Maybe you’ve seen it at your nearby fitness centers or you’ve heard your friends talk about the incredibly relaxing experience of an infrared sauna. No matter where you heard about it, there’s no denying that the infrared sauna is on everyone’s lips right now.
Because of its deeply penetrative heating technology that feels warmer than regular saunas even at lower temperatures, infrared saunas are healthier, more restful, and can help manage more health issues like fatigue and muscle pain.
But what makes an infrared sauna different from other saunas? While it sounds like there are plenty of health benefits, does an infrared sauna come with the same limitations and health risks as dry saunas?
What is an infrared sauna?
You’ve probably tried relaxing at the sauna at your local gym after a rigorous work out. It’s basically a small room with wooden interiors that’s warmed to about 65°C to 95°C to help loosen the muscles and help with circulation. Some saunas may have dry heating methods while others utilize steam with rocks that help absorb and redistribute the heat. So how does an infrared sauna differ from a dry sauna?
An infrared sauna does away with direct heat distribution, neither using dry heat sources or wet ones like steam. Instead, it uses infrared panels that gives off infrared rays (or light) that can penetrate straight into our muscle tissues, with 80% of the warmth going into our body while only 20% gets dissipated into the rest of the room. What this means is that at low temperatures like 40°C to 50°C, we get the same warmth that we get from a dry sauna.
The way infrared saunas work is that you can actually stay longer, reaping more benefits than at another sauna, because of the low temperatures being used to warm your body. But because the infrared rays goes straight into the body’s tissues and muscles, we feel just as warm and just as relaxed as at a dry sauna.
What are the infrared sauna health benefits?
Infrared Sauna Health Benefits
- Relieves stress
- Improves sleeping quality
- Helps lose weight faster
- Helps deal with chronic pain and chronic fatigue syndrome
- Pain relief from joint inflammation and similar
- Faster sore muscle recovery
- Improved blood flow and circulation
- Body detoxification
- Clearer and tighter skin
The advantages of an infrared sauna is basically the same as a regular sauna, but you get more of it because the low temperatures let’s you stay in the sauna longer.
In any sauna, the warmth affects your body in the same way. You start to sweat and lose excess water content as well as toxins, your blood vessels dilate which improves your blood circulation, and your heart rate increases. These are the same effects that you get from a low to moderate exercise routine, which also delivers the same benefits.
The direct benefits of an infrared sauna is the same as a regular sauna but maximized to its full potential. You can get better sleep, your muscles will feel relaxed, your small aches and pains will heal, your body will be detoxified, you’ll have clearer and tighter skin, and you can also experience weight loss. Not to forget it helps relieve stress as well.
Studies have actually been conducted to explore the full potential if an infrared sauna, and they found evidence that an infrared sauna can directly help deal with chronic back pain and even chronic fatigue syndrom.
It can also benefit people manage muscle soreness from strength-training sessions, which allowed them to work out more and lose more weight.
How do you use an infrared sauna?
For an infrared sauna, the temperature range will be 40°C to 50°C. Start by turning on the heat and setting it to the temperature that you like within that range. You can wait 10 to 15 minutes for the infrared panels to warm up but you don’t have to wait for the temperature to reach the setting before getting in.
Before you go into the sauna and start enjoying a relaxing session, don’t forget to have a glass of water first. It’s also a good idea to bring some drinking water into the sauna with you since you’ll be sweating a lot and you’ll probably get thirsty. This is also a good way of avoiding dehydration.
It bears repeating that an infrared sauna is a lot less hot than a dry sauna so don’t try to reach the same temperature levels. It’s important that you stick to the 40°C to 50°C because since the infrared sauna delivers the heat straight into the body, you’ll feel just as warm even at such low temperatures.
Because of the lower temperatures, you can stay in an infrared sauna for as long as 20 to 45 minutes. And since all the heating is done with infrared rays, you can easily bring a book with you. There won’t be any steam to ruin the pages. Enjoy!
How often should you use an infrared sauna?
There is no hard rule as to how often you should be using an infrared sauna. If it’s a matter of safety, you can actually use an infrared sauna every day without any adverse effects and to maximize your healthiness.
Most people indulge in two or three weekly sessions that last for 30 to 45 minutes each time. However, if you use the infrared sauna daily, you can also see faster results in terms of weight loss and getting healthier and tighter skin.
Just keep in mind that the more time you spend in an infrared sauna or any sauna for that matter, the more water you will need to stay hydrated. In fact, you might benefit from drinking sports drinks filled with electrolytes.
What happens to your body in an infrared sauna?
You might be wondering exactly what happens to your body in an infrared sauna therapy that results in so many benefits and even weight loss just by sitting in a heated room.
Simply put, the infrared heat raises your core temperature which will then result in sweating and an increase in your heart rate. This will result in blood vessel dilation which means that it will get bigger, allowing more blood to flow, and improving your blood circulation.
By improving your blood flow and circulation, you are helping your body get oxygenated faster which helps with the healing process, making it an ideal post-workout routine. An infrared sauna can also help decrease high blood pressure levels and add a healthy glow to your skin.
More body sweat also means that you’re flushing the toxins out of your body faster. We tend to build up a lot of toxins and pollutants in our body through our diet and lifestyle, but with a planned infrared sauna routine, you can at least make sure that these toxins don’t stick around for too long.
Who should avoid infrared saunas?
There are also some health conditions that are not well suited for using a sauna, whether it’s an infrared sauna or a regular one. For anyone who has any kind of major health issues, it’s important to consult with your doctor first before using an infrared sauna or before trying any activity that can affect you physically, just to be safe.
People with cardiovascular issues, people who are on medication that may induce drowsiness or an increased heart rate, or people who have been drinking alcohol are discouraged from using an infrared sauna. For the first two conditions, the added effects of the infrared sauna on the cardiovascular system might compound an existing problem, making it risky for them to use.
For those who have been drinking or are hung over, having alcohol in your system may lead to drowsiness or unconsciousness inside the sauna room.
What are the risks of infrared saunas?
There are some risks to using infrared saunas, or any kind of sauna for that matter. The list isn’t very long but it’s still important to know what you’re getting into, even if it’s something that everyone is doing without experiencing any adverse effects. Always remember that different bodies are also affected differently by infrared saunas.
Some of the things that you need to watch out for include heat discomfort and difficulty breathing, and low blood pressure and the symptoms that go with it such as dizziness, nausea, or feeling faint and weak.
If you’re not used to using saunas, infrared or dry, then there will be some risk of overheating and dehydration. If you start to feel dizzy or if you feel weak, then it’s best to exit the sauna right away. It’s also important to make sure that you stay hydrated before, during, and after the sauna session to avoid dehydration and overheating.
Why do I feel worse after infrared sauna?
The most common cause of feeling worse after an infrared sauna is dehydration. Most people underestimate just how much water loss they experience while at a sauna.
That’s why it’s important to stay hydrated all throughout the session to prevent both dehydration and overheating. It’s also important to avoid drinking alcohol or using an infrared sauna while you are intoxicated, since alcohol by itself can already cause dehydration and will compound the risk.
If, however, you’re experiencing ill effects while using a sauna even after staying hydrated, there’s a chance that you may have an underlying condition. If the problem persists, it’s best to consult with a doctor.
The Bottom Line
There are plenty of health benefits to using an infrared sauna, not limited to improving your blood circulation, helping with weight loss, and helping ease muscle soreness after a workout. It’s a great way to supplement your workout sessions and relax tired muscles.
While there are some risks for using infrared saunas, they are no different from the risks of using other saunas. The benefits, however, are maximized with infrared saunas because you can stay longer due to the lower temperatures of the infrared. With scheduled infrared sauna sessions, you can be healthier, more fit, and lose weight faster too.