How Floatation Therapy and Sensory Deprivation Tanks Help Autistic Anxiety

Relaxed man is floating in a sensory deprivation tank. He is very relaxed. Wellness and Spa concept.

Last Updated on

May 3rd, 2024 11:50 am

Sensory Deprivation and Floatation Therapy, or float therapy as it’s also known, are increasingly popular treatments. These have been successfully used to help people with anxiety disorders. This article will explore the uses of sensory deprivation tanks and how floatation therapy helps ease autistic anxiety. Autistic individuals often struggle with sensory processing.

They may have a hard time reading social cues, understand non-literal language, or know when they’re being played by others. They may also be overly sensitive to certain stimuli and therefore have a harder time relaxing and going to sleep at night. If you have symptoms of autism, you may also have an increased sensitivity to sounds and lights.

Factors such as these can make going out in public difficult and lead to isolation from friends and family. Fortunately, there are ways to combat these issues without relying on prescription drugs or therapy sessions that are expensive and time-consuming. Read on to learn more about how sensory deprivation tanks (or isolation tanks) can help reduce anxiety in autistic individuals.

What is Floatation Therapy?

Floatation therapy is a form of sensory deprivation therapy that helps people with autism-related issues such as insomnia, irritability, and social sensitivity. The therapy process involves being placed in a tank and floating on several inches of water (salt water) at a dedicated float center. The tanks slowly reduce the amount of light entering your eyes. This allows the brain to enter into a deeper state of relaxation.

man in sensory deprivation tank

Floatation Therapy can be very relaxing and alleviate Autistic anxiety

What is a Sensory Deprivation Tank?

In the case of a sensory deprivation tank, this can include spending time in an isolation chamber where no external stimuli are present. There are also places that have these tanks for use at home.

The sensory deprivation tank experience has been shown to help with many things such as:

  • The ability to focus and concentrate
  • Improving mood
  • Decreasing stress levels
  • Decreasing insomnia and sleep difficulties
  • Reducing social anxiety

What is Restricted Environmental Stimulation Therapy (REST)?

Restricted Environmental Stimulation Therapy (REST) is a treatment for autistic children and adults that uses sensory deprivation tanks to help reduce symptoms of Autism. While an individual is in the soundproof tank, they experience complete removal from ordinary stimuli such as hearing, sight, taste, touch, and smell.

The sensory deprivation creates an “outer space” where they can focus on their own thoughts. This may seem like a brutal form of treatment (which it is) and should never be considered against the will of anyone. But for those who find it appealing, its beneficial effects can be a liberating experience.

How Does Floatation Therapy Treatment Benefit the Body?

One of the most common uses for sensory deprivation tanks is as a form of physical therapy. The benefits of float therapy are numerous, and they include reduced stress, improved sleep, and reduced anxiety.

Some people may also experience physical side effects like decreased muscle tension. In the case of autistic individuals, floating in a tank can help them calm down and feel less anxious about the situation they’re experiencing.

For example, someone with social anxiety may find themselves more at ease after floating in their sensory deprivation tank. If you have autism, and you’re feeling stressed out or anxious, consider trying a sensory deprivation tank to help reduce those symptoms.

Improves Both Physical and Mental Performance

One of the most important uses of sensory deprivation tanks is their ability to improve athletic performance. This has been proven in studies that have found that athletes feel more relaxed during competition and are able to focus on their performance less, leading to a better outcome.

Sensory deprivation tanks can also help those with autism improve their mental performance. This is because the environment created within the tank helps to reduce anxiety and improve concentration.

This can be particularly helpful for those with autism who are struggling in school or have difficulty focusing on tasks. The calming atmosphere of the tank allows them to focus more easily on whatever task they need to accomplish.

Provides Pain Relief

Sensory deprivation tanks use water pressure and temperature to help ease various symptoms of autistic anxiety. This technique is also called flotation therapy or floatation, which refers to the buoyancy provided by the water. The feeling of weightlessness that results from floating in a tank allows your body to relax and rest.

In fact, studies have shown that this technique provides pain relief without any increased risk of side effects like drowsiness or sedation. For example, students who use sensory deprivation tanks report a decrease in anxiety, fatigue, and stress levels.

While float therapy may not be a cure-all for Autism, it can provide a temporary reprieve from some symptoms of autism for individuals who are unable to get the help they need elsewhere.

Improves Sleep Quality

One of the leading causes of anxiety in autistic individuals is sleep deprivation. Sensory deprivation tanks are an effective way to improve the quality of sleep and have positive effects in reducing anxiety in autistic people. This deep relaxation can help autistic patients with their anxiety levels and sleep quality, which may lead to improved cognitive function.

Reduces Anxiety

One treatment that has been found to effectively help those with Autism Spectrum Disorder find relief from anxiety is sensory deprivation. After entering the tank, it is highly recommended that you close your eyes, so you can’t see anything.

It’s important to start with a low level of exposure for about five minutes before increasing the duration of sessions gradually. After entering the tank, you will feel light-headed because most people experience a decrease in blood pressure and oxygen levels.

This is normal and when your body adjusts to the sensation of being weightless and unable to move around (which can be uncomfortable), you will begin to experience peace and relaxation. As time goes on, this sense of peace often becomes powerful enough that it can replace anxious thoughts. It can even replace physical sensations associated with autism-related problems such as anxiety from social interactions or sensory overload from loud noises.

How Do Float Tanks Reduce Anxiety?

Floatation tanks have been around for a while and are gaining in popularity. They’re typically filled with a specific amount of salt or other materials to create a dense, buoyant solution. These tanks provide an environment that is free from any sensory input that triggers autistic people with Sensory Processing Disorder, affecting their daily life.

The lack of sensory stimulation that comes with a sensory diet means the person in the float pod can focus on something else, such as meditation and breathing techniques. This deprivation of the sensory systems has been shown to reduce anxiety and stress levels. Additionally, floatation tanks help to clear out physical toxins and improve sleep quality. With improved sleep quality comes improved mental clarity and performance in general.

As with any treatment option, there are some cons associated with float tanks. Some people may feel claustrophobic, although this may be less likely if you don’t spend too long in the tank at once. If you see yourself or someone you know struggling with sensory processing issues, consider floating at a clinic near you for a session or two.

Floatation Tank Therapy

Floatation tank therapy can provide a calming sensation for anyone with sensory overload

Why Do Floatation Tanks Benefit Sleep?

Floatation tanks help people with autism sleep better and reduce sensory overload. There are two ways that floatation tanks benefit sleep in autistic individuals. First, the therapeutic properties of the water allow for relaxation and restfulness. The water is a sensory input that doesn’t trigger any responses, which makes it easier to fall asleep and stay asleep at night.

Second, the water allows for isolation from harmful sensory stimuli while they sleep. This helps diminish anxiety levels throughout the night. If you or a loved one has difficulty sleeping or experiences high levels of anxiety, consider floating in a sensory deprivation tank on your next vacation trip to help reduce symptoms and enjoy restful sleep and more energy in everyday life!

What Happens in a Float Session?

In a float session, the person receiving the treatment lies in a large tank filled with water and salt crystals. The temperature of the water is kept at 104 degrees Fahrenheit, but it feels like you are floating. This causes your body to release endorphins and serotonin, which reduces anxiety.

To help balance out this effect, there is also an underwater treadmill that allows you to walk or run underwater or use equipment such as resistance bands.

These exercises help promote relaxation and re-sensitize your body to stimuli after floating in the sensory deprivation tank. Floatation therapy is not just for autistic individuals, though. Many people with PTSD or chronic pain have found relief from sensory deprivation tanks as well.

Consider Floatation Therapy for ASD

The health benefits of floatation therapy and sensory deprivation tanks for quality of life are too good to ignore. The deep relaxation that comes with eliminating external stimuli brings an unparalleled sense of calm and tranquillity to the often overloaded Autistic mind. Ironically, this in itself is a sensory experience that unmatches any other.

For anyone who wants to improve their mental health and enjoys such outer body experiences, sensory deprivation tank therapy and float tank therapy are a must!

But make sure you check in with an occupational therapist or physical therapist first to make sure it’s the right treatment for you!

Keep reading for more insightful content about living neurodivergent!

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Rob Butler
30-Something Millennial with ADHD and suspected Autistic and Dyspraxic. Thought leader behind this website. Big visions of a better future for everyone, but forgets where he is half the time.Loves Rugby, his kids, and anything silly. Hates U2 and Marmite.

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