Sensory Deprivation: Current Trend In Spa Relaxation?
The very term ‘sensory deprivation brings up images of brain washing, cults, and psychophysical torture. In fact, the Chinese used several methods of restricted stimulation to ‘brainwash’ Korean prisoners of war and whispers abound of it being used all over the world in legally-approved but hidden jails. So who would want to be ‘sensory deprived’ in flotation tanks Melbourne voluntarily?
Yes, despite popular belief, sensory deprivation is not the bad child of the torture world. According to Dr Peter Suedfeld, eminent psychologist, sensory deprivation is not as bad as it so-called reputation. Dr Suedfeld points out that prisoners were usually bombarded with loud noises, images, and beatings which resulted in the ‘brainwashing’ or personality change. On the contrary, he stated that a 1997 study showed that sensory deprivation apparently caused deep relaxation in almost 90% of the patients who tried it out! In 1970, to remove the negative connotation of the term ‘sensory deprivation,’ Dr. Roderick Borrie renamed the procedure as REST or Restricted Environmental Stimulation Therapy. Today two REST procedures are commonly used by specialists to ensure optimum relaxation. In the chamber REST procedure, the participant lies down in a soundproof, lightproof room. In the flotation REST procedure, the participant floats in a buoyant liquid enclosed in a soundproof, lightproof tank
I decided to try the floatation REST procedure. To be frank, it was disconcerting. The Oasis flotation tank was a chunky, large bullet-like device that only emitted a slight hum. The 90″ by 48″ tank has been designed to allow users to wave their arms comfortably without hitting the tank walls. Mike Zaremba, owner/founder of Floathouse, was on hand and he explained that the tank was filled with Epsom salt-filled water. To ensure maximum skin comfort, the water was also heated to perfect body temperature. As a result, when I climbed into the tank, it resulted in a weird disconnect between me and the water. It actually felt like I was floating in a buoyant space. I lost body and space orientation along with proprioception ( perception of pressure and heat and body location) and brought with it a very strong feeling of nausea.
As there was no visual or auditory feedback, my brain started inventing images and sounds that were alluring and a little scary. Unrecognizable images, beautiful waterfalls of color, dots, lines, squiggles; all started doing in the rounds in my head. Interestingly enough, researchers have been able to record the formation of these visual hallucinations and they reported that sensory deprivation resulted in an overactive visual cortex which was trying to compensate for the lack of sound and visual stimuli.
After an hour or so of visual hallucinations, I started hearing lovely sounds as well. A beautiful aria drifted in and out and eventually settled into a funky tribal percussion. Interestingly, these sounds were completely new and I had never heard them before. Could be that the brain was generating these sounds by itself? Apparently, yes! According to research, sensory deprivation also caused a surge in creativity. A small study carried out by five college professors showed that 90-minute flotation sessions resulted in an increase in lateral thinking, free imaging and creative visualization. According to Suedfeld, the sensory deprivation caused by flotation could have mimicked the REM patterns of sleep, meditation or resting, resulting in a surge in creativity.
Right away, the benefits of this kind of flotation tanks in Melbourne seem apparent. But one side benefit that I experienced was muscle and stress relaxation. My body seemed less tighter, limbs seemed relaxed and I felt better. This effect was noticed by other researchers as well. A study was carried out and researches noted that married patients suffering from chronic intractable pain were particularly helped by weekly REST sessions. Their perceived pain was less, anxiety decreased, sleep patterns improved and they felt happier; as l did. However, additional research might be required before REST can be used as a long-term option for pain control in chronic conditions and for stress relief.
The Bottom Line
REST procedures are becoming increasingly popular at yoga centre Melbourne spas and as fun activities during weddings. Float houses have opened up all over the world and users have been increasingly positive about the treatment and its benefits. More research might be required but at present before it becomes universally accepted.
But REST works for me and I will definitely go back.