By Stephanie Erickson on January 17, 2020
Hopefully you're reading this shortly before your first float experience. We've collected some of the most commonly asked sensory deprivation questions and put together thorough answers that will help get you through. Your first float can be an incredibly powerful experience, assuming you check all of the boxes beforehand. Read on to guarantee an amazing first time float.
Tip #1: Make sure your phone is turned off
Imagine, you're in the tank. It's pitch black. You're floating along blissfully, not a care in the world... then your hear it. Your phone ringing. You're inside the tank. Your phone is outside the tank. Do you get up and answer it? Do you let it continue to ring for another 30 seconds? Then, once it's stopped ringing, you hear your voicemail alert ring. Then a text message or two. Now your mind is distracted and unfocused. The rest of your float is spent thinking about who called and messaged you.
Don't let this be your experience for your first float. Make sure your phone is shut off, or at a minimum, silenced. Also make sure that the vibration is turned off. Many floats have been ruined by a beeping phone, for both beginners and experienced floaters alike. Prevent this from happening to you by ensuring that your phone is turned off before you enter the float tank.
Tip #2: Float naked
As explained in our article about what to wear while floating, the proper way to float is with no clothes on. Sure, you may be a bit squeamish to fully disrobe and hop in the tank, but trust us, your float experience will be much better without a swimsuit on.
The main reason that swimsuits are discouraged is to minimize distraction. Even the most form fitting swimsuit will still rub against your skin or remind you somehow that it's there. Guys, baggy board shorts will drift and brush against your leg. Ladies, the tie on your swimsuit will do the same.
Avoid all the distraction and float naked.
Tip #3: Put in ear plugs when your ears are dry
This is one I had to learn from trial and error. The ear plugs provided to you by the float center work much better when they're inserted dry. This means putting in the ear plugs even before your pre-float shower. The plugs do not want to stick to wet or damp skin. If you put them in when your ear canals are dry, they will stay in place and work well to keep water out of your ears.
Tip #4: Do not use hair conditioner before entering the tank
Hair conditioner is wonderful for healing damaged hair, but it is not great for float tanks. The reason being is that the oils in hair conditioner will get into the float tank water and can damage or prematurely wear out the filtration mechanism.
It is advised to shower and shampoo your hair before entering the tank. Just make sure you save the conditioner for after you finish up your float. Most commonly, people will wrap up their float and re-shampoo their hair to get all the salt water out. They will then condition at that time.
Tip #5: Dry your face with a towel after your pre-float shower
As mentioned in Tip #1 and #2, distraction is one of the biggest causes of a poor sensory deprivation experience. Distraction can come from inside or outside the tank, including directly from your body. We like to encourage all floaters to dry their faces completely before entering the tank in order to prevent beads of water from dripping down their faces while floating. An often overlooked distraction is that single drop of water running down your forehead and into your eyes. Your instinct is to wipe the drop away, which can cause salty float tank water to enter your eyes. As you may have read on this site or elsewhere, tank water and eyeballs do not go well together.
In order to prevent this from happening to you, make sure to dry your face and the front of your hair before entering the tank. The back of your head and hair will get wet again once lying in the tank. The temperature in the tank shouldn't be do warm that you begin to sweat. Ideally, your face and forehead should remain dry during your float. This will prevent any running beads from distracting you, and will keep the tank water out of your eyes.
Tip #6: The tank is slippery so use caution when entering and exiting
This is a tip I've had to learn the hard way. On more than one occasion. Simply said, float tanks are slippery. The stairs, door, and handle are wet and covered with thick, briny water. If you don't exercise caution when getting in and out, you will end up on the floor in a lot of pain.
The best way to ensure that you successfully navigate in and our of your tank is to always make sure that you have a firm grip on a handle or rail. Make sure your grip is tight and your hand won't slip. And use a penguin walk when navigating wet or potentially slippery areas like stairs, the interior of the tank, or any smooth surfaces like tile or laminate.
Tip #7: Sit down and lay back to begin floating
This may seem like a silly tip, but it's come up enough that we felt the need to include it in this list. When first entering the tank, many people are confused about how to position themselves in order to begin floating. We've found that the easiest way to take to the water is to simply sit on your bottom with your legs pointed towards the back of the tank, then slowly lean backwards until your elbows are resting on the tank floor. Once you're in this position, you can easily slide your arms forward until your body is in a full float. You should feel the buoyancy of the salt water well before your elbows reach the ground.
If you're still having difficulty, another option is to assume a pushup position and slowly lower yourself into the water. Once you feel yourself beginning to float, use your arms and legs to roll over onto your back. Slowly continue to lower yourself until you're in a comfortable position.
Tip #8: Find the most comfortable arm position for you
Building on Tip #7, finding a comfortable floating position can be difficult for beginners. People often think that they have to keep their arms at their sides, as this is what's generally shown in float tank photos and documents. The truth is that most people actually float with their arms outstretched and above their heads. Picture yourself making a letter O with your arms above your head. Typically, floaters will use this position, palms up for the duration of their float.
Many people find that this position requires the least amount of "effort" to keep their arms still and relaxed. But, if keeping your arms at your sides is most comfortable for you, by all means, use that position instead.
Tip #9: Turn all the lights off
As outlined in our post about closing the float tank door, we are firm believers that the darker your float tank experience, the better. We advocate for keeping the lights inside and outside of your tank in the off position. This will not only decrease the likelihood of distraction while you float, it will also improve your ability to decompress and focus on your breathing.
If you're claustrophobic or nervous about the darkness, please follow the instructions in the post linked above. It provides a great step by step guide on how to work your way towards floating comfortably with the tank door closed in a fully dark environment.
Tip #10: Do not touch your face
This is quite possibly one of the most important tips for a comfortable first float. If you find that your face is itchy or needs to be touch, absolutely try your hardest not to touch it with wet, salty hands. Best case scenario, touching your face with wet hands will only make your face itch more, as it will now be wet. Worst case scenario, you get salt water in your eye and it ends up burning for the next 15 minutes.
An alternative is to stand up, exit the tank, dry your hands and then scratch your face. Make sure to dry your face and hair afterwards. You may then re-enter the tank, but be warned that it may take you some time to get your focus back after exiting the tank and going through these motions.