If you’re anything like me, you wake up with a less-than-desirable amount of sleep: never quite sure if you truly slept.
You meander through your apartment, attempting to get ready for the day while trying to recall a dream or mustering up some semblance of rest for your body.
In our highly-connected, always “on” world, sleep maximization skills are highly coveted and sought after. In fact, a New York Times article titled “Yes, Your Sleep Schedule Is Making You Sick” was one of the most read opinion pieces of 2017. We have been inundated with sleep hacks ranging from the importance of “sleep hygiene” and avoiding blue light, to getting consistent exercise.
But what if I told you that I found the elixir of sleep and all it required was one thousand pounds of magnesium sulfate?
In true Los Angeles form, I immersed myself in a Sensory Deprivation Tank (SDT) experience called PAUSE Float on the West Side. I was met by a chill dude (let’s call him “Jesse”) who, upon learning that it was my first time, mentioned the many benefits of the tank including the ability to talk to aliens. Though talking to aliens wasn’t exactly on my list of to-do’s for the day, I perked up at the part where he explained how gravity-free environments can help to elongate the spine while flooding the nervous system with endorphins.
After the full spiel, I was told to change into my bathing suit and walk down the hall to one of the two SDT rooms. As I approached a tub glowing in blue light, I wondered whether or not this would live up to Jesse’s hype. Jesse greeted me again, this time with more benefits and instructions: My time in the tub would relieve muscle tension, soreness, and stiff joints. “Make sure you let your head lie all the way back. Most people don’t,” he said. “If it’s too uncomfortable, place your hands behind your head.”
“The more you let go,” He continued on, “the more you ease your mind and potentially enter trance-like dream states. The goal is to reach a feta state, which is one of the deep states of meditation.”
Given that it was my first time, I felt like the bar may have been set too high – feta state of meditation? I can barely get past 10 minutes on Headspace! Then, he said something that stuck with me: “One hour in the tank is equal to that of four hours of sleep.” Say what? Did he just say that if I spend one hour here, it will equal four hours of rest? Now we’re talking.
Jesse said he would cue up the music and allow the automated timed system to begin as he left the room. I rinsed off before hopping into the tub. Luckily for me, I had no open cuts or wounds: I would have burned alive from the vat of Epsom salt. As I loosened my grip off of the edges of the tub, I slowly floated to the top; my face, stomach, kneecaps, and feet broke the surface. I was immediately taken back to my time floating in the Dead Sea.
For the first few minutes, I laid as still as a lily pad. Feeling the full heaviness of my shoulders and neck, I immediately began to realize how much tension one can hold across various body parts. As I lay there, I let my head fall back but my ears naturally immersed themselves underwater and began to fill, which was somewhat uncomfortable. To relieve the stress of my neck and shoulders, I took Jesse’s advice and placed my hands under my head. Much better.
While the session was one hour long, I must admit – after the first 25 minutes of concentrating on my breathing, I could not stay focused or fall sleep. Instead, I became restless and started making to-do lists in my head. Then, just as I contemplated sleep, an itch arose on my forehead. I reached up to scratch it and splashed a drop of magnesium sulfate into my eye. Burn, baby. Burn! “Where is my towel!?” was all I could think of as I strained for the sides of the tub.
It was the beginning of the end. All Hell broke loose as I struggled to re-float and regain focus, only to realize that making it just 55 minutes in the tank was an accomplishment in and of itself.
I climbed out and headed to the shower for a deep cleanse and got dressed. Upon returning to the lobby, I was greeted with a pot of green tea and a smile. I exhaled and took inventory of my body and mood and, despite the mishaps, realized that I felt lighter and more relaxed– something I was sure Jesse noticed and had experienced with other clients.
Later that I night, as soon as my head hit the pillow, I was out like a light. Although I had an early morning flight the next day, I arose with such rejuvenation and calm that it was like I had slept a full nine hours. Could it be true? One hour in the tank equals four hours of sleep? If that’s the case, it’s time to trade in our hot tubs for SD Tanks and Amazon Prime some Epsom salts. Better sleep, here we come.
AUTHOR: Alero Akuya