Infrared saunas are a relatively new introduction to the market, but they are quickly gaining in popularity for many good reasons.
In-home infrared sauna rooms are much more expensive than their conventional counterparts, and they offer many more health benefits than traditional sweat bathing.
While sauna purists may disagree that infrared rooms are even saunas, there is no denying their health benefits.
This guide is meant to help you understand just what an infrared sauna is as well as how you could use one regularly to improve your health.
We will document the proven benefits of far-infrared ray therapy, including how it improves your physical as well as psychological health.
What is an Infrared Sauna?
The use of sweat bathing or “hot air baths” has been a common relaxation and detoxification strategy among people all over the world for centuries.
Sweat lodges were a part of Chinese, Native America, and Eastern European culture, and they are still quite common today.
Modern saunas come with many more options, and the newest innovation in electric saunas is the use of far-infrared light to provide the same soothing and wellness-giving benefits as a traditional sauna.
A traditional sauna works by heating the air inside a closed room using a conventional heater.
Infrared saunas work differently. Instead of using a heat source to warm the air, they use infrared lamps to warm your body directly.
This results in a cooler sauna experience (between 120- and 140-degrees Fahrenheit) than a conventional sauna (which can be close to 200 degrees Fahrenheit).
In an infrared sauna, 80 percent of the energy used goes to heating the skin with the remaining 20 percent heating the air.
Understanding Far Infrared Light Therapy
Infrared light is one of the invisible spectrums of light produced by the sun.
Infrared light is what makes your skin feel warm when you are out in the sun, and the skin easily absorbs these wavelengths.
This particular form of light has significant therapeutic benefits, which we will discuss in the section below.
Infrared can be divided into three main categories, which are near, mid, and far-infrared light.
The shortest wavelength, near-infrared, penetrates the deepest into your body to heat you from the inside out.
This wavelength boosts cellular repair and regeneration while helping your cells to produce more energy.
Mid-infrared waves boost circulation by improving vasodilation.
This type of infrared radiation also increases your overall metabolism and raises heart rate, which helps your cells get more oxygen.
Far-infrared rays (FIR) are most similar to the natural heat of your body and are readily captured by your cells.
When you expose your body to FIR, you enhance and strengthen your energy stores.
A sizable percentage of the energy emitted by infrared saunas are FIR, and below we discuss the specific benefits of this wavelength more in-depth.
Using an Infrared Sauna
Sauna “traditionalists” do not consider infrared rooms to be saunas at all, which is why many describe them as infrared therapy rooms or simply FIR rooms.
Regardless, they are used in much the same way as a conventional sauna treatment.
You enter the room, close the door, and lay or sit on a bench or seat while your body becomes heated.
Because the heat from an infrared sauna is not as intense, it is well tolerated by more people.
Many people can spend a longer time in an infrared sauna as opposed to a traditional sauna, giving them more therapeutic benefits.
Many people use an infrared sauna at the gym or when they visit a spa, but there are many at-home devices available today that make owning your own FIR room more affordable.
A typical infrared sauna uses multiple panels on the walls to emit infrared waves from all angles, and users sit or lay on a wooden bench inside.
Because the light from these lamps is not visible, you will not notice that they are on except when you feel the heat warming your skin and increasing your internal body temperature.
Because each infrared room is different, you should always follow the posted or manufacturer’s instructions for how to use your specific model.
There is no ONE WAY to use an infrared sauna, and we have gathered some helpful tips to allow you to make the most from your infrared sauna experience.
Far Infrared Sauna Tips
- Stay hydrated. Drinking lots of water before and after your infrared sauna session will help. You will sweat a lot during your experience, so if you are already dehydrated when you enter, you may start to feel uncomfortable very quickly. If you are sensitive to heat, bring water with you into the sauna.
- Choose a comfortable temperature. Start low and work your way to warmer temperatures as you become more acclimated to using the sauna.
- Start with shorter sessions. When you first start using a sauna, your body will not be acclimated to the hot temperatures. Start with shorter sessions, maybe 10-15 minutes, and slowly work your way to longer sessions. Most recommendations are for 20- to 30-minute sessions. Set the timer on your sauna to help you stay on track.
- Wear what makes you comfortable. The idea of the sauna is to force sweating, so wearing as little clothing as possible is often preferred. Most people use infrared saunas while naked, but you can wear a bathing suit or wrap yourself in a towel if you prefer.
- Use your sauna time to relax. Meditation, reading, listening to music, or just relaxing are all popular activities you can do while sitting in your infrared sauna. Do not use this time to nap, though, as it can lead to serious health problems if you stay in the sauna for too long.
- Drink more water afterward. Be sure you drink plenty of water after you get out of your infrared sauna to stay hydrated and replenish what was lost in your sweat bath.
- Cool down. You want to slowly cool your body back to its natural temperature before you bathe or shower after an infrared session.
- Use the sauna up to four times per week for best results. Those with infrared saunas in their home can even use it every day if they feel comfortable. Like traditional saunas, infrared saunas are best used regularly for as long as you can tolerate or feel comfortable. The more often you use the room, the more you will enjoy the benefits of this experience.
Precautions and Considerations
Most people experience no problems when using an infrared sauna, and use of FIR therapy has no detrimental health effects that have been reported.
Even those who usually cannot tolerate the high heat of traditional saunas find they can use infrared saunas easily, so they can work for more people.
Infrared wavelengths are invisible and do not damage sensitive tissues, such as the eyes, unlike the wavelengths used in other forms of light therapy.
The gentle, radiant heat of infrared therapy warms your body from the inside without pain or burning.
But, if you take medications or have a medical condition, you should talk with your doctor about how FIR could affect you.
If you have a history of heart problems, using a sauna can cause problems, so discuss this with your doctor.
Saunas can cause fluctuations in heart rate and blood pressure, which can be dangerous for those with a heart condition.
If you are prone to overheating or heat exhaustion, you should limit your time in the infrared sauna.
Everyone should drink water before and after using any type of sauna to remain sufficiently hydrated.
You should not use an infrared sauna if you have been drinking alcohol or if you have a fever or feel sick.
While using the sauna, you may feel lightheaded. Be sure to move slowly and carefully to leave the sauna, then sit down again once you are outside the room.
Far-Infrared Sauna Benefits
While we have long known the benefits of traditional saunas, it was only recently that we began to appreciate and explore the benefits of infrared saunas.
The use of infrared light in a sauna-like room is relatively new, so most research into its medical benefits has occurred in the last decade.
There are many conditions and illnesses that can benefit from exposure to infrared therapy, and we explore many of these below.
In addition to improving your health by healing and eliminating diseases, using a sauna is also a relaxing, enjoyable experience which has mental and emotional health benefits, as well.
Infrared Saunas Enhance Detoxification
While conventional saunas are excellent for helping to detoxify the body, infrared saunas may be even more effective.
Sweating is your body’s natural way of eliminating toxins and pollutants from your skin, blood, and tissues.
This excretory pathway is more effective at removing heavy metals than urine or feces.
Infrared therapy draws out more heavy metals like aluminum and mercury than other forms of sweat bathing (1).
Infrared treatment also helps you sweat out higher levels of lipids, alcohol, nicotine, and other toxins.
Infrared therapy, when applied to the body, vibrates the water molecules inside you, where many pollutants are encapsulated.
This subtle vibration reduces the ionic bonds of the water molecules, encouraging the release of these toxins more readily.
A session in an infrared sauna can help you release sulfur dioxide, chlorine, mercury, and other unwanted compounds from your system.
Sauna Use Boosts Your Immune System
Regularly using a sauna can improve the function of your immune system.
When you raise your internal temperature by exposing your body to heat stress, such as from infrared rays, you are mimicking the effects of having a fever, which provides a little “workout” for your immune system.
The more often this occurs, the fitter your system is when it comes to fighting diseases.
The heat shock proteins (HSPs) that are released when your body is heated play a role in this immunity-boosting process (2).
Those who use an infrared sauna regularly can reduce the occurrence of infections and diseases substantially.
Many studies show as much as a 50 percent reduction in colds with regular sauna use (3).
This included a reduction in the frequency, duration, and severity of these common infections.
Infrared Sauna Use Reduces Pain and Inflammation
Far infrared rays increase your production of several critical immune cells, including t-cells and white blood cells.
These wavelengths also help to reduce muscle spasms and soreness while also reducing pain and inflammation.
Those with rheumatoid arthritis can see improvement in their range of motion and pain when they use an infrared sauna regularly (4).
In addition, those with chronic back pain can also get relief. Using FIR therapy daily can reduce back pain without adverse effects in most cases of chronic lower back pain (5).
Infrared Therapy Helps Treat High Blood Pressure
Use of infrared therapy can help lower blood pressure, too.
While we need further research to confirm this, there is initial evidence to show that FIR therapy, such as what you receive from an infrared sauna, can decrease overall blood pressure, cardiac ejection resistance, and total peripheral resistance (6).
Improve Blood Circulation with an Infrared Sauna
Sitting in an infrared sauna can boost your blood circulation, which can supply more oxygen to your cells and tissues.
When your cells receive more nutrients, you will experience better relaxation, reduced stress, improved sleep, and less pain.
Using Infrared Therapy Helps Repair Nerves
Nerve damage can cause pain, tingling, numbness, and other unpleasant symptoms, but using infrared therapy like in a sauna can help improve nerve function.
The wavelengths in infrared saunas promote the repair and regeneration of nerve tissues, which can help to treat various injuries as well as peripheral nerve diseases (7).
Infrared Waves Boost Weight Loss
Sitting in an infrared sauna burns calories, and single 30-minute sessions can burn as many as if you were rowing or jogging for the same amount of time.
These wavelengths penetrate your body deeply, accelerating the breakdown of cellulite and fat in your tissues, and these types of tissues more readily absorb this energy.
Infrared Sauna Helps with Chronic Fatigue
A recent study suggests that using an infrared sauna could help relieve the symptoms of chronic fatigue syndrome, a debilitating disease that causes pain, fatigue, insomnia, depression, and a wide range of other symptoms (8).
Daily exposure to FIR helps relieve symptoms and allowed participants to live a fuller life.
Infrared Light Improves Allergy Symptoms
Many people suffer from seasonal allergies or hay fever, which is technically known as allergic rhinitis.
This condition is the result of excess inflammation in the nasal passages due to an overactive immune response to allergens in the air.
Hay fever is the most common chronic illness worldwide, and getting relief from this condition often requires using medications that often have serious side effects.
Because infrared therapy boosts your circulation and lowers inflammation, it is also helpful at reducing the allergic response.
Those who use an infrared sauna regularly could experience a reduction in itchy eyes, sneezing, runny nose, or nasal congestion (9).
Using FIR Can Help Decrease Cellulite
Cellulite is pockets of fat trapped within your tissues, which then results in dimples on the skin, which many believe to be unsightly.
Cellulite is more common in women than men and often appears on the abdomen, thighs, and buttocks.
Even those who are physically fit can have cellulite.
The radiant heat produced by infrared saunas penetrates deeper and creates higher internal temperatures than a conventional sauna.
This boosts your metabolic rate and helps you burn excess fat more readily, including that which results in cellulite.
Using Infrared Therapy Helps Treat Diabetes
Using an infrared sauna can help relieve many of the symptoms that are often experienced by those with Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes.
While diabetes is a disease resulting from elevated blood sugar, it also causes nerve pain, fatigue, and cardiovascular problems, all of which can be improved through regular sauna use.
Those who use an infrared sauna treatment for 20 minutes three days per week for three months reported reduced stress, less fatigue, a better mental outlook, and improvements in their overall health in one study (10).
Infrared Sauna Use Can Improve Wound Healing
Your skin is your external barrier and protection for your body against injury and disease.
Broken skin is a pathway for pathogens to enter your body and cause infection, so taking care of wounds is essential for keeping you healthy.
Infrared saunas are unique in that they can help to improve wound healing, unlike conventional sauna treatments.
The use of near-infrared therapy, which is one of the three types of infrared waves emitted by infrared saunas, enhances wound healing.
According to one study, this wavelength promoted faster cell regeneration while improving tissue growth in humans (11).
Wound size decreased by as much as 36 percent, and cell growth was enhanced by over 150 percent.
Infrared Therapy Could Treat Cancer
There is some evidence to support the use of far infrared therapy to stop the growth of specific cancer cells.
HSPs can inhibit tumor growth, which can help keep cancer from spreading, and this form of treatment works best with lung, breast, and tongue cancers (12).
Infrared Waves Can Help with Certain Heart Conditions
If you have arteriovenous fistula, then you have areas of your body that do not receive adequate blood flow.
This condition results in individual capillaries being bypassed by blood flow that goes directly from an artery to a vein.
Arteriovenous fistula is most common in the legs and, while rare, still affects about 200,000 people a year.
Far-infrared therapy can help to treat this condition and improve blood flow to and from the affected area (13).
Sauna Use Promotes Relaxation and Stress Reduction
Sitting in a sauna is a relaxing experience, which is why it remains so popular today.
The warmth of infrared heat helps not only reduce your stress but also leaves you feeling renewed and rejuvenated.
A daily sauna session is perfect for releasing tension and helping you cope with everyday worries and stress.
An infrared sauna also affects your autonomic nervous system, which allows your body to rest and digest, which enhances healing and rejuvenation.
Infrared Saunas Can Improve and Protect Your Skin
The radiation from far-infrared wavelengths has been shown to help suppress the formation of sunburn damage that occurs after exposure to UVB rays (14).
In addition, the sweating that occurs when you sit in a sauna helps you sweat out impurities and dead skin cells which clog your pores, leaving behind glowing and cleaner skin.
The boost in circulation to your skin helps you look younger and more radiant as more nutrients are delivered to the surface.
Using Infrared Saunas Improves your Well-Being
The combined effects of using an infrared sauna mean that you can enjoy better health, improved well-being, and more positive health outcomes over time.
The combination of reduced inflammation, better circulation, fewer pollutants, and improvements in other symptoms means that you will feel better, sleep more soundly, and enjoy life more.
Regular use of an infrared sauna even boosts your mood (15).
While using a sauna regularly has many proven health benefits, the use of an infrared sauna promises even more wellness advantages.
This technology uses invisible light rays to warm your body directly, instead of heating the air around you, and infrared wavelengths provide many specific health benefits for those who use this form of therapy regularly.
Infrared saunas help relax and ease stress while also helping to boost healing and disease prevention.
You can enjoy less pain and inflammation with regular use.
Far-infrared rays (FIR) improve many health conditions, including diabetes, nerve damage, allergies, and certain heart conditions.
Using an infrared sauna can even improve the appearance of your skin and help you lose weight.
This safe and effective form of therapy is something you can enjoy in the comfort of your own home, as many infrared sauna kits are available to purchase and install wherever you have a little extra space.