We Tried It: Sensory deprivation float tank

June 17, 2016, 10:47 PM

— -- I get really nervous before my rec league soccer games. I play goalkeeper and like many athletes (using the term loosely here), I put way too much pressure on myself. The day of a match, I start feeling more and more anxious as it gets closer to game time -- a feeling that starts in the pit of my stomach and rises, occasionally, to full-blown dizzy spells. I have my pregame rituals, and then poof, as soon as the first whistle blows, I'm in the zone.

I'd been hearing about sensory deprivation float tanks for a while, how they're used as tools of relaxation by athletes, creative types and people with serious illnesses. I like meditation and I'm into natural ways to reduce anxiety, so I thought I'd give it a shot. If it can work for professionals, maybe it could work for this rec league goalkeeper, too.

What is floating?

The isolation tank was developed in 1954, in an attempt to research what might happen to the brain if you removed all external stimuli. In the 1970s, Peter Suedfeld and Roderick Borrie began to explore the tanks for potential therapeutic benefits, using hundreds of pounds of Epsom salts to help subjects float on top of the water. A study in the late 1990s found that more than 90 percent of those who tried sensory deprivation float tanks experienced feelings of relaxation; a 2014 study published found that 12 45-minute float sessions over seven weeks reduced stress, depression and anxiety.