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Preparing for Your First Isolation Tank Float Experience

Updated on October 1, 2013

Sven-Åke Bood from the Human Performance Laboratory at Karlstad University has concluded through research that a significant amount of relief can be had through regular isolation tank sessions. Three quarters of a 140 person test group experienced improvements in long-term conditions such as anxiety, stress, depression, and fibromyalgia. You can find these studies in Bood's dissertation Bending and Mending the Neurosignature: Frameworks of influence by floatation-REST.

I can tell you from personal experience though that floating in an isolation tank has been an amazing way for me to get rid of built up stress, and give my body the rest that it needs. Ever since my first float experience I was hooked. The moments leading up to that first float were not as pleasant on the other hand. I wasn't that nervous, but I do remember wishing that there was a bit more information on the web to clue me in as to how my experience would pan out. Hence the reason for this article. My aim is to give you some useful tips while easing you into your first experience.

This article is geared more toward preparing the first time floater for the isolation tank experience. If you have more questions on what an isolation tank is please head over to my article Isolation Tank, What Is It?.

Other Items You Might Bring With

  • comb or brush
  • lotions or cosmetics
  • music (some centers have the ability to use music in the tank)
  • special earplugs
  • open mind

Pre Floating Preperation

There are a few things one should know before floating. Nothing too important, but it will definitely make your float experience more enjoyable if you do not have to worry about these little points. Most of these pertain to the day of your isolation tank session.

  • Try to avoid alcohol, caffeine, or other stimulants prior to floating. These may interfere with your ability to relax to your fullest potential.
  • Do not shave the day of your float. I have learned from experience. The stinging seemed to dissipate quite quickly in my case and was not that big of a deal.
  • Eating within the few hours before your float may cause distracting digestion noise during your session.
  • Wear casual clothing so that you can easily dress and undress for your float. You will also be taking a shower before and after the session.
  • If you have any issues with swimmers ear or are prone to ear infections I would suggest you bring your own ear plugs if required. Every float center I have attended supplied ear plugs, but they were just the standard disposable type.

You should not have to worry about things like a swimsuit, shampoo or conditioner, body wash, towels, bottled water and a few other minor amenities. All of the spas and float centers I have had the pleasure of using supplied these and usually more. A swimsuit is not need because most people float in the nude. Clothing touching the skin is a major distraction in the float tank.


Isolation Tank FAQ

Can I drown in the isolation tank?

The water in the tank is only at a 10in depth. When you are laying on your back you will float no matter what your body type is. The only way to drown in the tank would be to lie face down. This is not encouraged, but the stinging of the salt in your eyes makes this nearly impossible anyway.

Is there anyone that shouldn't use the tank?

It is not recommended that you use the isolation tank if you are epileptic, have an infectious disease, or have open wounds.

Is the tank filled with salt?

Kind of; in a way. Floatation tanks are filled with about 800lbs of Epsom salt(magnesium sulphate). Your body will float on the top due to the high density of the Epsom salt saturated water. It is very good for your skin and always leaves me feeling amazing.

Are the tanks cleaned?

The water in the tanks are cleaned between every session. It is pumped through multiple filtration systems such as mechanical filters, UV filters, and chemical filters. Every time I have floated the water looked crystal clear. On top of all the filtration is the fact that the water is at such a high salinity that micro organisms would have a hard time living in there.

Can the tank be used during menstruation?

As long as a tampon is used there should be no issue.

Can I float if I am claustrophobic?

The isolation tank is an enclosed 4x4x8 box. It is dark inside, but in my personal experience I lose all sense of space as soon as I get into full relaxation. You could float with the hatch open but I feel that this would take away from ideal experience. At my local float center they offer an open float tank as alternative. Call ahead of time and find out if this option is offered.

What happens if you fall asleep in the tank?

You will exit the tank feeling fully refreshed and glowing. I really enjoy falling asleep in the isolation tank. I have only done this a handful of times, but feel great every time. You do not need to worry about time because you will get a gentle awakening from an attendants knock or the lights in the tank. My float center plays meditation music a few minutes at the beginning of my float and a few at the end to alert me that my time is up.

Can two people float together?

I have not seen a tank large enough to accommodate two people at the same time. Again, I feel that this would distract from the relaxing environment the isolation tank is aimed at producing.

How long is the usual float session?

Most float centers and spas will offer a 60 minute or 90 minute float session. I usually go with the 60 minute float, but that is solely due to the cost. I have had a few 90 minute sessions and absolutely loved them. It gave me the perfect amount of time to get into a relaxing state and then really get deep into personal meditation. It would not hurt to start with a 90 minute session for your first experience to really give your body and mind the time it takes as a novice floater.

If you have any other questions please don't hesitate to ask. I will add it to this list if it is warranted.


One of the most important things to remember while preparing for your first isolation tank experience is to relax. I can not say this enough. Not allowing your body to fully relax will only be hurting your bankroll. You paid for these sessions to benefit from them; just allow it. Don't worry if it takes you a long time to fully let go your fist float. I could not shut my inner conversation off until about the last fifteen minutes of my session. This is why I always recommend purchasing a package of three floats. Many float centers offer these packages. This way you get a good three sessions to really get into the groove of benefiting from the entire experience. Now I notice that I am able to fall into a deep relaxation within the first few minutes of entering the tank.

Have Fun and Float On!

What has been your best method of relaxation?

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