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Space-time Tanks

Space-time Tanks — a hidden oasis in Lincoln Park among the chaotic noise of the city — is the only business in Chicago that offers flotation tanks.

Space-time’s most popular service is its sensory deprivation tanks, or float tanks, said owner Sarah Stephens. The tanks are filled with 800 pounds of Epsom salt dissolved into 10 inches of water, totaling about 220 gallons per tank, Stephens said. Each tank is 8 feet long, 4.5 feet high and 4.5 feet wide, offering plenty of room.

Space-time tank. Photo by Christopher Sebela.
Space-time tank. Photo by Christopher Sebela.

Completely dark inside and equipped with heaters and water that matches body temperature, the tanks give the illusion that the client is floating. The tanks offer two components — sensory neutral space and the feeling of floating. Stephens said the main purpose of each tank is to promote wellness and calmness.

“Anything that is going to reduce stress in your life and make you feel more connected with yourself is beneficial,” Stephens said. “It’s good for humanity as a collective too, because if you’re more relaxed and less tense you will promote that energy to those around you and create a positive environment not only in yourself but in everyone around you.”

The rest of the world drops away when the client is in a tank, said Stephens.

“When your brain isn’t being stimulated by the external light, sound, touch, taste, smell, your brain starts to respond to internal stimulation of your own thoughts without influence from the outside world,” Stephens said.

Founded in1982, Stephens and her former husband Eric Polcyn bought the business in 1992. Space-time attracts clients from all walks of life between the ages of 18 and 80, Stephens said.

Stephens said the first time floating is more of an initiation into figuring out what’s comfortable and getting used to the feeling. Finding a goal or intention and fixating on that during the first float allows the next time to be more productive when the client can bring that intention back into the tank, she said.

“After a person’s first time, the most common thing I hear is ‘I feel very relaxed,’ or, ‘That was interesting,’” Stephens said.

Many clients who float use the time inside the tank to deepen any personal meditation they may do at home, as well as seeking a serene and peaceful environment, Stephens said. She also said it can accommodate more serious issues such as soothing arthritis, insomnia and fibromyalgia.

“Floating helps me find out a lot about myself and helps me exercise my brain waves in a really special and unique way,” Daniel Ruffolo, client at SpaceTime, said. “It seems taboo, but I like to try interesting things, and it just kind of resonated with me. It’s not something I want to do everyday, but if I had one in my room or apartment I would.”

Stephens said that upon taking over the business there have been a lot of ups and downs as far as popularity, but over the last four years floating is not as “underground” as it once was.

“We’re definitely a word-of-mouth business,” Stephens said. “Whether you tell a few friends or go and tweet about it and post it on Facebook, so 100 of your friends know. We get people from all over Chicago and surrounding suburbs, but we’re by appointment only to keep an intimate and unique service. Some people within Lincoln Park may not even know we’re here.”

Stephens said she personally floats at least once a week, if not twice. Over one seven-year period, she said, she lived in both Berlin and Chicago, and if it hadn’t been for the float tanks her jet lag would’ve been out of control.

“The float tank is an absolute perfect sensory environment for sleep,” Stephens said. “When we go to sleep at night we’re basically trying to create that serene environment as dark and quiet and comfortable as possible.”

Stephens also credits SpaceTime for the ability it has given her and business partner, Polcyn to stay friends after divorcing years ago.

“I think if we weren’t in this type of industry running this kind of business that we wouldn’t still have the good friendship and family ties that we do now,” Stephens said.

In addition to the flotation tanks, the business also offers four different services in massage therapy and light and sound machines.

Also, the next neuro service is a massage chair that adheres to the body. It is equipped with six speakers and headphones that supply music, which is synchronized with the chair. The goal is to synchronize the music with the client’s brain waves, which respond to the body’s vibrations within the chair.

SpaceTime is open Monday-Friday from noon to 9 p.m., Saturday from 10:30 a.m. to 9 p.m., and Sunday from 10:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Pricing is available online at

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