Epsom salt, warm water and darkness set the stage for ultimate relaxation. That’s what I discovered when I tried floatation therapy for the first time, and had the best sleep ever. By Zarelda Marie Goh
Floating feels as good, if not better, than a massage. Photo: Palm Ave Float Club
When I first heard about floatation therapy, I was intrigued. I have notoriously bad sleep, so I’m always looking out for methods that help me snooze better. According to my activity tracker, I am in a restless state roughly 15 times every night, and wake up at least once.
Yes, I’m one of those with a “busy mind”, so I make it a point to start winding down at least an hour before bedtime. This means I put aside my smartphone and laptop, and even avoid watching TV if I’m feeling especially hyperactive. Research shows that the light emitted by these devices affects circadian rhythm. Instead, I listen to music or read a book.
So where does floatation therapy come in? Firstly, the idea of “floating your worries away” isn’t exactly new. It’s been around since the 1950s in the US, but it’s only in recent years that it’s gained popularity on a larger scale, and it's still fairly new to our shores.
The experience basically involves being suspended in a warm solution of Epsom salt in a pitch-dark sensory-deprivation tank for an hour or so. Being in this gravity-free environment is said to relieve anxiety and stress. Its other benefits include better athletic performance and faster recovery in between workouts.
Sounds too good to be true? That’s what I thought, till I tried it out for myself…
I booked a floatation therapy session at Palm Ave Float Club. There are 60- and 90-minute sessions available. I booked the former since this was my first time trying it out.
Before the session, I was given a few pointers via e-mail: Eat about an hour before, and avoid caffeine three hours before. Please avoid shaving/waxing on the same day. You may wish to bring along makeup remover. You’ll have a private room with a float pod and shower. You’re recommended to float nude, but feel free to bring a swimsuit.
Wait, I should float nude? O-K-A-Y. I figured I’d make a game-time decision on that one.
I made my way there on a weekday evening and felt instantly more relaxed upon arriving. The place was bright and welcoming, thanks to clean layout and natural light streaming in. Plants were strategically placed throughout. And I have to mention the lovely lounge with bean bags and floor-to-ceiling windows. Yes, things were off to a good start.
The founder of Palm Ave Float Club, Derrick Foo, was there to greet me. He showed me around the place and gave me the 411 on how a typical session goes. Then I got started.
Private room with a float pod and shower. Photo: Palm Ave Float Club
In my room, I first took a shower – that’s a must-do – then stepped into the float pod, which reminded me of those hibernation pods in the movie Passengers. I decided to go in without wearing a swimsuit since floating is a private experience.
I left the lights in the pod on for the first 10 minutes as I wanted to get used to floating. The water was skin temperature and felt very comfortable. Floating was also surprisingly easier that I thought. And, no, you will not drown. The water is so buoyant that it takes a lot for you to sink.
The tricky part was in figuring out how to place my arms. Derrick said that it was important to relax your neck, and that first-timers often find that bit difficult. So I tried placing my hands behind my head as though I was preparing to do crunches. That didn’t quite work for me, so I placed my arms next to my body and just leaned back as though I was doing backstroke. I consciously told myself to just chill – and that was when the magic happened.
Once I found the most comfortable position for myself, I had the courage to turn off the lights. By then the music had stopped (music is played at the start of the session to ease you in, and later at the end to signal that your time is up).
The pod was dark, but it wasn’t scarily murky. And I didn’t feel claustrophobic. Instead, I felt “free”. There was this sense of liberation – for the lack of a better phrase – that slowly washed over me.
The sound of silence was comforting and I truly enjoyed the solitude. It felt like I was in a dream-like state throughout; it was as though I was drifting in and out of sleep. Honestly, when the session ended, it didn’t feel like 60 minutes had passed.
I felt super-refreshed. I showered (I’d recommend doing so very thoroughly after a session, as the water is very salty) and hung out at the lounge before heading off.
The lounge at Palm Ave Float Club. Photo: Palm Ave Float Club
I’m sold. I felt seriously relaxed coming out of floatation therapy, but the real benefits took place later that night. I had the best sleep of my life! I woke up more refreshed than usual, and my activity tracker showed that I was restless for only nine times when I slept, which is way better than a typical night for me.
I love massages, but I think this can be a good substitute when I want to go for a relaxing treatment but need alone time. I’ll be doing floatation therapy again, for sure.