Insomniac Rebecca Isemonger entered the tank at Float Culture.
For Rebecca, insomnia crept in after shift work at a new hospitality job and smashed her body clock with a big old hammer. Deprived of sleep, she became anxious and irritable, her eyes itching and her head filled with fog.
“When you’re suffering from insomnia, you can’t switch your brain off,” she says. “It’s a little bit like going to sleep and thinking about every bad life decision you’ve ever made. Thoughts just loop over and over, and you’re thinking, ‘What if this?’, and, ‘What if that?’”
Rebecca stopped using electronics at night, but it didn’t help: “I tried lots of different things, different methods for relaxation and sleep, breathing exercises and stuff like that, but nothing worked. I was desperate for a good night’s sleep.
“One day I saw an advert for floating. It said something like, ‘Suffering from insomnia? Try floating!’. I thought, ‘Hey, that sounds like me. That’s a great idea!’ And I’ll literally try anything.”
The ad was placed by Anton Kuznetsov of Float Culture. Kuznetsov intuited that the anxiolytic properties of floatation might help to break the cycle of stress and deprivation that sustains insomnia. Although there is little hard scientific evidence concerning floatation therapy as a treatment for the condition, it follows that a reduction in cortisol and overall stress is conducive to sleep.
“I decided to do it,” Rebecca says. “I thought, ‘If it works, it’ll be fantastic, and if not, I got to try something cool.’
“When I walked in, it was bigger than I expected. I thought it would be much smaller. You shower, and then you get into the pod. For me, the process of the shower is part of the relaxation. It helps your body to unwind, and that’s something that they suggest you do if suffer from insomnia anyway — shower before bed. I got into the pod, and there was music playing and a blue light on. I left the lights till the music stopped, then switched them off. Then I was in the dark.”
Sleep therapists the world over recommend sleeping in as dark an environment as possible. In a float tank, the darkness is complete.
“It was around that time that I was thinking, ‘What the hell am I doing?’” says Rebecca. “’This is the stupidest idea I’ve ever had!’ But you just have to go through that. You just have to listen to what your brain has to say, let it say all of that garbage, and then eventually it doesn’t have anything left to say. Up until then, I had never experienced that silence.
“I couldn’t tell you how long the float went: being in a confined space without any ability to tell what’s happening in the outside world was, for me, a unique experience. When the music started up again at the end of the session, it felt like someone had tranquilised me.”
Exiting the tank, most people experience incredible feelings of calm, relaxation and quiet joy. For Rebecca, deprived of sleep and entirely fresh to floatation, the effects were even more potent. “When I got home I couldn’t even talk on the phone, I was warm, relaxed and just tired. I had the best night’s sleep I’ve had in so, so long.
“For anyone with insomnia, I highly, highly recommend floatation. Eventually, you’ll get that moment of silence. It’s just about going in without expectations or pressure. Just like getting to sleep.”