I am floating naked save a pair of earplugs in two feet of magnesium sulfate infused water, the temperature of which perfectly matches that of my skin.
I stare up at the ceiling of a perfectly sealed room, which feels like a giant spherical hot tub, watching the soft glow of lighted stars shift from blue to pink to green, my arms crossed lightly underneath the air-pillow that’s keeping my head floating, and the only sound is that of my limbs splashing softly as I push off one side of the room with my feet.
Forty minutes or so in, my mind, which has been bouncing from thought to thought—how I need a new accountant, how I want to celebrate my 35th birthday, the call I will be making later to a patient who has been in the hospital—begins to quiet down.
Literally every cell is relaxing, detoxifying and softening. This is the most alone I’ve been in months – maybe years. I’m finding it kind of hilarious and slightly absurd that the only way I have found stillness in New York City is by locking myself in a giant bathtub in Brooklyn for $80 an hour.
But I am here because I need to be. The constant noise of my life is starting to have an impact. Between the travel, the hours upon hours in front of a screen, the speaking engagements, the patients who I love, and the team I am building, plus the constant pings to insta-this and snap-that, I am noticing changes in my body.
Like PMS —which I had never experienced before in my life—that suddenly showed up four months ago, marking one ugly day out of every 30 with profound irrational irritability, the likes of which I’ve never known. And subtle shifts in my metabolism that I refuse to chalk up to age—at 34 everything can, should be, and is still working perfectly.
Thankfully sensory deprivation is a new trend that is beginning to explode in cities like NYC and LA, and I highly recommend you experience it for yourself.
Chronic stress depletes our brains of gray matter , as does the constant use of phones and tablets and computer screens on a daily basis. It also increases cortisol , the primary stress hormone, which if chronically elevated suppresses the immune system , causes sleep disturbances, increases blood sugar, contributes to abdominal weight gain, and even increases blood pressure.
Stress also speeds up the enzyme aromatase, which converts testosterone to estrogen, increasing hormonal imbalances like PMS (think irritability breast tenderness and bloating ) and leading to weight gain around the hips and thighs. Excess estrogen also contributes to conditions like uterine fibroids and endometriosis, and lower testosterone can make it harder to retain lean muscle mass.
Sensory deprivation—like my bathtub float—is one way of ensuring you spend more than just a minute or two experiencing total quiet and deep relaxation. If you do this regularly you stimulate the vagus nerves which relax the body, improve digestion, lower cortisol , and thereby slow down aromatase.
If reading this is causing a bell to go off somewhere that perhaps you need a little more relaxation in your life, I recommend trying Parsley Health’s free5 Day Reset program which helps you de-bloat, develop a mindfulness practice, and focus for a few days on healing and restoring your body.
As part of the 5 Day Reset, try making a sensory deprivation experience happen at least once. (Parsley Health members get a discount at some of our favorite floatation spots.) You’ll be surprised at how quickly your body can reset and restore when you make deep relaxation part of the program.
Dr. Robin Berzin is the founder and CEO of Parsley Health. A Summa Cum Laude graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, Robin completed medical school at Columbia University’s College of Physicians and Surgeons, and trained in Internal Medicine at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City.