Sensory Deprivation: My Experience

This fall is shaping up to be a little bit insane for both me and my husband, Joel. We both have a lot of very long, strange work hours. Earlier this week my husband surprised me with the news that we were trying Sensory Deprivation as a fun date.

Sensory deprivation is something I’ve wanted to try for a long time. If you don’t know what it is, essentially you lie in buoyant saltwater at your body temperature in pitch black and complete silence for 90 minutes. The goal is that you are completely disconnected from your bodily senses.

I’ve heard all kinds of crazy things about it. I heard of people having polar opposite experiences. I’ve heard some people say that it’s like being on drugs and they hallucinate, that it’s more relaxing than a massage, that it can heal injuries, provide pain and stress relief, and unparalleled mental clarity and spiritual transformations.

On the other hand, I’ve heard some pretty negative things too, like giving people panic attacks, inducing severe stress, and causing strange hallucinations.

With such mixed reviews, I was really curious to try it for myself, and Joel knew it would be the perfect date. We went to OM Float in Ashburn, VA. Where they offer 90-minute float sessions. I read some of the philosophy behind the theories of healing just to prepare for the day.

Putting everything I knew aside I was going to try and see if I could have a positive experience. The reasons we wanted to go was to see if it would be relaxing and to try something new. We weren’t going to try and get bodily healing, or have a super spiritual experience. This is what my experience was like…

Our appointment was booked a couple of weeks ago (because who knew, they fill up so fast.) Before you come, they send you an email reminder of your appointment. Our appointment was for 9 a.m. They recommended we only eat a small, light breakfast and go light on any caffeine. They like you to get there a few minutes early and are very kind and welcoming when you arrive. After arriving they offered us tea and water. We waited in the sitting room while they made sure our rooms were ready.

After about 5 minutes they lead us back to a hallway with about six different float rooms. Each client gets their own room, Joel and I did not share a room or a tank. Each room has low, calm light, a shower with body wash and shampoo, a float tank with adjacent filtration system, a towel, washcloth, bathrobe, sandals, waterproof earplugs, and Q-tips.

Here is what they told us to do. They ask that you shower with soap before you get in the tank. Each tank is filled with ten inches of very, very salty water. The water is set to the temperature of human skin which is about 94 degrees F. They advise that you float naked, but I brought a swimsuit anyway.

There is soft, spa-like music playing when you enter the room and that music lasts for fifteen minutes before you’re in silence. They tell you to lock the door to your personal room, and make sure you know that there are no locks on the float tanks.

With all of the info on the table I was lead into my private room where the fifteen minutes of music was playing. I locked the door, stuffed the earplugs in my ears, took a shower and jumped in the tank. I would say that the first 30 minutes was torture, mostly because I didn’t put my swimsuit on, because I was trying to embrace the whole experience.

In the first 30 minutes the music had stopped and it sort of felt like I was floating in space but I also felt like I was spinning to the right in a circle and I got really really nauseous. I also was super uncomfortable without any clothes on and my mind was racing at the speed of light no matter how I tried to calm it down. I jumped out of the tub, put my swimsuit on and jumped back in.

The nausea and spinning feeling came back but I was finally able to relax and focus on releasing all the tension in my shoulders, neck, lower back and jaw. I started to focus on my breathing and looking at the bursts of color I was seeing under my eyelids.

I fell asleep for almost the rest of time, bobbing around in the nothingness.

I awoke with a jolt and almost had a heart attack when one of the strings on my swimsuit brushed against my arm. I thought I was going to die and there was something in the water with me till I realized it was my swimming suit. I started to calm back down when the music started playing and the low lights started to come on inside the tank.

I got out of the tank, showered again (but had to shower when I got home too because wow there was a lot of salt still stuck in my ears and hair). I got dressed and Joel and I left.

Overall, I would say bizarre. It was one of the strangest experiences I’ve had, but I’m glad I tried it. Here is what I enjoyed.

The facility was clean, and I felt good about that. The service was great and the people were kind. I liked the lighting and how they really try and set the mood. I do feel like I could and still can feel some of the tension gone from my shoulders, knees and feet.  I liked the way the salt made my skin feel and it still feels super soft today, it also helped heal up some bug bites that had been irritating my skin the last few days. I liked the smell of their soap (it was lavender). I liked the feeling of weightlessness and floating through space, but I think I’d rather do it under the stars not in pitch blackness.

Here’s what I didn’t like. I didn’t like how nauseous I got at the beginning. I didn’t like floating without a swimsuit at the beginning. I didn’t like how there was salt all over my clothes afterward. I didn’t like that water got stuck in my ear even though I used the earplugs (got it out with rubbing alcohol). I left and spent most of the rest of the day feeling exhausted and out of it. And maybe this is wrong of me, but I’m sort of disappointed I fell asleep? I don’t know.. it sort of felt like an expensive nap?

What did I get out of it? Well I can say I’ve tried it. I do feel like tension was relieved from my shoulders, knees, and feet, but not more than a massage would give me. I don’t feel like I had any spiritual revelations (but I wasn’t looking for any). It was sort of crazy how wild my mind felt and colorful visions were throbbing under my eyelids.

Conclusion, would I do it again? Honestly, probably not. Not because I had a bad experience, on the contrary, I feel like I had a very mixed experience. Overall I feel like it was more positive than negative, but for the money, and for my goals, I think I would choose a massage, or a facial over sensory deprivation. To me, those are more relaxing experiences.

So that’s it. Let me know if you have any questions, and I encourage you to try it once for yourself. I won’t be going again, but I’ll never forget the time I had! Hope you enjoyed this post!


  1. I really liked your review of the experience you had. I’m not sure if I would get/ feel claustrophobic in such a small tank, other than that I think I’d really like to try it. Thanks again for sharing!

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