Thousands of people around the world rely on float tanks to relax, ease muscle pains, and even boost athletic recovery using this therapy. While float tanks can’t cure medical conditions, they’re a useful tool for boosting mental and physical wellness.
Float tanks are incredibly safe for the majority of the population, but rare negative side effects from using a float tank can happen. Let’s look at the most popular deprivation tank benefits as well as some uncommon dangers of float tanks.
Table of Contents
- How do float tanks (floating) work?
- Deprivation tank benefits
- 7 uncommon negative side effects
- Who shouldn’t use a floatation tank?
Can floating help with back pain?
Dr. Jay Shurley and Dr. John Lilly invented the float tank back in the 1950s, so this therapeutic form of recovery has been around for decades.
Float tanks are a type of restricted environmental stimulation therapy (REST), which means they eliminate nearly all stimuli as a way to help you relax.
To do that, each tank is filled with salt water that’s heated to skin temperature. The result is a feeling of weightless floating. Because of the amount of salt in the water, you’re able to easily float on your back without touching the edges of the pod.
Floatation tanks don’t typically have light or sound, which makes for an incredibly peaceful and serene experience. With no devices or notifications to disrupt your rest, you’re able to exist in a state of complete relaxation and awareness.
Many float tank sessions last one hour, but it depends on the floatation tank facilities you go to. For example, Krysus offers 30-, 60-, and 90-minute floats.
Deprivation Tank Benefits
Float tanks aren’t a cure or a treatment for disease, but many people turn to sensory deprivation therapy as a way to unwind. Many studies tout the benefits of sensory deprivation tanks for physical and mental recovery, too:
- Decreased mental health symptoms: Studies show that floats in a tank decreased depression, stress, anxiety, and pain in participants. It also found that people who are more mindful in their day-to-day life tend to have more profound experiences in float tanks, too.
- Pain relief: A meta-analysis suggested that float tank therapy helped participants relieve pain, especially for muscle aches.
Athletic recovery: A 2016 study demonstrated that athletes recover more quickly with float tank therapy.
Float tank therapy can help you feel renewed. For the vast majority of people, it’s a chance to unplug and unwind.
7 uncommon float tank negative side effects
There are so many benefits to float tanks, but there are some float tank negative side effects that you should know about. Not everyone is a fit for float treatment, so it’s best to know about potential side effects before you book a session.
In our busy day and age, it’s an unusual luxury to have an hour to yourself in complete silence. An hour in a tank is a long time to be alone with your thoughts, especially if this is your first float. It’s okay to feel bored and restless during the therapy; that’s just a symptom of your active mind acclimating to a sensory-free environment. Try to practice breathing exercises or meditation to make the most of your time in the tank.
2. Skin irritation
Float tanks contain a lot of salt. That’s what helps you float so effortlessly in the tank, but the salt levels can cause skin irritation for some people.
If you have a small nick or cut on your hands, there is a risk you’ll feel a temporary burning or itching sensation. This is because salt stimulates pain receptors in your skin. But don’t worry — most cuts stop burning after a few moments. If you’re still experiencing discomfort with a small cut, float centers like Krysus always provide ointment to cover it up.
But keep in mind that your skin could experience float tank negative side effects even if you don’t have a cut. People with sensitive skin or chronic illnesses sometimes experience more skin irritation. It’s rare, but in some cases, float therapy can lead to dryness, itching, or rashes for people with pre-existing conditions.
Some floaters experience issues with:
- Sensitive skin: A tank contains as much as 1,000 pounds of salt, which is in contact with your skin for an extended period of time. There’s a risk that the salt can irritate sensitive skin and cause some pain, which includes recently shaved skin, dry skin, or skin that’s prone to getting rashes. People with eczema or psoriasis should check with their dermatologist to make sure their skin health is under control since a float could irritate the skin.
- Women’s health: Women may experience vaginal irritation or pain if they’ve recently shaved, waxed, or had sex. This is often because of the sensitive pH of the vagina, which doesn’t always mix well with salt water. If you experience vaginal burning, it will usually subside. But if it causes discomfort, you can always reschedule your float.
- Bronzer: Depending on the brand you use, some spray tans will come off because of the water’s salinity.
To minimize skin irritation, take care of your skin before a float session. Moisturize well in the days leading up to the float, avoid shaving or exfoliating right before floatation therapy and ensure any cuts are well-healed or covered.
If you know you have sensitive skin, test a small area of skin in the water first before completely submerging yourself in the tank. If a small area of skin feels irritated, Krysus will provide ointment to shield it from the salt water. But if you have a painful reaction to the water, it’s best to reschedule or consult your dermatologist before floating again.
Post-float skin care is also essential. You should always rinse well after a float, which includes rinsing your face and scalp. We recommend using a gentle, hypoallergenic moisturizer after a float to restore moisture to your skin. It’s also best to avoid harsh chemicals or scented skincare products for a few days, just to be safe.
While the salt in the float tank could cause skin irritation, it gives other floaters a natural glow. The combination of skin-temperature water, magnesium in the Epsom salt, and the relaxing sensation in an isolation tank can actually promote healthy skin. Floats can improve circulation to the skin, giving you a youthful post-float glow.
This is a common float tank negative side effect for first-timers. If this is your first time in a tank, it’s understandable to feel anxious. A dark space without stimulation can be unnerving, and the small size of the pod can make some people feel claustrophobic.
If you suffer from claustrophobia, go for a larger tank. Krysus’ float tanks are larger and more spacious than other options on the market, so the added space can help with claustrophobia.
Remember, you have the freedom to exit the pod at any time. You can also call for assistance using the communication button inside the pod, too.
Nausea is one of the most common float tank negative side effects, especially for new floaters. We think of nausea as an ailment that comes from movement, but a lack of motion can make people queasy, too.
Float tanks are designed for sensory deprivation. Most people find the feeling of weightlessness relaxing, but the tank can make some people feel a lack of equilibrium, which can cause nausea. This is a common side effect that usually happens to people who already have motion sickness, vertigo, or conditions like POTS.
You also might feel nauseous during a float if:
- You just ate a big meal or drank a lot of fluids
- You’re dehydrated
- You feel particularly anxious or stressed out
- You suffer from inner ear issues
- You had a traumatic brain injury (TBI) in the past
Many people aren’t used to the sensation of weightlessness in a tank, which is why it’s so common for first-time floaters to report nausea. The good news is that the feeling goes away as you grow accustomed to the float tank. Even if you feel nauseous during your first float, you’ll likely find your next float more comfortable.
There are also a few tricks to feel less nauseous while floating, including:
- Avoiding heavy meals and inebriants: A full belly can make you feel queasy while floating, so eat a light meal or snack before floating instead. Alcohol, recreational drugs, and high doses of caffeine can also worsen nausea, so it’s best to avoid them on the day of your float. While you don’t want to guzzle a lot of water before floating, hydration is still important.
- Grounding yourself: If you feel dizzy or nauseous during a float, try touching the sides of the tank to get your bearings. Breathe slowly and deeply to calm yourself. You can also open the pod lid, which gives your eyes a frame of reference to combat nausea.
- Using props: You can also try a float pillow or OTC nausea medications (cleared by your doctor) to help with nausea. Some float tank centers, like Krysus, provide every floater with their own neck pillow, so you don’t have to worry about bringing your own.
- Taking a break: You can leave the tank at any time, so exit the pod if you need a break. Some floaters find exiting the tank for fresh air will quickly alleviate nausea.
After a float, sit up very slowly as you exit the tank. This will give your body time to adjust. Some floaters like to drink lemon ginger herbal tea after a float to settle their stomachs. If you feel nauseous every time you float, it’s a good idea to chat with your doctor, especially if you have a history of severe motion sickness, vertigo, or related conditions.
5. Ear irritation
If you’re already prone to ear infections, submerging your ears in water for an hour could create ear irritation. Saltwater can cause irritation and pain for people with sensitive ears or for people who had ear surgery. As a fix, you can use an inflatable pillow to keep your head out of the water while in the tank.
Krysus also provides waterproof earplugs for every floater during a therapy session, so you can prevent water from entering the ear. You should always thoroughly rinse your ears with a post-float solution to dissolve salt in the ear canal.
People who suffer from tinnitus sometimes report that they have a hard time in the quiet of a float tank. The silence can make the tinnitus seem worse, so some floaters prefer to keep the lights on or play music.
6. Confusion or fatigue
One of the most common float tank negative side effects for first-timers is confusion upon exiting the tank. After an hour of isolation and stimulation-free relaxation, it can feel strange to suddenly reenter the real world. You might need to adjust for a few minutes after you exit the pod, and that’s normal.
Some people emerge from their float feeling ready to take on the day, while others feel fatigued and ready for a nap. This differs from person to person, but if it’s your first float in a tank, try to schedule it after work hours or during the weekend. This way, you don’t have to pressure yourself to be productive — you can just go home and relax after your float.
7. Hair issues
The majority of floaters don’t experience any damage or issues with their hair while in a tank. However, if you dye your hair in fashion colors like pink or green, regular floats may strip the color from your hair more quickly. Hair stylists have also reported that salt water can conflict with keratin treatments. When in doubt, talk to your hair stylist to see if exposure to salt water will affect your hair.
Who shouldn’t use a floatation tank To Avoid NEgative Side Effects?
Most people see tremendous benefits from float tank therapy. But because of some of these negative side effects, floats aren’t a fit for everyone. You’re more likely to experience adverse effects if you have these conditions:
- Tubes in your ears: If you had tubes surgically placed in your ears, the saltwater will cause tremendous pain.
- Skin injuries: As a rule, you should never do a float if you have open wounds, ulcers, or cuts. This also includes unhealed tattoos and piercings.
- Hallucinations: You should not float if you have a medical issue that causes hallucinations. Studies suggest that float pods can worsen hallucinations in people who are susceptible to them.
- Inebriation: You should never consume drugs or alcohol before a float because it can increase your risk of drowning.
- Kidney disease: A tank uses Epsom salt, which contains magnesium. This can stress your kidneys, so only float if your doctor clears you first.
- Epilepsy: Environmental stimuli (including the lack of stimuli in a tank) can affect seizure disorders. It’s also dangerous if you have a seizure while in the tank.
Enjoy the health benefits of sensory deprivation float therapy
Most floaters don’t experience any float tank negative side effects. The benefits generally outweigh the very small risks of float therapy. Even so, it’s a good idea to chat with your doctor to ensure that float therapy is a fit for your medical history.
Ready to boost your relaxation and recovery in a cutting-edge tank?