What is an Infrared Sauna?
An infrared sauna is a small room or lodge that is designed to use light as heat, by way of infrared lamps, instead of hot air. Infrared saunas are generally constructed using wood planks and can fit between 1-4 people, or more, depending on the size of the unit.
The infrared lamps do not heat up the room, much like a traditional sauna would.
Instead, the infrared lamps emit electromagnetic radiation in order to heat up your body.
Physical therapist Vivian Eisenstadt, MAPT, CPT, MASP explains that:
“These saunas use infrared panels instead of conventional heat to easily penetrate human tissue, heating up your body before heating up the air.”
The light penetrates the skin at different depths using various wavelengths including far, mid, and near-infrared. These wavelengths are located on the light spectrum and carry various qualities and characteristics.
Unlike a traditional sauna where the temperature is usually hovering around 180-200 degrees, infrared saunas operate at a lower temperature around the area of 100 to 130 degrees.
It’s been said that around 80% of the energy from the infrared lamps goes directly into the skin, while around 20% heats the air. This kind of penetration, as opposed to just being in a hot room, allows for a deeper sweat and a cascade of enhanced health benefits.
Although the temperature in the infrared sauna is not as hot as a traditional sauna, people can tolerate the environment for a longer period of time while they experience a higher level of penetration.
What are the benefits of using an infrared sauna?
When it comes to comparing the benefits of an infrared sauna to a traditional sauna, the two share many similarities.
Some of the health benefits include:
- Weight loss
- Muscle relaxation
- Reduces anxiety
- Helps relieve joint pain and muscle stiffness
- Increased circulation
- Collagen stimulation for clearer and tighter skin
- Improves mood
- Reduction in stress and fatigue
- Heals the body
Infrared saunas have also been around for a lot longer than you may think.
Before the sauna, was the use of the sun! Well, in a sense.
Sunlight is actually one form of infrared light that has many health benefits on the human body, similar in some aspects to that of a sauna.
Infrared saunas, as a unit, however, have been around for nearly 60 years. The first infrared sauna was invented back in 1965 in Japan.
Infrared Sauna Research
Research conducted on traditional saunas are widely available, but the availability of studies conducted on infrared sauna usage are fewer. Some of the impactful studies are as follows
- One study showcases the use of far infrared light as a treatment of cardiovascular risk factors, with limited moderate evidence supporting that it can normalize blood pressure and treat congestive heart failure.
- Another study aims to showcase that trace metals within the human body can be excreted through sweat, what an infrared sauna primarily does. The study reports that “sweat appears to be an important excretory pathway for zinc and copper.”
- One study, conducted by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOS) found that the “rate of mesothelioma is two times higher in firefighters.” It’s also shown, based on multiple studies, that firefighters are more likely to get cancer than the general population. With this information, firefighters are able to detox their bodies of some of these toxins while working up a sweat.
- One Russian study, in proving that heat acts as a precursor for antioxidant protection, showcased that “the effect of high temperatures promotes the oxidative stress that is followed by the formation of adaptive reactions in the form of activation and antioxidant protection, enhancement of non-specific responses of the cells, increase of stability and restoration of structural homeostasis of erythrocyte membranes.”
The available studies focus mostly on the various kinds of infrared light, and how temperatures can help the body adapt to stressors and become more resilient. This information is key to help people make informed decisions when deciding whether or not to invest in an infrared sauna.
Contrastingly, there have been no studies presenting any evidence of adverse effects.
One 2017 study titled ‘Biological effects and medical applications of infrared radiation’ goes on to explain that “previous clinical studies have shown that LLLT (low-level light therapy) has a wide range of benefits on various patient populations, different medical indications and conditions without any serious risk of adverse effects.”
However, there are some possible short term effects noted when the infrared sauna is used incorrectly, or if someone has any prior conditions.
Some adverse effects when using an infrared sauna may include:
- Faster dehydration due to sweating more
- May promote light-headedness
- Heat exhaustion or heat stroke
- An adverse effect of medication due to increased blood circulation
- Persons with chemical sensitivities
William Rea MD, author of Chemical Sensitivity: Tools, Diagnosis, and Method of Treatment, Volume IV, explains that “uncontrolled, too-rapid mobilization can have devastating effects on chemically sensitive patients.”
Although infrared sauna use is generally very safe, it’s important to have a good understanding of your body, be aware of any medications you take, and use the treatment with moderation.
Tips To Get The Most out of Your Sauna Session
Although you technically won’t be operating this unit, the sauna is like any other piece of heavy equipment or machinery. It needs to be taken seriously, so you, and the unit itself, won’t get damaged.
Before getting into the sauna, make sure you are physically in good condition to use it.
Also make sure that everything looks good including cable, wires, and plugs. Don’t operate the machine if something is broken.
Some tips to get the most out of your sauna session include:
- Using the Sauna When Sick. If you are feeling sick or have a fever, it’s not recommended to use the sauna. There have been some studies suggesting that using a sauna may be beneficial by acting as an expectorant of sorts, but other studies have shown that mixing a high temperature with a fever taxes the body to higher than normal levels and can cause some unwanted issues.
- Under the Influence. Don’t use the sauna if you are under the influence of alcohol, prescription drugs, or anything that may impair your body and judgement. The last thing that someone would need is to fall asleep or become impaired, and not be able to exit the sauna in the recommended time.
- Essential Oils Usage. Incorporate essential oils into your sauna sessions. Alongside the relaxing properties of a sauna by itself, adding in an additional element of natural calming remedies can combat anxiety, stress, nervousness, and help relax. Using an aromatherapy cup lets you enjoy the scents and benefits of these oils while you relax. Some of the popular essential oil scents for relaxing and helping with anxiety include:
- Lavender oil
- Bergamot Orange oil
- Lemon oil
- Sweet Marjoram oil
- Ylang Ylang oil
- Sandalwood oil
- Chamomile oil
- Clary Sage oil
- Geranium oil
- Stretch Your Body. One great way to get the most out of your sauna session is to stretch out your body or perform some kind of mini yoga session. It’s very similar to Bikram yoga since you are in a heated room.
- Incorporate Skincare. Before even entering the sauna, use some kind of moisturizer or cream including coconut oil to maintain hydration. The heat from the sauna also opens the pores on your body, so anything that you may use may have an added effect on the skin as it enters the pores. After your sauna session, make sure to reapply the moisturizer or other skin care products as your skin may have dried out since the first application.
How To Use an Infrared Sauna
Using an infrared sauna can be one of the best decisions you ever make when looking to better your health and enjoy the array of benefits.
The popularity of infrared saunas is continually increasing, and you can find them at many places including doctor’s offices, practices, health clubs, and more.
The most convenient way to enjoy an infrared sauna session is, of course, in the comfort of your own home. If you do own an infrared sauna, and although you are in a more private setting, it’s important to maintain the same best practices and guidelines of sauna use when using one.
- Set Your Temperature. Set the temperature of your sauna to your desired level. Since infrared saunas don’t need to be as hot as traditional saunas, a good rule of thumb is to set the temperature at around 120 to 140 degrees.
- Hydration is Key. Make sure you are hydrated before you enter the sauna to prevent early dehydration and other adverse effects.
- Clothes & Towels. Have a bathrobe and/or towels ready for when you sweat and perspire. Line the ground with towels to absorb even more sweat. One other option is to go in completely naked, but make sure you are alone and/or respect others who may be in your presence.
- Spending Your Time. Depending on how you want to enjoy your infrared sauna session, make sure you have everything you need so you don’t have to constantly walk in and out of the sauna. This can include any reading material, listening to music, podcasts, or audiobooks. You can also just opt to do nothing and relax or meditate, to help melt some of the stress of the day and get in the right mindset.
- Time Spent in the Sauna. Be mindful of the total time spent in your infrared sauna. 20-30 minutes is around the average range, while more or less may be beneficial depending on your needs and your tolerance. While infrared saunas are a lesser temperature than a traditional sauna allowing you to be able to spend more time in them, that doesn’t always mean that more is better.
- After Your Session. After your session is complete, it’s recommended to initiate in a cool-down period for a few minutes before you do anything else. This helps get your body temperature back to homeostasis and you’re not putting any additional stress on the body. After your body is cooled down, take a bath or shower and resume your normal daily activities.
- How Often to Use the Sauna. How much time you want to spend using the sauna per week comes down to your needs and your tolerance. Using the sauna every day may be beneficial for some, while using it only 2 or 3 days may be optimal. If you’re unsure of how long you should be using the sauna and you have medical conditions, consult your physician.
- Cleaning the Sauna. Making sure your sauna is in tip-top shape will ensure that you get the most life out of your unit for a long time. After each sauna session, wipe down the areas where sweat has accumulated and then perform a quick check to see if any debris has collected.
- Checking the Electronics. Once in a while, make sure to check out the components inside and outside of the sauna to make sure that everything is plugged in correctly and nothing looks damaged. The longer you wait to fix something, the more it may cost you to fix in the future and can cause other unwanted problems.
Infrared saunas come with a laundry list of benefits. From improving physical and mental health, it’s no wonder that many people are opting for purchasing them from companies such as Health Mate.
How you enjoy your sauna session is completely up to you, so be sure to add your own personal touch and make the experience one of a kind.
Health Mate Saunas is the leading manufacturer of infrared saunas for the home for over 40 years. Our high-quality infrared saunas are made with 100% PEFC Western Red Cedar, an antimicrobial, and one of the only woods known as a sustainable and renewable resource. For more information on our line of premium infrared saunas, contact us today to see how you can improve your skin, your health, and your life.