First it was sweat blankets. Then it was infrared saunas. Now, it’s sensory-deprivation tanks. When it comes to left-of-center wellness, the ‘70s are back.

A recent article in The New York Times describes the fourth annual Float Conference in Portland, where 500 enthusiasts met to discuss the state of the sensory-deprivation business. According to tank developers Glenn and Lee Perry, who’ve been at it for more than 40 years, sensory-deprivation tanks are more popular now than ever.

So what happens during a session in a tank? You enter a box (which some say resembles a casket) filled with a solution containing water and Epsom salts. Because of the high concentration of Epsom salts—1,000 pounds for just ten inches of water—your body floats effortlessly in total silence and darkness. Most people stay in for an hour or so and pay between $30 and $100 for the privilege.

Proponents say the experience is spiritual, putting you in touch with your body’s internal sounds and deepest thoughts. It’s also been credited with helping to mitigate depression, anxiety, addiction and muscle tension. Non-fans complain of the musty odor and that the perception of uncleanliness (it’s pitch-black and wet) make the experience unbearable. Plus, since the industry is not well regulated, there’s no way to guarantee hygiene and safety.

Maybe the answer is to set up your own tank? That’s what a company called Zen Float Tent bet on. They set up a Kickstarter campaign, got fully funded and now offer easy-to-set-up tents for under $2,000. Or you could just fill the bathtub with Epsom salts and put on a blindfold?



  1. The New York Times: “Climb In, Tune In: A Renaissance for Sensory Deprivation Tanks"
  2. Zen Float Co.
  3. The New York Times: “To Relieve Pressure, Try an Isolation Tank” (published in 1981)
  4. The Stranger: “I Floated for an Hour in a Sensory Deprivation Tank and All I Got Was an Irrational Fear of Snakes"