Benefits of Infrared Saunas

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Infrared saunas have become a popular at-home health and wellness product. So what exactly is an infrared sauna? And how do infrared saunas work? In this article, we’ll explain infrared saunas and break down the health benefits. We’ll also compare infrared saunas with traditional saunas, and with red light therapy that uses near infrared (NIR) wavelengths of light.

What is an Infrared Sauna?

Traditional saunas (also called Finnish saunas) are small rooms or compartments that heat the air inside to high temperatures to induce sweating. Infrared saunas are a lower-heat version of the sauna concept. Infrared saunas don’t heat the air around a person, they heat a person directly with infrared light produced by infrared lamps in the sauna. Many people use infrared saunas to get the benefits of a traditional sauna without having to endure the extreme heat. Infrared saunas usually operate at a temperature between 120˚F and 140˚F, while a traditional sauna operates between 150˚F and 180˚F. [1]

How do Infrared Saunas Work?

Infrared saunas, like traditional saunas, use heat to create biological reactions like sweating and increased heart rate. But where traditional wet and dry saunas use conduction and convection to heat the air in the room, infrared saunas work by heating a person’s body with far-infrared light produced by an infrared lamp. Specifically, infrared saunas emit far infrared light at a wavelength of around 10 μm that is invisible to the naked eye. [1] You can learn more about the basics of light and wavelengths here.

These wavelengths of far infrared light are felt directly by the body as radiated heat, without the need to heat the air around the body first to produce a reaction. Infrared light is able to penetrate deep into the body’s tissues, causing sweating and heart rate changes in a relatively short amount of time. Most manufacturers claim that about 80% of the energy in an infrared sauna is used to heat a person’s body, with only 20% heating the air in the sauna. The lower temperature of infrared saunas also allows a person to stay in the sauna longer and more comfortably than a traditional sauna. 

History of Infrared Saunas: Early versions of lower-heat saunas date back over 120 years and were first patented in the late 1800s. Modern infrared saunas that use light to produce low levels of heat were revived in Japan in the 1970s, as part of the Japanese tradition of Waon Therapy. Infrared saunas have gained newfound popularity in the United States and Europe in the last two decades, and especially the last 5 years, as more and more brands have created affordable and accessible infrared saunas for peoples’ homes. [1]

How to Use an Infrared Sauna: If you want to give an infrared sauna a try, you can either purchase one for your home or go to a commercial location that offers them. Retail infrared saunas typically cost at least a few thousand dollars and can be installed into just about any home or apartment. Commercial vendors offering infrared sauna treatments include many spas, salons, wellness clinics, and gyms. The biggest advantages of at-home infrared saunas are convenience, time, and a one-time cost rather than the per-use or subscription cost of commercial infrared saunas. 

Benefits of Infrared Saunas

What are the health benefits of infrared saunas? In general, infrared saunas are a lower-heat way to deliver the same benefits of a traditional sauna, like relaxation and improved mood. Many people find that a sauna session is a great way to calm themselves and improve their sleep and even their skin health. Some people also use saunas to ease the pain and strain of sore joints and muscles. Infrared sauna manufacturers and customers often claim that sauna use is a good way to detoxify the body and lose weight. It can be difficult to gauge health claims around infrared sauna use because they have not yet been widely studied and tested in clinical trials. However, there is some promising initial evidence emerging. 

One pilot study found that people suffering from chronic fatigue syndrome benefitted from infrared sauna use. [2] Another small pilot study found that infrared saunas help people recover from muscle pain after intense training sessions. [3] Several studies have also shown that infrared sauna use can help to lower high blood pressure. [4] It will take more research to determine the full range of benefits, but one of the major upsides to infrared sauna use is that they aren’t associated with any major side effects. [5]

The Difference Between Far Infrared and Near infrared (NIR)

Infrared saunas use far infrared light to heat the body. You can also benefit from near infrared (NIR) light. NIR light is found in the mid-700 to 1000s nm range on the electromagnetic spectrum. It’s invisible like far infrared, and it penetrates deeper into the body to reach deep tissues for healing and regenerative effects. NIR light isn’t traditionally used in saunas like far infrared but Some sauna manufacturers do include near infrared in their far infrared saunas but there is no clinical evidence to support mixing the two together. In order to use NIR light correctly, you need a light therapy device like a Joovv that uses LEDs to shine light on the body.

One of the key differences between NIR light from a Joovv and far infrared light from a sauna is that NIR doesn’t produce heat or rely on heat for a reaction. NIR light stimulates the mitochondria in your cells, to improve energy efficiency. And it’s been shown in numerous clinical trials to improve muscle soreness and recovery. This is why Joovv uses NIR light in its Recovery+ mode.

Using a Joovv with NIR light only takes 10-15 minutes, about a third the time of a sauna. A light therapy device also takes up much less space and can be purchased for less. You don’t have to choose between the benefits of far and near infrared light. Many people enjoy using a sauna and a light therapy device like a Joovv in conjunction, for a wider range of benefits. If you want more details on the differences between saunas and light therapy devices, check out this post.

Conclusion: Infrared Saunas and NIR Light Therapy are a Healthy Combo

Infrared saunas use far infrared light to heat a person’s body and induce sweating. They can be a great therapeutic option for relaxation, mood, sleep, skin, and many other potential benefits. Near infrared light from an LED-based device like a Joovv is another good way to reap the benefits of healthy light, but NIR doesn’t rely on heat like far infrared. Fortunately, you can use saunas and NIR light therapy in separate treatments to maximize the benefits of both.

 

Sources and References:


[1]  Healthline. Is an infrared sauna better than a traditional sauna?


[2] Soejima Y, Munemoto T, Masuda A, Uwatoko Y, Miyata M, Tei C. Effects of Waon therapy on chronic fatigue syndrome: a pilot study. Intern Med. 2015;54(3):333-8.   


[3] Mero A, Tornberg J, Mäntykoski M, Puurtinen R. Effects of far-infrared sauna bathing on recovery from strength and endurance training sessions in men. Springerplus. 2015;4:321. Published 2015 Jul 7. 


[4] Foundational Medicine Review. 


[5]  Mayo Clinic. What is an infrared sauna? Does it have any health benefits?