tanks and Steve explained that what he offers is more of a float “room”.

Steve also gave me some tips on how to get the most out of my experience. He explained that floating with my arms upward would be the most comfortable position for most of us because of the rotation of our shoulders.

He provides a noodle to support my neck and head, but he explained that the Epson salt makes the water twice as dense as the dead sea, so the water would support my entire body. I just needed to let go.

Steve also explained that we all carry stress in our bodies in different places. Some in our neck and shoulders and some in our back and hips. He explained that he found that most folks go into the float and they don’t realize it but they are trying to hold themselves up and they don’t need to, because that only creates more tension in their neck and shoulders. You really have to learn how to relax and hang in the water.

There is no lock on the door, so you are 100% in control. “I like to tell everyone we don’t take hostages,” explains Steve. You are 100% in charge. “This is also what I like to call training wheels for meditation.”

Steve continues, “I tried to meditate 100 times and I cannot hear the birds or I cannot not feel the breeze, I cannot not hear the clock ticking.” “Getting in the float tank forces all those other things away and it leaves me with just myself and that ability to try to learn how to do meditation.”

After showering and changing and following the other instructions for the best float possible, which you can read here  on the Glow spa website, I was left alone for 60 minutes of nothingness.

Steve explains “This is a way to try to be mindful and try to figure things out. We all kind of take for granted the time we need to reflect and relax. When you are off, be off. If you let all the stuff going on in your life continue to build up, it just wrecks you. The more you float, the easier it is for when you are busy about your day to just relaxWe know when we need to get our car fixed, we know when we need to get a hair cut, we know when we need to go to the dentist, but we don’t know when we need to float. The only way that is going to happen is to give yourself some time in the tank.”

After floating for 60 minutes, I can say I felt unbelievably relaxed physically and mentally. It is kind of surprising that when you close your eyes, and you open them again, it’s just as dark. It’s like a different sensation the first time you try it. I mean my eyes were open and I was looking but I couldn’t see anything. It almost looks like it goes on forever. At one point I tried a little bit of meditation while focusing on the breathing, that was pretty much all I could hear. So it was a lot less distracting than meditation, it was a different experience. It was really as close as I ever got to my mind not thinking about anything and that is not usual for me.

While I was in there, I had this Neil deGrasse Tyson moment. With my eyes open, it felt like I was looking off into infinity, it just goes on forever and ever. “

I really enjoyed my experience and I will be back for the relaxing effects.  There have been very small scientific studies like this one that explain that sensory isolation in a flotation tank is a method known for inducing deep relaxation and subsequent positive health effects for patients suffering from e.g. stress or muscle tensions pains, yet very few studies have investigated this method as a preventive health-care intervention.

A Plan for Sleeping Well

I am with my wife Laurice, we are in our bedroom and not surprisingly because we want to talk about the importance of getting a good night’s sleep.

I think we can talk about a lot of epidemics in this country, like heart disease and obesity among a number of them. Sleep has really become one of the newer epidemics. It is estimated that 50-70 million people have some type of a sleep disorder. They may have trouble falling asleep, staying asleep and they may have excessive sleepiness during the day or they may find they are doing strange things in bed at night, like kicking their legs a lot or developing restless leg syndrome.

When you look at the science of sleep and you look at what poor sleep does to our risk of chronic diseases, you really want to do what you can, to get a good night’s rest. Not getting enough sleep increases your risk of heart disease, diabetes, obesity and things like anxiety, depression and excessive alcohol use.

This has become a 30-40 billion dollar a year industry in this country and all kinds of gadgets are coming on to the market – different sprays you can spray on your pillow, sound machines you can put by your bed and different apps you can use. You can experiment and see what works best for you.

We started our journey to getting better sleep with looking at all the different recommendations out there and trying to figure out what worked best for us.  We call this our Sleep Well Strategy.  Laurice and I had to team up on this because we both share this space.

Some of our general rules include –

  • Trying to get 7 to 8 hours of sleep each night.
  • Going to bed and waking up around the same time each day.
  • Accessing and adjusting how we are feeling constantly as we continue to adjust our routines and environment.

The environment in which you sleep is another big part of it. We make sure that our room is dark.  The other thing is the temperature, that can be really important. Make sure your room is cool enough. For us, it is around 67 to 68 degrees.  Now, if you suffer from night sweats, you may want to read this article on, where I explain the causes of Night Sweats and what to do about them.

A Cluttered Bedroom Can Be A Big Issue

Laurice explains, “One of the things we both feel strongly about is that we don’t like a lot of clutter.” “If the room feels chaotic when we walk in and there is stuff all over the place, than that is not a settling feeling for either one of us.

Adam continues. You know, we have a pre-bed routine.  I know if I watch some action-packed movie right before bed, that gets my adrenaline going and I am going to have more difficulty falling asleep.  Sometimes I will practice mindfulness before going to bed and I find that to be helpful. The other thing is that I still wake up occasionally in the middle of the night and we actually have some night lights set up so I don’t have to turn a bright light on if I want to go use the restroom. That bright light can tell the brain, “Oh maybe the sun is up and it is time to wake up.” These are simple things that we can do to keep the environment in our bedroom more conducive to sleep.

One of the things I get asked about is taking a nap. If you are able to take a nap and have the time, that can be very effective and a nice way to rejuvenate, no longer than 20-30 minutes at the most because you then get into deeper levels of sleep and you will wake up and feel much more groggy.

It’s all about finding the way to live your best life. You want to be energized and you want to do the things throughout the day to stay focused. If you are at work you want to be productive and sleep is such a key component to this. Developing your right sleep hygiene – sleep routine – sleep strategy and find what works best for you.

Sustaining Healthy Habits and Weight Loss

Dr. Adam Perlman      So many of my patients and friends and family have struggled with being overweight and have tried various fad diets and approaches to losing weight. I get asked about different diets and whether they work or not. I know you shared with me that when you were younger you were overweight and how you were able to lose that weight and keep it off. What was the secret? What was the journey like for you?

Brian Durbin MEd, CSCS of Synchronicity  I was young, I was 19 and I’ll never forget getting on the scale and I got on there and it’s 276 pounds. So I was 6 foot 3 inches and I had been playing football and I remember thinking “Whoa, this has gone too far. . .” I wasn’t playing sports any more and I thought, I have to reel this in. So I started reading data about what happens if you don’t lose the weight and it scared me.  So, it was that point that I started putting in small, little changes that involved exercise and nutrition, trying different things, learning new information, all along the way, it was just experimentation and learning. What works, what doesn’t work.

Adam So many people have this scenario where, you used the words “it scared me!” I often wonder how we create that sort of epiphany for ourselves, that inflection point in our lives, where we decide to do something different.

Brian I get bored incredibly easily. I am not going to be the guy who has the same thing for breakfast, lunch and dinner. That’s not going to be my thing, but if I find some article about some crazy fruit that comes from Africa that has this health benefit, I will definitely add that into my diet for a few weeks. So I try to keep things fresh and that has been a really big help to me.

Adam It reminds me of the Duke Wheel of Health. What I like about the Wheel of Health is that it looks at all these different areas of health and well-being, not just nutrition or exercise, but the concept of rest, professional development, spirituality, which could be interpreted as purpose and meaning in your life, along with connection and relationships. Often we can be a little too tunnel vision with our view of what a healthy lifestyle is or what well-being truly feels like and the Wheel helps me think more broadly about various aspects in my life, some of which maybe healthier than others. The Wheel helps me focus on different areas.

Brian As an example, how are exercise and relationships related? On the surface it might not seem like they are, but when you go “wow, aerobic exercise actually helps with my anxiety levels, lessening my chances of depression, my self-esteem and then you go, how does that actually play out with the way I communicate with people? Or how I make time for things and how I prioritize my life.  Everything is interrelated.

Adam I’ve heard you talk to about just being grateful for things like my heart that continues to beat and grateful for the breath that I can take. This has helped me, as someone who has struggled with trying to be perfect vs excellent which has led to unneeded suffering at times. I also think of someone, as we often do, scan the environment for threats, which at one point worked well for us. Now a days the threats are a text message we didn’t like or an email that had the wrong tone and letting ourselves get trigged by that.  That is something personally that I have worked on, not only for myself but as an example I want to set for my kids.  We have five children as you know and how do we teach gratitude to them? I think it starts by stopping and feeling gratitude ourselves, on a daily basis, right?

Brian  Just feel your heart beat, right, feel your heart beat and feel the appreciation for that. None of us asked to be here.  I mean, I don’t remember asking, but I’m here.  Can you feel appreciation just for that? Just for the heart beat and the chance to be here. Whether it is hard times or good times, can you feel appreciation for that?  Blending that with Rumi, especially his Guesthouse poem, about feeling these things, bad, good, they flow through us, can we let them flow through us without labeling them as good or bad?  That is how we can experience gratitude just for the gift of life.

Adam  The mind body connection is really interesting. I have seen that many times with my patience. It doesn’t mean what they are experiencing isn’t real, somehow other aspects of the way they are thinking or feeling is influencing their physiology.

Brian  I studied biomechanics in school, which is really just physics of the body.  It’s incredible, because you can watch somebody change their body when they start talking about something uncomfortable. You can start to see neck muscles start to contract. You can see recoil, tightness in the arms. The things we maybe are not aware of, right? Depending on what’s going on in our minds is manifesting in our bodies. It’s quite incredible.

Adam  Yeah, it is a struggle.  So many people get hung up on perfection. They think “I should have a purpose, I heard this on a podcast and now I’m going to buy the Dalai Lama’s book.” It really starts with small changes. I use to put three sugars in my coffee. I think the first thing I did, is cut it down to two.